NeerSpires :
Time is Money

by Neeraja Ganesh

NeerSpires : Time is Money

“And the next book that we will be reading is …. And we meet on 17th May, as always the third Monday of the month at 5 pm to discuss the book”. I opened my Google Calendar of 17th May at 5 pm and blocked out an hour for the discussion of the said book. This was a monthly event organized by the book club that I am part of.

What’s so special about it? The specialty is about me marking my calendar as soon as I got the confirmation of this event.

How does it help? It helps to ensure that the date and time is blocked, and does not get allocated to any other event or meetup.

Is this all that one needs to do to ensure that she is able to achieve all the goals that she has set for herself? Of course not. For me to be able to participate effectively in the book review, I need to read the book beforehand. Hence, I block out an hour every day to read a chapter from the book.

How often have we heard the below statements:

“I don’t have the time for it”

“I forgot about it in the midst of the many other things that I had to do”

“How does she do it, where does she get the time to do it”

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. But yes, everyone has 365 days in a year! How is it possible that some people are able to achieve so much more than others? You might say that they give up on sleep, their “me” time, maybe even time that they could spend with their family and friends and only concentrate on the work goals that they want to achieve. But that is not all there is to it.

If you ask these achievers how they made it to where they are today, you will hear them talk about managing time effectively.

If you thought that time management becomes a problem only when you are much older and have to manage family and work amongst other things, you are wrong. These days, time management is an issue starting right from students studying in schools to adults balancing family and work. There have been many young girls who have approached me with their challenge of managing time.

Here is a framework that anyone can follow, regardless of age or experience levels or even the type of work that you do, to manage their time effectively:


Time management begins with prioritizing what you want to achieve in a particular time frame. The time frame can be a week (if it’s a set of near-term deliverables), can be a month or even a year.

List down the top 3 -5 items from your list of goals that you want to achieve on priority. One of the ways to do this is to assume that you’ll be able to do only one thing in the year. What would that one thing be? That becomes your top most priority on the list. Now, ask the same question for the second thing that you wish to achieve, if you were allowed to do two things. Repeat this to find your top 3 -5 priority targets. Remember, this list should include both your personal and professional goals, as well as the “me time” which is very important to continuously re-energize yourself. It’s well known that taking time out to recharge yourself improves overall well-being, relationships with others and boosts productivity. We will call this an integrated priority list.

My priority list for 2021 is

Publish a book

Scale up my training business

Continue building my personal brand

My 19-year-old daughter, 

Sneha Ganesh

, got a sniff of time management when she took on her first internship as she was finishing her 12th grade in the year 2020. The internship was for a month, during the first COVID-19 lockdown. In addition to the internship, she had to keep her eyes on preparing for the entrance exams to get admission to undergraduate colleges as well as ensure she is ready for the one 12th standard exam paper which had got indefinitely postponed. She was also helping me with some of the household chores that had to be done as we didn’t have any household help due to the lockdown.

Was it easy for her to draw out her priority list? Absolutely not.

Her wish list of her goals that she wanted to achieve before she started her undergrad course was longer than an A-4 size paper. She had about 6 months to do all of that. It took her many days and several iterations to decide what her top priority items for the immediate term, short term and long term are. But, she finally did put down a priority list.

2. Plan your days and weeks

Calendarize your integrated priority list using a digital calendar. This will help you decide whether you should accept the new invite that’s come your way (could be a social party invite or an unplanned meeting invite at work).

When you prioritise and accordingly plan the tasks, it helps you keep only the most important elements in the calendar. All other elements should either be delegated or discarded.

Ensure that you have some contingency time available every day so that you can use it to take on urgent, important tasks which were not pre-planned (Note: these should be far and few).

So, my calendar has

 Daily entries to write the chapters of my book (Aligned to my priority number 

1) Research about how to publish the book (Aligned to my priority no. 1)

A couple of training sessions to conduct every week (Aligned to my priority no. 2) A couple of talks that I do every month, at conferences or for other networks (Aligned to my priority no. 3)

There is also a slot for “me-time” every day!

Each of us need to put in family time, social engagements, voluntary work and anything else that we wish to do too, in our calendar.

Sneha has a physical tracker and a digital calendar for all her tasks. The physical tracker is the To Do list in her diary which keeps growing every day. Her digital calendar is blocked for regular activities like attending online classes, doing the class assignments, attending the college club meetings, participating in college competitions etc. Over and above this, she has her official tasks to complete which could include strategizing, documentation, work meetings, mentoring etc. Her other interests include reading and writing, cooking, and of course, watching Amazon Prime! She also picks up additional courses to supplement what the college teaches. I introduced her to the digital calendar a year ago when she was juggling and struggling with the multiple items in her wish list. Now, over these months, she cannot live without her To Do list. The minute she finds out about a task that she needs to work on (study, work or even just for pleasure), it goes into the To Do list. She follows it up by finding a place in the digital calendar.

3. Respect your calendar

When someone asks you to pick up additional work deliverables, attend an unscheduled meeting or anything else that you had not planned for, you need to respect your own calendar. Do not compromise on what you have scheduled in your calendar over the new work item that has come your way. Speak up and let your manager or your family know that you do not have the time to deliver it on that day. Negotiate a revised time slot, if it’s something that only you can do. Otherwise, decline or delegate. It’s only when you respect your own calendar that others also will respect it.

Set up your own targets e.g. I do a maximum of 2 training sessions per week and a maximum of 2 talks at conferences per month. If I see more requests coming in, I decline or negotiate for a later date. Of course, I make exceptions if it is a very important client or a conference which could give me a great platform to network and further build on my personal brand. But these are exceptions, far and few. I always ask myself if my priority number 1, which is to be able to publish a book this year, gets compromised when I make such exceptions.

Another practice which I would strongly suggest is to block your calendar to prepare for the meetings where you need to present something important! My calendar always has blocks of time held for preparation for the training sessions! Be proactive just like I blocked out time for attending the book club meetup as well as the preparation time for reading the book.

For those who are still wondering whether this will still work, Sneha and many other younger girls whom I have mentored on this very aspect of time management, have come back to me within a month saying that they have been extremely successful in getting this rhythm going. I have seen that when Sneha’s calendar looks crazy, she automatically starts delegating some of the tasks or declining some of them which she believes someone else can do. At the end of the day, when she sees the tick marks against the To Do list, it gives a sense of satisfaction for having had a productive day and achieved all priorities which align to her goals.

Of course, there could be days or weeks when you are unable to respect your own calendar due to unanticipated events that happen in your life. The second wave of COVID in 2021 is a prime example of the same. Even if your family is safe, hearing about the tragic incidents of known and unknown people could jeopardise your schedule. While we all need to learn to be resilient and keep going, there are moments when we need more time to calm ourselves out of such situations. It’s alright to take some time off. However, the way to bring yourself on track is to re-prioritise and re-plan. The most important element is to respect your calendar once you have re-worked on the schedule. Ensure the contingency blocks of time in your calendar are adequate to deal with any exigencies.

As Benjamin Franklin said —

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

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