“You really need to improve your time management skills.”
I remember the first time my mother said that to me. At the time, I actually wanted to ask her, “what is time management?” But I was too proud.
I found out for myself what it is over the years. And I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve discovered that time management is one of the greatest skills you can possess in employee training. In fact, in pretty much any role.
We’re increasingly time poor. Always rushed off our feet. Overworked (and underpaid) — as the saying goes.
The majority of us imagine we have excellent time management skills. Some of us even list this on our resume. But can you honestly say you know what it is and what it entails?
It’s high time we scratched the surface of this topic. I’m going to find answers to the question I should have asked my mother all those years ago: just what is time management?
What is time management?
If I had asked the question all those years ago, I imagine my mother would have said something like this:
Good time management is when you allocate the right amount of time to perform a certain activity. The purpose of time management is to help people get more or better work done in less time.
Effective time management is about assigning time slots to activities based on their importance, as well as how long they will take to do.
Time management maximizes the effectiveness of an individual’s efforts. And if the efforts of all employees were maximized, imagine what that could mean for the organization’s performance.
Elements of time management include organization, planning, and scheduling. It’s entirely bespoke to the individual. So, their particular situation and relevant characteristics should be taken into consideration when advising them on time management.
Why is it important?
Time management helps you stay on top of your tasks and get more done.
From an organizational perspective, when employees’ time is managed to best effect, they tend to be happier and more creative.
That translates into fewer sick days and lower employee turnover. It also means more productivity, innovation, and brand loyalty.
Poor time management could be why an employee is under-performing. So it’s worth exploring how better time management can improve that employee’s experience and performance.
Tips for better time management
Before we get into some tips, check out Randy Pausch’s lecture on time management below. He starts off with an interesting point about how understanding what you cost your organization per hour can aid your time management.
1. Make time to plan
Have dedicated time at the end of each week to look forward and schedule the next week. This allows us to be proactive in determining what we are allocating our time to and not just responding to what shows up.
2. Use tools to help you
There are numerous time management techniques, tools, and apps available.
Today, there’s an app or a piece of software to help you with anything. From playing music neurologically designed to promote concentration, to an AI meetings organizer, there’s a time management tool for everyone.
3. Schedule your activities
I’m sure your diary is filled with meetings and appointments with other people. But what about time set aside to get things done?
Normally, this gets forgotten about. We just assume we’ll get back from a meeting and crack on with our to-do list. But scheduling time to perform certain activities is a surer way to success.
4. Consider outsourcing
As Randy Pausch advised, start thinking about how much your time is worth to the organization. Are there certain tasks and responsibilities that can be offloaded, either to someone else or to a technological solution?
There’s a huge amount that can be achieved now via automation, artificial intelligence, and clever software.
5. Use the 80/20 rule
We all have what Lou Markstrom calls a “personal productivity curve”.
Use the 80/20 rule to divide your tasks into the important minority and the trivial majority. Then make sure you schedule your important activities for the times of day you’re most productive.
You have probably heard of the Steven Covey priority matrix. It is a very popular tool for determining the difference between “urgent” and “important” tasks.
It allows you to rank your to-do list items from urgent and important, right through to neither urgent nor important. This is an excellent method of prioritization.
There are many barriers to organizational learning. Don’t let poor time management be one of them.