How maturely do you manage your time at a personal level? There is no wonder that you are startled by this question. We never think about time management from this perspective, but it pays to do so. Let’s borrow a perspective from the process maturity model, CMM.
CMM (Capability Maturity Model) was developed by Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University for software development companies. Eventually, CMM has grown to CMMI and is applied to other industries too.
CMMI provides a growth path for the maturity of an organization’s processes through five levels. The first level is where everyone starts. At this level, called the initial level, the processes are ad hoc, and unstructured. Success is unpredictable and depends on individual heroics. At the fifth level, called the optimizing level, however, the processes are standardized, repeatable, and efficient. Not just that, but the processes are set up for continuous improvement.
The same goes for personal time management. It’s not that one could not succeed without a formal time management method, but then the success is left to chance or heroics. Once you adopt an appropriate time management method, you move from the initial level to the optimizing level, where success is guaranteed and repeatable.
Once we accept that we need a formal time management method, we open a kind of pandora’s box. There are many methods with their proponents vouching for their greatness!
This is where we could take help from Stephan Covey’s concept of generations of time management alluded to in his legendary book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
His idea is that there has been continuous improvement in the way we manage our time, intending to get greater control of our lives. He divides the evolution into four generations, each generation building on the earlier.
The first generation of time management was about collecting and documenting the work items or steps of working. If your time management method is limited to plain checklists and To-do lists, it’s the first-generation method.
The second generation of time management is characterized by the adoption of calendars and appointment books. It solved the problem of taking control of activities that are time-sensitive.
The third generation of time management involves task prioritization, goal setting, and daily planning. Such methods intend to set clear boundaries for your work and time slots. The third-generation methods made the time management process so rigid that there was no scope for spontaneity. That is where the demand for the current or fourth generation sprung up.
The fourth generation time management is something that builds on all the previous generations’ ideas but offers a resilient approach to handling the distractions and spontaneity to choose the right work suiting the duration of a given time slot and your energy level at that hour. This makes the whole process practically applicable and raises the quality of the outputs.
You will not go wrong if you choose a method from the earlier generations, but you could maximize the benefit only if you choose a method from the fourth generation. The Getting Things Done (GTD) method is the perfect fourth-generation time management method. You will find several resources to learn and adopt GTD and you will leapfrog to the latest solution to the problem of time management.
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(Originally published in Times of India on March 18, 2023)