Executive Summary

There are a number of theories which have been developed in relation to time management. This paper provides an analysis of these theories and demonstrates how they can be applied to increase my studying efficiency. The first theory used is the Bucket of Rocks Theory which offers insight into the order in which a person should work on his activities. The second theory discussed is Lakein’s ABC system which involves categorizing tasks in order of priority. The third theory discussed is the Inventory System which involves reviewing actions in retrospective and learning from them. Another theory used is the Time Management Grid which identifies tasks to be done and categorizes them in different quadrants based on their importance.

Goal setting theory which involves coming up with challenging and achievable goals is also suggested as one of the means through which time can be managed. Another time management principle is the Time Management Windows Principles which borrows from Johari’s window. This principle considers that time can be wasted in a group setting if effective communication is hindered. Pareto’s 80/20 rule which identifies that only 20% of our activities produce 80% of the results we desire is also utilized. Finally, the paper discusses Assertiveness which can assist an individual to avoid wasting time. These theories were tested and the results reported in my bid to maximize on my study time. From the usage of these theories, I discovered the best way to manage my time and gain optimum results.

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Introduction The Need for Time Management Theories on Time Management The Bucket of Rocks Theory ABC System The Inventory System Time Management Grid Goal Setting Theory Time Management Windows Principles Pareto’s 80/20 Rule Assertiveness Action Plan: Outcomes and Measures of Achievements Conclusion


Time is an important asset to an organization and its efficient usage is a key role of the manager. Time is a non renewable resource and once it is gone, one cannot recover it. With this in mind, it makes sense to make the best of the available time by prioritizing and doing the more important activities first. To effectively manage time, the manager needs to have good time management skills. Time management is defined by DeJanasz et al. (2006, p84) as “the ability to allocate our time and resources to accomplishing our objectives”. Time management is undertaken to try and come up with the most efficient manner in which to utilize the time that we have available. It is therefore a practice that is aimed at increasing productivity and efficiency.

This paper will provide an analysis of a number of theories that can be used to help a person to better manage their time.

The Need for Time Management

Time is a finite commodity and its proper use may lead to increased productivity by a person. Mancini (2003) declares that a person’s ability to manage their time is one of the key causes of success or failure in a person’s life. It is therefore of great importance to properly manage time in order to ensure higher chances of success in life. Before one can set out to maximize on their time usage, it is necessary for the person to document how time is spent currently. Mancini (2003) suggests that a person should first recognize the kinds of choices that they are making with regard to time usage at the moment. An activity log is one of the tools which can assist in discovering how time is spent. One may assume that they are using their time in the most efficient manner and it is only after performing a self-analysis that the person realizes that they are guilty of mismanaging time or even wasting it.

With this realization, an individual may wish to undertake steps to better manage their time. There are a number of theories which if properly utilized can assist people to manage their time more efficiently. Some of these theories are articulated below.

Theories on Time Management

The Bucket of Rocks Theory

To properly manage time, one needs to know the level of importance that each activity holds.

The Bucket of Rocks theory (also referred to as the Pickle Jar Theory) offers insight into the order in which a person should work on his activities (Mancini 2003). The theory proposes that you put big rocks in a bucket (this will represent the important thing) and then you fill it up with pebbles followed by sand and then water. The smaller substances represent increasingly unimportant tasks (Forsyth 2010). According to this theory, we are supposed to do the important things (big stones) first and then move on to the less important things (pebbles and sand) and finally if we have the tie, we can do the unimportant things (water). If we begin working on the unimportant things or the less important things first, we will not have the space to do the important things in our lives.

ABC System

Every person is on average faced with many activities which require attention.

In many instances, the time available may not be sufficient for all the activities that need to be done. In order to use time more effectively, a person needs to prioritize on the tasks that need to be undertaken. The ABC system developed by Alan Lakein can provide an efficient means for prioritizing. Mancini (2003) demonstrates that using the ABC approach can facilitate an individual’s prioritizing. The letter assigned to a given task denotes its priority level with A being the tasks with highest urgency, B the tasks that have low urgency but are of importance and C being tasks that are not urgent and whose completion can be postponed.

Mancini (2003) states that the tasks can be broken down further as A1, A2, A3 etc with A1 being the most urgent and important task. From the ABC list, one can ask themselves questions such as “I’m I putting of an A priority because it is unpleasant?” From the ABC list, one can ask themselves questions such as “I’m I putting of an A priority because it is unpleasant? Will I manage to achieve the C priority tasks before they become A’s?” Such questions will result in insights being gained into how to accomplish the most important and critical tasks first.

The Inventory System

As we undertake activities, we learn from them and are in a position to do them better subsequently. The inventory system is a results-oriented approach that is based on the premise that one learns the most by reviewing how they handled the day and applying these lessons to the next day’s behavior (Forsyth 2010). This theory argues that a retrospective analysis of activities done represents a more behavior changing approach to dealing with situations in life. Mancini (2003, p.162) declares that “behavior modification is a significant time management strategy”.

As such, while the inventory system is not in itself a time-saving measure, it results in the establishment of time-saving behavioral changes in a person.

Time Management Grid

This theory involves placing the activities that need our attention on a grid. The grid then reveals how each activity is being categorized based on how soon it needs to be done (Harris 2008). The grid consists of 4 quadrants and each quadrant has a different priority level. The first grid which is quadrant one has tasks that have the highest importance and bear urgency and therefore should be done immediately. The second grid has important activities that are not as urgency. Harris (2008, p.

22) refers to the activities in this quadrant as “quality time” which means that while the activities are of importance to the success of a company, they do not require to be done immediately. The third grid consists of activities that bear urgency but are of no importance. This grid is therefore also known as the distraction grid since the activities contained therein do not bear much importance to helping one achieve goals. The forth grid contains activities that are neither urgent nor important.

Goal Setting Theory

Goals assist us to properly focus and work towards achieving the things that are important to us. The Goal-setting theory advanced by Locke can be used to effectively manage a person’s time. This theory is based on the premise that a person will be more motivated to perform if they have clear and specific goals and objectives.

According to this theory, high performance can only come from clear expectations (Pynes 2008, p.155). Personal goal setting enables a person to plan and therefore live life in their own way. By setting goals that are both challenging and achievable, a person will have a clear idea of what needs to be done and will be motivated to work towards the set goals.

A person will therefore avoid wasting time on activities that do not assist in the fulfillment of the desirable goals.

Time Management Windows Principles

In many work environments, we are required to work with other people to achieve desired goals. While working with people may lead to higher productivity, it can also hinder out ability to manage our own time (Butler & Hope 2007).

This is especially so in a group setting where conflicts among or between group members can cause decreased productivity and lead to time being wasted. Harris (2008) reveals that the Johari Window developed by Joseph Lufh and Harry Ingham can be a good time management tool. The Johari window is a model of communication that can help people build trust and confidence by facilitating open self expression as well as feedback from peers (Harris 2008, p.18).

This will eliminate potential conflict and enable the group to engage in productive work.

Pareto’s 80/20 Rule

Pareto’s principle was invented by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who made the observation that 80% of the wealth in his country was owned by only 20% of the people. From this, the 80:20 Rule which sates that we can often achieve 80% completion with 20% of the effort was come up with. Pareto’s principle can also be applied to prioritize on the activities to undertake. By identifying the key 20% activities that generate 80% of the results that a person wants to achieve, one can make sure that they prioritize these activities.

From Pareto’s rule, a manager can analyze and identify the activities that produce the 80% results that are desirable. From this, more time can be allocated to these productive activities at the expense of the time wasting activities. From Pareto’s principle, it is possible to free up a lot of time (up to 80%) which can then be used for other productive activities.


In order to use ones times more effectively, we need to be able to say no to additional tasks from other people that stop us from completing out tasks.

To do this, a person needs to be assertive. Turner (cited in Cole 2003, p.235) defines assertion as “the capacity to express our ideas, opinions or feelings openly and directly without putting down ourselves or others”. Assertiveness leads to a person taking responsibility for their actions (Butler & Hope 2007). In many instances, people find it difficult to say “no” since they feel that doing this is being uncooperative or selfish. A person will therefore say “yes” to requests that require his time and effort. This may result in mismanagement of time since lack of assertiveness lead to interruptions being inflicted on a person (Bedell & Lennox 1997).

Practicing Assertiveness is based on the premise that a manager’s use of time can be made more productive if they have good personal communication skills (Cole 2003, 236). Being assertive will assist managers to better utilize their time since they will say no to non-critical requests that derail them from following their schedule.

Action Plan: Outcomes and Measures of Achievements

In an attempt to improve my time management, I applied these theories in my every day life. My aim was to increase my study efficiency by creating more time. In particular, I hoped to increase my study time by at least 25%. I began by coming up with an activity log which revealed to me that my current study time was less than 2hours a day. From the activity log, I was able to discover that TV and the Internet were the two activities which took up a significant amount of my time. In week one, I made use of the Bucket of Rocks Theory to come up with a list of the important activities that I engage in.

I used this theory together with the Time management Grid. I began by listing down the important tasks that I engaged in (the big rocks) and then the less important things until I got to the least important. I realized that most of the times I failed to give due attention to the big stuff since I did not recognize them. Applying the Bucket of Rocks Theory helped me to pay more attention to these activities and give less attention and effort to the less important tasks.

In using the time management grid, I developed a grid and filled it with the tasks that I was supposed to accomplish. This grid enabled me to see the tasks that were of great importance to me. By using the Time Management Grid, I was able to identify activities which fall in the first quadrant. This helped me to overcome procrastination since this tool enabled me to see what things I should be focusing on at the moment. By utilizing this, I avoided the temptation to put off important things for things that is more enjoyable or that I was more comfortable doing. In week two, I made use of Lakein’s ABC system to come up with a list of the activities I undertake and give them priority levels. I came up with a list of my daily tasks and assigned them priorities A, B or C.

I then rearranged them in order from highest to lowest priority. The ABC system greatly assisted me since I could now see what tasks needed immediate attention. In the past, I had a habit of writing down a list of things in a random order. This move was not beneficial since it just told me what I hadn’t done and not when I should do them.

An important observation I made while using this theory was that I no longer rushed to beat deadlines since the system helped me to complete the important tasks before the deadline reached. This increased my productivity since I could dedicate enough time to the important tasks. I also came up with a list of goals to achieve in the second week. This was by utilizing the goal setting theory which proposes that productivity is increased when a person has well defined goals (Pynes 2008).

Previously, I went through each day without any real plan and worked to beat deadlines. Goal setting enabled me to overcome this since I now had a clear ideal of what I wanted to achieve on each day. I discovered that the goal helped me optimize my time since I was motivated to beat the deadlines that I had set for myself. In the third week, I applied the Inventory System. In so doing, I reviewed the manner in which I had been using my time in the previous two weeks and made an analysis of the same. A major observation that I made was that I spent too much time interacting with other people.

While this can be a positive thing, Cole (2003) states that high levels of interaction between people at work have the potential to decrease personal effectiveness. This is because the interactions may be prolonged or involve unnecessary meetings with colleagues. I also made use of the Time management windows principles in my group work activities.

Johari’s Window enabled me to gain deep insights into my abilities and weaknesses. By engaging in open and non-judgmental conversations with my class mates, I was able to see that while my colleagues do see me as competent, there are some areas where they find me disorganized. From this feedback, I was able to make changes and become better organized. In week three, I made use of assertiveness. This was from a realization that I At the same time, I spent a significant amount of time taking care of activities requested by my friends and classmates.

By being assertive and respectfully communicating that I had other obligations, I was able to gain up to 30 minutes each day. I then came to realize that by being assertive, my friends did not bother me unnecessarily and only asked for my help when it was necessary. I also made use of the inventory system to review how I had been managing my time in the past. I then made an analysis of the common behaviors that I engaged in. It came to my attention that I was in the habit of taking many breaks while working. While I considered this breaks healthy since they helped me to relax and therefore return to my work more focused, I noticed that the frequency of the breaks made them more of a liability than an asset to me. With this analysis, I made a point to reduce my break times by half.

Harris (2008, p.134) states that the goal of time management is to “structure one’s environment and activities to live a balanced life and to work effectively and efficiently”. By doing this, I practiced good time management which involves habit substitution where old inefficient habits are replaced by new effective ones.

By changing my habits and taking up more productive one, I was able to better utilize my time. The last theory that I tested was the 80/20 rule. I anticipated that by making use of this principle, I would be able to identify the critical activities that give me 80% of the result that I desire and capitalize on them. I also hoped to free up a lot of time from the unnecessary activities and channel the same to the 20% tasks.

In reality, this principle did not help me to free up as much time since I could not isolate 20% of the tasks that result in 80% of what I desire. I therefore concluded that this theory was not applicable to me at the time and it did not enable me to better manage my time.


Time management is a fundamental component of effective job performance. From my personal analysis which ran for five weeks, I discovered that using time management theories helped me to better manage my time. I was able to better maximize my time and prioritize on activities which resulted in higher productivity from me. Even so, not all the theories were applicable to me and the 80/20 rule proved to be impractical for me to use. An important truth that I discovered from the exercise was that effective time management is a continuous process and one has to invest considerable effort to develop time management skills.

Even so, these efforts are worth the while since they result in self-betterment.


Bedell, JR & Lennox, S 1997, Handbook for Communication and Problem-solving Skills Training: a Cognitive-behavioral Approach, John Wiley and Sons, Los Angeles. Butler, G & Hope, T 2007, Managing Your Mind, Oxford City Press, New York. Cole, AG 2003, Management theory and practice, Cengage Learning EMEA, Boston.

DeJanasz, S, Wood, G, Gottschalk, L, Dowd, K & Schneider, B 2006, Interpersonal Skills in Organizations, McGraw Hill, Australia. Forsyth, P 2010, Successful Time Management, Kogan Page Publishers, NY. Harris, J 2008, Time Management 100 Success Secrets – The 100 Most Asked Questions on Skills, Tips, Training, Tools and Techniques for Effective Time Management, Lulu Publishers, LA. Mancini, M 2003, Time Management, McGraw-Hill Professional, Canberra.

Pynes, JE 2008, Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations: A strategic approach, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.


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