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What is Time Management?

What is Time Management?

What do we mean by “Time Management” as a subject?  Time is a constant—there is only so much of it in a day, a week or a year.  There is no way to give ourselves more time, except perhaps sleep less which is clearly not a good option in the long run as everyone needs rest to keep going. All we can do is to use our available time to maximal advantage.  We all waste time; we may do it in different ways, but we all do it.  We should therefore consider time as being like money—you can spend it until it is all gone, or you can invest it wisely and make it work for you.

At the most basic level, good time management takes focus on the key issues.  This is different from simply reacting to events that take place during the day; it takes very little skill to simply react.  It takes much more skill to attend to issues and make a judgment about their relative importance and urgency.  This is the difference between being REACTIVE  vs. PROACTIVE.  We therefore need to think hard about the difference and make conscious decisions about how we will spend our time.

Reactive time management

Because most people let time manage them (rather than set out to manage their time) they can be described as being generally reactive.  Reactive time management means that the day’s events go largely unplanned and an individual is largely “hostage” to whatever happens to them as the hours unfold. This usually means that a day may be spent responding to the most urgent but not necessarily most important tasks. It also means that one large-scale and urgent task may take much longer than expected, leaving other tasks late or undone and the individual tired and frustrated.

Proactive time management

People who are proactive time managers spend their time planning their daily tasks and carefully estimating the time that each is likely to take. They also aim to determine which tasks have the greatest priority so that these can be given the most focus and extra attention where needed. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, proactive time managers build “spare” time into each day. This is not only to allow for task slippage but to allow relaxation to occur and to maintain freshness for the next task on the list.

Although almost everyone would choose to be proactive over being reactive when reading the above paragraphs, this is not simply a thought exercise. To act in proactive ways is what matters and to do this we need to change our behavior to become much more personally organized and ruthless about both planning our tasks and prioritizing them.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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