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  • Writer's pictureChristina Spetzler Gregersen

Balancing Brilliance: Sharon Ng's Secrets to Efficient and Effective Time Management

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Written by Christina Spetzler Grergsen, Ph.D. candidate at Deakin University


Time seems to be the most precious commodity for many of us. If you've ever felt that your calendar is packed with too many things and that everyday tasks take all your time, leaving much less room for research than you would have wanted, you are not alone. We invited Sharon Ng, from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, IJRM 2022 outstanding editor, to help us get insights on this issue. Sharon has researched time management, and she has actually managed to implement her research insights and balance her life as an extraordinarily successful academic, alongside family life and doing research on her favourite topic.

On urgency and importance


What is our major flaw in time management? People, says Sharon, have the tendency to tackle easier and quicker tasks first. However, this often leads to important matters being pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Sharon emphasized the importance of remembering that things that are important are not necessarily urgent and vice versa. Scheduling time for important matters, even if they are not urgent, helps us avoid neglecting them in favour of urgent tasks.

“Things that are important are not necessarily urgent. Things that are urgent are not necessarily important.”

The Eisenhower matrix (see below) is a great tool for time management. It illustrates exactly what Sharon talks about when she says “Things that are important are not necessarily urgent and Things that are urgent are not necessarily important.”. The saying and illustration are taken from the former U.S. President Eisenhower when he said I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.


Important activities often produce an outcome that helps us achieve our goals.


Urgent activities often need immediate attention as they may be associated with achieving others' goals and are thereby tied to others' deadlines, so the consequences of not reaching the goal are also immediate.


The secret, says Sharon, is to classify the tasks according to this matrix, and handle each type separately. The key point is to schedule times for important and not urgent tasks, and not to fill the calendar with urgent tasks.


Photo credit: The Eisenhower Matrix


Sharon's effective task management skills also extend to balancing work with family life. In the early years of her children's lives, Sharon structured her work hours around their activities to ensure she was there for important moments. This often resulted in working weekends and late hours but allowed her to attend all the important family events. “These were important activities, and I knew that if I will not schedule them, I will be carried away with everyday work activities”. Nowadays, she tries to take weekends fully off, recognizing the importance of rest for her health.




Sharon also highlighted the importance of peer group activities and has created a collegial group at the university where they host monthly events such as going bowling, renting a yacht, and celebrating Chinese New Year together.


 

Meet Sharon

 

Sharon Ng

Head, Division of Marketing, Nanyang Business School


What drives you to do the research/work that you do?

I am very much driven by my own experiences. For example, much of my research is about cultural differences. When I came to the United States, to do my PhD at the University of Minnesota, I encountered many different behaviours that were unfamiliar to me as someone from Singapore.

I couldn't explain it. Why are Americans using words such as “awesome” and “wonderful” that a Singaporean would never use? And why do they do things that we will never do in Singapore? I think this actually triggered my interest in cross-cultural work.


What is the hardest question your students ask you?

How are African consumers different from Asian consumers? It was in one of my classes, where I had students from various places in Africa. “I don’t know” I said, “I must be frankly honest with you, and the answer is I do not know. The data are not out there.” I believe much more research is needed in this area. Getting data is not easy though, as logistical constraints are at play, for example, platforms such as Mturk and Prolific, which are commonly used for marketing studies, only have participants from the US, UK, and a few other countries.


If you were not in academia, what would you be?

I would love to be a musician. I love music and used to play the piano. Less so now with lack of time and may I say, stiff joints 😊 I also joined the military band and Chinese orchestra in my schooling days, so was exposed to different types of instruments.

If you could retain only one concept in marketing, what would it be?

Customer centricity. It all starts with the customers. If there are no customers, all other business functions such as finance, accounting etc. cannot help to save the firm!


Who is the researcher, from any field you would like to sit to lunch with, what would you say to them?

Must the person be living? I would love to sit down with Marie Curie, winner of two Nobel prizes (physics and chemistry), also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, in an era where woman’s rights is not as prominent. Would love to ask how she transverse across two different fields and overcome all her challenges.


 

This article was written by

Christina Spetzler Gregersen,

PhD candidate at Deakin University, Australia












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