Levels of Time Management
Time management is a very broad subject that touches many different areas of your life, ranging from your daily activities to your long term goals. Rather than tackle it all at once, I’ve found it useful to divide time management into nine levels.
Each level presents a different view or perspective of time management and provides its own unique challenges and opportunities; each has its own set of best and worst practices and contributes to the time management goals in different ways.
The various levels represent a different mindset or level of awareness about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we can make the best use of our time.
These levels present a natural progression through the time management practices from the short‑term tactical practices to the longer term strategic practices. The levels also serve as a roadmap for incorporating the best practices in a way that will give you the most benefit.
- Level 9 – Dreams and Vision
- Level 8 – Enlightened Leadership
- Level 7 – Result Areas/Responsibilities
- Level 6 – Strategic Planning
- Level 5 – Systems and Processes
- Level 4 – Teamwork
- Level 3 – Project Management
- Level 2 – Task Management
- Level 1 – Action/Work
This is the level where the rubber meets the road, where you actually do the work and get things done. The "work" could involve preparing a marketing report, developing a presentation, running an errand, doing research, writing a proposal or making a phone call.
Time management at this level involves learning how to focus and concentrate on the task at hand so you can perform at a high level without getting easily sidetracked or distracted.
This includes managing your energy levels throughout the day, focusing and concentrating on specific tasks, handling interruptions and meetings effectively, and overcoming procrastination.
Getting stuck at this level without using the perspectives and insights from the higher levels is the single biggest cause of time management challenges and obstacles that people are facing today.
Task Management Level
This is the level where you decide what to do next. People stuck in the Action/Work level spend very little time at this level; they usually jump from one thing to the next based only on what grabs their attention first and what they can remember off the top of their head.
There is often very little consideration for what might be the best use of their time or what would be the best thing to work on next.
Effective time management at this level involves making a conscious decision of what to do next based on a clear understanding of all the things you could be doing, what you are trying to accomplish and what is most important.
Often, it involves deciding not to do something that is clamoring for your attention because something else is more important in the long term. This level helps you answer the question “What is the best use of my time right now?”
Project Management Level
This is the level where you manage all the projects you are currently working on, as well as the ones you may be undertaking in the near future.
At this level, a project is any result or outcome that you want to accomplish, whether it involves a single or multiple steps. This definition means that a lot of things that we normally would not consider "projects" may fall under this category.
In my estimation, we all have between five and fifty active projects. Effective time management at this level requires identifying all these active projects and tracking them to completion.
You need to set priorities and make important decisions about which of your projects really deserve your time and energy and which ones should be abandoned.
Planning at this level allows you to make better choices at the task management level because it helps you understand all the different things you are working on and their importance and urgency.
At this level you stop seeing yourself as just an individual and you start seeing yourself as part of one or more teams.
I use the word “team” here rather loosely because I am not just referring to teams related to work or sports. What I mean by a team is any group of people bound together by a common goal or purpose.
By this definition your family, your church, your neighborhood or the group where you volunteer could all be considered one of your teams.
Effective time management at this level requires us to stop looking at just what we do individually and to start looking at what we do together as a group.
It involves areas such as effective delegation, communication, teamwork, relationships, managing others, synergy, and teambuilding.
If you are responsible for leading or managing a group, it is the collective work and results generated by your team that are truly important; while increasing your individual performance and contributions is valuable, your ability to lead your team to exceptional performance is even more important.
Systems and Processes Level
Unless you come from a manufacturing or engineering background, this level may be new to you. This level deals with all the systems and processes that you and your teams use to produce results.
Effective time management at this level can provide huge productivity gains for yourself, your teams, and your organization as you improve and enhance the systems and processes you use to do your work.
This level ties all the other ones together working as a harmonious whole and allows you to accomplish more by working less.
Strategic Planning Level
At this level you start thinking more strategically than tactically; looking at the big picture over the long term rather than the short term low‑level details. Strategic planning involves the establishment of major goals and objectives, choosing appropriate strategies, and creating plans for their achievement.
Management consultant Ben Tregoe said that “The very worst use of your time is to do very efficiently what need not be done at all.” Effective time management at this and the higher levels help you avoid falling into this common trap.
Result Areas/Responsibilities Level
This level involves all the different areas in your life that you are either responsible for or in which you play an important role. This could be areas related to your work such as being in charge of a critical client project, being the lead of a team or a department manager, or being responsible for the establishment of a training program for new professionals; or it could be areas in your personal life such as being responsible for your finances and your health, being a good parent or spouse, or serving as a board member in your church.
Effective time management at this level involves a clear understanding of all the areas that you are responsible for and all the important roles that you play.
For each of these, you need to identify the results that you want to achieve and to make sure you are setting your goals and priorities to achieve them.
All these activities lead to long term balance and fulfillment in your life.
Enlightened Leadership Level
There is a clear distinction between management and leadership. Management is about doing things the right way, while leadership is about doing the right things.
All of the previous levels have mostly dealt with the management aspect of time, but at this level you start seeing yourself as the true leader of your life; in the end, you are the one that decides what is truly important, what really matters, and where your life should be headed. If you don’t choose for yourself, others will choose for you.
Effective time management at this level requires you to establish priorities and a direction for your life based on what matters most to you. It also means understanding when there is a problem and making the appropriate changes to correct it, as well as assuring that you consistently follow through on your chosen direction at all the other levels.
On a different note, this level also involves being a good leader for all the various teams in your life.
Dreams and Vision Level
This level is where you start asking and answering the tough questions: What is the mission of my company? Why am I here? What should I do with my life? Each of these questions has a profound impact on all the other levels because it matters little how well your projects are managed or how well your goals, strategies, and plans are laid out, if in the end they are all leading you in the wrong direction.
Effective time management at this level involves finding your own answers to these important questions by identifying and connecting to your true self, recognizing your true purpose and passion, discovering your mission and dreams and establishing a vision for your personal and professional life.
As you can see, these levels provide a natural division of time management into more manageable parts. Using these levels as guides you can begin to create a plan for incorporating the best practices into your daily life starting with the levels that will give you the most benefit.
Want to find out more about these levels? You need to get the Time Management eBook, which covers the first three levels in much greater detail. Get it now!
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