Time management has always been important, but our modern lives have made it even more critical.
The number of potential distractions and fragmentation of tasks can be overwhelming, and detract from our ability to perform to our full potential. Time management allows for better allocation and documentation of time, ensuring that time isn’t squandered doing menial tasks, and that time is accounted for. All of this allows you to assess working patterns and adjust schedules, as well as making more informed decisions.
What is time management?
Time management is the process of getting the most done in the shortest amount of time. Through careful planning, consistent execution and the removal of common distractions, time management can help you to reduce the amount of time you waste while at work. As a result, you can get more done more quickly, reducing stress and increasing productivity.
It’s often said that we only have so much ‘productive time’ during the day, with the period after lunch or the last couple of hours often being unproductive. Our concentration can only hold out for so long, and so many of us end up procrastinating, or blankly reading and rereading the same email or website. Good time management involves learning how to mitigate this, and make better use of the time you have.
Time management is all about introducing structure to your work and your workplace. Without structure, we tend to meander, with productivity ebbing and flowing through the day. By being more organised and rigorous in how we schedule and approach work, we can overcome these inherent weaknesses, and bring about both greater satisfaction and greater benefits for the business.
How time management works
Time management is a process of repetition, and forming good habits that produce good work. To be truly effective, however, you need to have the wherewithal to react to changes in your schedule, and adjust your plans accordingly. Below are four key tenets of time management that will help you to work smarter, rather than harder:
Plan your work
A good final product starts with a good plan. Planning out your work on a weekly or monthly basis will provide you with a mental picture of your schedule, and how much time you have to accommodate any changes. The certainty this calendar of work gives you will reduce the stress of deadlines, and help you to delegate any work that you won’t be able to complete.
This process can include some level of realism in how tasks are assigned. You might for instance want to schedule a less demanding task on a Monday, to ease you into the week; or start the month off with meetings, to establish where everyone stands. Software such as Monday.com and Asana can provide a convenient structure for this, and a central repository of information that can be shared with colleagues.
Part of the process of scheduling is knowing what to prioritise. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we often put off the difficult or demanding work until the last minute, at which point it becomes extremely stressful. By prioritising that work, you can ensure that it’s addressed as soon as possible, getting it out of the way and giving you ample time to overcome any obstacles.
Prioritisation is also important on a daily basis. By lining up tasks in order of priority, you can make sure the most crucial and time sensitive tasks are ticked off early. This not only reduces stress, but also gives you the satisfaction of crossing tasks off your list – a simple action that makes you feel more productive, and channels that positivity into the rest of your work.
We’ve all had to-do lists, and we all know it isn’t enough just to write something down. Time management isn’t just the process of planning out what you will do, but recording when you have done it. This way, you can see at a glance what has been done and what still needs to be done, and make adjustments as the month progresses.
Tracking the amount of time you’ve spent on each task is particularly important. If you’re paid based on time worked, then this gives you a much more accurate picture of your work than just your deliverables. Otherwise, it’s a way to accurately assess how much time different tasks are taking – and potentially adjust your rates or your methodology accordingly.
Declutter your brain
Our brains need a break, but we often use that time to engage them in a different way. Afraid of looking like we’re leaving our workstations too often – or outright unable to take a break – we instead sit at our posts and dawdle, scrolling through social media or reading articles online. While this may be diverting, it does little to improve your energy or focus, and is ultimately counterproductive.
Try to keep your phone on silent and out of sight, and avoid browsing to irrelevant websites. Instead, take the time when you aren’t feeling productive to refresh your mind, and take a short break. Breaks are mandated under health & safety law, particularly when using computers, and the five minutes you invest in going for a walk, stretching or making a cup of coffee will be repaid with another hour of higher productivity.
Why time management training is important
Time management is one of those well-meaning, all-encompassing things that we often pledge to improve, but never do. Reducing the amount of time we waste on things other than work often requires taking multiple steps, including changes to ingrained habits and patterns of behaviour, all of which can be difficult. The idea is nice, but the execution requires a level of commitment and willpower that not everyone can manage alone.
This kind of procrastination is exactly the kind of thing time management training seeks to address. By training ourselves to use our time more effectively, our developmental goals become more achievable. Our work becomes more efficient and more satisfying, improving our career prospects, and the benefits also manifest in our personal lives. Time is precious and finite, and time management helps us to make the most of it.
In a business context, the extra efficiency gained through effective time management is an obvious benefit. But ultimately, happy employees are more productive. Time management allows for work to be better organised and more quickly completed, but it also empowers individuals to use their time in a way that benefits them. This allows the impact of the training to travel beyond the workplace, and provides both new pathways for career development and a greater sense of personal satisfaction.
When we think of areas for personal development, it tends to be improving our specialist knowledge, and learning new skills that will allow us to progress in our careers. What’s less common is to consider the things we already do, and how we could be better at them. Time management is one of these, and investing in training can have benefits both inside and outside the workplace.
Some employees may be suspicious of the prospect of time management training, feeling that it is a way to force them to do more work in a shorter period of time. By emphasising the benefits for both their work and personal lives – being more organised, less stressed, and having more time to commit to hobbies and leisure activities – you can help employees become happier and more productive.