What is time management? Is it jotting down notes and writing out what your plans are? Or is it getting that burrito from Chipotle because you are already out and know that you will be hungry in an hour? Or is it separating your work into different topics to help you concentrate?


Technically, all of these are examples of time management. The key with all of these examples, and time management in general, is that it forces you to think of how you will spend your time in the future and what is the best way to allocate that time.


The funny thing about time management is that it takes time. It is like moving one step backward to eventually move four steps forward. This concept of time management has been so elusive to young professionals and recent graduates today because we are very motivated by the short term. We see the “one step backward” and instantly think “screw that! I’ll just go at it head-on.”


Let’s detail an example of this.


You get on your computer and you start checking emails. The first is from your boss in which you respond right away about how you will come into the office an hour early to get started with work because your company is entering the busy season. The next email is spam from JDate/Match.com/Christian Mingle because your dumb friend thought it would be funny to put your email on their subscription list and no matter how many times you try to unsubscribe and mark as spam, their stupid emails still seem to manage to get through. The next email is a LinkedIn update and you decide to check out the feed on LinkedIn, see how your profile views are doing, and maybe update your profile to “I am technically in a job, but am definitely open to hearing any offers because my job sucks!” and then you chuckle to yourself and quickly delete it. You then check your next email and find it is an accepted friend request from an old friend from high school. You scope their Facebook profile hard now that you are friends because before you were “friends” he had more privacy settings than your parents did on their “R rated” channels when you were growing up. You then think “Oh shoot! I can’t believe it has been an hour, I need to get to the office.” You commute the 30 minutes it takes to get to work to find that nobody is there. It turns out that in that hour it took you to check 4 emails, the 5th email was from your boss informing you that there was a fire in the office and he was canceling work for the day and wanted everyone to work remotely from their house.


This is a very elaborate example, but it is real! The person in this example very likely complains how they can never get their work done on time. Their audience will typically suggest “why don’t utilize some time management tactics.” The individual whines back “I don’t have time for time management!”


Hmm…This seems like an ironic statement. If the individual in this example would have planned to check all work emails first and then the rest of his emails, he would have not wasted the hour back and forth from work, he would have had a specific time allocated to checking LinkedIn and Facebook, and he would not be complaining how he can never get his work done.


The key caveat to not utilizing time management tactics is that it takes time to think about how to best utilize your time. The short term benefit of not expending 10 minutes now, for some odd reason, trumps the long term angst of losing 2 hours of productivity later.