Class Act!

Time Management

Class: It's About Time!: Managing Your Time Effectively
Where: www.smartplanet.com (in the "Career & Business" section)
Cost: $19.95, but you get one complimentary class when you sign up for free membership at SmartPlanet.
Duration: about 40 minutes

It's panic time, right? "I'm late on this contract proposal, I have a million things to do, the phone won't stop ringing, and I'm going to pull my hair out." If this is you, SmartPlanet.com's time-management course might help.

As a card-carrying procrastinator, I was the poster child for misusing time. I would get bogged down in the tiny details of my daily duties and postpone the big, important ones--precisely because they were really big and important and therefore seemed insurmountable. In short, I was the perfect test case for a class like this: If it could modify my habits, it could help anyone.

Because books, college extension courses and seminars overflow with time-management advice, I didn't know whether SmartPlanet would offer anything new: It does. The class is broken up into 13 sections, each designed to tackle the causes and effects of time waste. The final section even has nifty printable organization lists (to-do list, master list, task-tracking sheet, etc.)

The course begins with a self-assessment quiz to determine how well you manage time (I rated a whopping 30 out of a possible 100). Learning my problem areas was good, as was discovering the causes. For example, I realized I suffered from a lack of planning. Most likely cause? I'd been successful without planning, so I subconsciously decided to launch projects without adequate preparation. The course showed me how to change that.

Other workshops might advise, "Make a calendar," but this course shows how to prioritize tasks, break big projects into smaller ones and plot them on a calendar. It even advised how to choose the right calendar: Is it big enough? Can I carry it around? I found this helpful as a writer who faces deadlines daily.

Because the course is relatively short, it was manageable and easy to fit into an already-packed schedule. At points, however, it felt more like a good PowerPoint presentation than a class. But the format seemed to fit the subject matter--after all, I was studying time management, not quantum physics. And I found the exercises particularly helpful--they forced me to take a specific problem I was facing and break it down using steps I'd been taught. In this area, you'll get out of it as much as you put in.

Dealing with distractions was one area of the class I found lacking. It advised "closing your door" to keep voices, co-workers and fax-machine noise at bay. This won't help cubicle dwellers or those who share a single, tight space.

Still, the class will be valuable to inveterate procrastinators and people who overextend themselves (like me) who stare at the clock at the end of the day wondering where the time went. One of my favorite sections tells you how to say no to more work: "Guilt is not fatal," it reads, "and you'll become more comfortable saying no with practice."

Overall, this class is a good value; its length isn't intimidating, and the cost won't break the bank.
-Nichole L. Torres

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Act!.

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