Time management has never been one of my strengths. I’m pretty good at planning, ever since I learned the importance of working backwards, but where I tend to fall down is in over-estimating the amount I can get done in any given period of time.
If you’re working on building your career you can probably relate to what I’m talking about. There are letters to write, resumes to adapt, contacts to cultivate and new prospects to research – you could do it 24/7. Sometimes you might feel you should.
As a result, you can find yourself scrambling for extra hours in the day (if you find a good source, let me know) and studying time management tips.
One of the keys to making the best use of the hours you have is to make realistic estimates of how long it takes to do something.
This is no place for the odd fusion of self-flagellation and optimism I sometimes practice. I’ll tell myself that since I don’t always work at my peak, if I really focused and put the hammer down I could accomplish that much more.
Author Steve Pavlina, who writes on personal development at www.stevepavlina.com, recommends tracking your time estimates, comparing them to how long it actually took you to accomplish these tasks and discovering your personal fudge factor. Once you know, for example, that you tend to under-estimate the amount of time you’ll need to accomplish a set of tasks by a factor of 1.5, you’ll be able to develop a schedule that won’t get you in trouble.
You’ll also come face to face with that classic time management tip of setting priorities, but your new self-awareness might help you make choices that stick. Say you have three hours available to contact a list of potential job prospects. You think it should take you only 30 minutes to check out a company and write a cover letter, but it really takes an hour.
This means you can only contact three of your prospects, so you better concentrate on the three best leads you have. Don’t try fooling yourself by saying you’ll work really hard and fast, like I would, and pick five.
Trying to do too much and not succeeding will just leave you feeling grouchy and pessimistic about your prospects.
Stick with the three that you know you can do, and do well. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that will help sustain you in your ongoing job hunt.
by Danielle Dresden