It’s About Time!

David Ivers is from Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Primary and Secondary School Teacher. In total, he has served on school leadership teams for 16 years in senior leadership roles.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.
A.B. (Banjo) Paterson (1889)

Clancy of the Overflow

This quote is from a famous Australian poem, originally published in 1889, entitled “Clancy of the Overflow” by the poet A. B. (Banjo) Paterson. These last stanzas raise the question about job happiness and moreover how time is managed. More often than not, these two things are related.

According to the 2016 ‘Indeed.Com’ 2016 Job Happiness Survey, the top 5 considerations when it came to ‘Job Happiness’ were:

  • Work-Life Balance
  • Management
  • Culture (of the workplace)
  • Job Security and Career Advancement
  • Compensation and Benefits.

In other words, in 2016 money was not the major determinant of ‘Job Happiness’, nor was status. The major factor uppermost in the minds of respondents was the ability to hold a job that was not always forcing other life issues such as family life to compete for time. The nature of management within the organization and the culture that it creates, rounded out the top 3 factors.

The rub, of course, is that Work-Life Balance has an implicit meaning of time management. It intrinsically proposes certain questions. For example:

What are the competing forces that eat into my personal and professional time?

How much of work time has to be done in my own time?

How much of work at home, do I choose to do?

What would it take to recalibrate things to bring a better and healthier Work-Life Balance?

There are some things that you can do, almost immediately that may well reset things.

The first thing to consider is a change in mindset. Very little will change, if the mindset that has been driving the imbalance remains unchallenged. Stephen R Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R Merrill suggest that we pay attention to what we are doing on a daily basis. Simply, if we do it, we value it. If we value it, then it is important.

In the 21st Century, the ability to be adaptive to changing circumstances as they arise is a critical and an essential skill.

“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”

Covey. S. R., Merrill. R. A., Merrill. R. R. (1994). First Things First. New York: Simon and Shuster. P.32.

Using this as a mantra to change your mindset, Covey, Merrill and Merrill then recommend that you audit your daily routines. Create a list of what you actually did with your day (as opposed to what your ‘To Do List’ hoped you would do). Do this for a week. Allocate these tasks to one of 4 quadrants.

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Quadrant 1

Urgent and Important


* Crises

* Pressing problems

* Deadline-driven projects, meetings, preparations

Quadrant 2

Not Urgent but Important


* Preparation

* Prevention

* Values clarification

* Planning

* Relationship building

* True re-creation

* Empowerment

Not Important Quadrant 3

Urgent but Not Important


* Interruptions, some phone calls

* Some mail / email, some reports

* Some meetings

* Many proximate, pressing matters

* Many popular activities

Quadrant 4

Not Urgent and Not Important


* Trivia, busywork

* Junk mail/email

* Some phone calls

* Time wasters

* “Escape” activities

See: Covey. S. R., Merrill. R. A., Merrill. R. R. (1994). First Things First. New York: Simon and Shuster.P37

What this does is highlight where your attention is flowing to and where your energies go. Where you are being ‘attentional’, ask are you being ‘intentional’? If your ‘attentional’ is not the result of you being ‘intentional’, there is a balance problem and it is likely that will impact the time available for your personal life. What Covey and his colleagues note:

“What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?

What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your professional life?

Analyze what quadrant your answers are in. Our guess is that they’re probably in Quadrant II (2). As we have asked these questions of thousands of people, we find that the majority of them fall under seven key activities.

  1. Improving communication with people
  2. Better preparation
  3. Better planning and organizing
  4. Taking better care of self
  5. Seizing new opportunities
  6. Personal development
  7. Empowerment

All of these are in Quadrant II (2). They’re important. So why aren’t people doing them? Why aren’t you doing things you identified from the questions above? Probably because they’re not urgent. They aren’t pressing. They don’t act on you. You have to act on them.”

Covey. S. R., Merrill. R. A., Merrill. R. R. (1994). First Things First. New York: Simon and Shuster. P.39.

In other words, when an analysis of what our time is often focused on is done, it is more likely to be Quadrants 3 and 4. If the focus is on Quadrant 1 it is because of the dual effect of importance and urgency. A recalibration of where our energies need to be would see a greater focus on Quadrants 1 and 2, with some attention given when required to Quadrant 3. Quadrant 4 is where energies should go when we are not compelled to focus on the other Quadrants. Quadrant 4 is what this author would refer to as ‘Administrivia’.

The United States ‘State Department’ drawing on the work of Covey, give these two tips on time management.

Time Management Tip #1 – Learn what Matters Most.

Learn to Distinguish Between the Important and The Urgent.

Time Management Tip #2 
Is it Important or Urgent, or both, or neither?

The State Department then observes the following about time.

“Time is an exact, absolute that continues exists, and is without regard to individuals or human beings”, according to Newton. But Einstein believed time to be relative to the observer. Regardless of your understanding of Newton to Einstein, we could agree with Newton that for us time is finite and easily measured and allocated into seconds, minutes, hours, days and years. And, we could agree with Einstein that none of us has enough time. Yet each of us has all that there is!

Today, we will have 1,440 minutes. Tomorrow we will get a new allocation. There is nothing we can do to get more or less. All we can hope to do is to manage our absolute, relative finite resource as best we can to accomplish what we will.”

See United States Department of State. (ND). ‘Tips for Time Management

In the State of Queensland (Australia), the Queensland Government give three very clear tips on how to manage time.

Setting goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals will help you stay motivated and manage your time more efficiently. Work on long-, medium- and short-term goals.

Set goals that are SMART:

  • Specific—think about what you will need to do.
  • Measurable—can be checked and measured.
  • Attainable—can be achieved within the time frame.
  • Realistic—what you are willing and able to do.
  • Timely—needs to be done now.


Take the time to list all the things that you need to get done. Sort this list from most important to least important. You should be honest and realistic when prioritizing tasks to avoid overcommitting to something that may not be achievable within the time frame.


Your list of prioritized tasks will become your plan. You should revisit the plan regularly and make adjustments to it when needed.

By breaking larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks you will find each task easier to keep track of and achieve. This will also help you to make better use of your time.”

Queensland Government. (2013). Time Management Strategies.

In other words, effective Goal Setting, Prioritizing tasks and Planning your day is the key to effective time management. In the 21st Century, the ability to be adaptive to changing circumstances as they arise is a critical and an essential skill for any employee, especially where the use of public funds is involved.

There is, of course, two other reason why having ‘Time-Management’ skills in your ‘toolbox’ is important. The better you can manage your time at work, the more effective and efficient that should make you. I am yet to have a discussion with an employer that does not value employees that are effective in what they do and are also efficient! The other beneficiary is your family and friends. Where this comes full circle, is simple. To have the ability and the time to spend on a regular basis with family and friends allows you to recharge the batteries. In a part of the year where traditionally in the United States the celebration of ‘Halloween’ and ‘Thanksgiving Day’ is important, having the time to assist with the preparations and to celebrate well with your loved ones is important to your sense of well-being and that of your loved ones. Simply, if it’s important, it gets prioritized.

It means that you start the new working week, refreshed, renewed, which most likely is a ‘Win-Win’ for you, your loved ones and your employer.

Of course, only time will tell!

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