Workplace Time Management Techniques
There are some old expressions that are very much still in use to describe many of today’s workplaces: ‘working like your hair is fire,’ ‘constantly putting out fires,’ and ‘working like you’re shot out of a cannon.’ No wonder employees report feeling increasingly stressed at work these days. Managing heavy workloads while trying to meet seemingly-unrealistic deadlines and other goals set by management can put anyone on edge. To add to the problem, there are endless distractions in this digital age of 24/7 workplace connectedness.
This level of ongoing stress leaves employees burnt out and demoralized, sapping their motivation and diminishing their productivity. Ultimately, these dissatisfied employees will leave to seek employment elsewhere. And, as has been widely reported, disengaged and unproductive employees, along with high turnover rates, can wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line.
One relatively easy tactic company leaders can employ to help workers feel less overwhelmed at work is to help them get organized with effective time management tips and techniques. Time management is typically not taught in school and is not something that is easily mastered without experience or coaching. Though some of the following measures may seem obvious to seasoned professionals, implementing them effectively is a learned skill.
Start With a Clear Plan and Goals
To ensure new employees get off to a good start, it’s critical that team leaders outline and communicate their role and goals within the context of the team and, if appropriate, within the context of the entire organization. Employees can more effectively manage their time when they understand where they fit into the big picture, and how their work advances not only their interests but the interests of the entire organization.
Communication is Key
Team leaders should make clear what’s expected of workers in terms of daily tasks and deadlines, establish open lines of communication, and encourage team members to ask questions on an ongoing basis. Regular meetings or ‘check-ins’ are helpful for revealing problems that might throw work off track.
Ensure employees have all the tools, furnishings and equipment they need to stay organized and be their most productive. Useful tools include apps for managing time and projects, as well as communicating with team members. To Do Lists—whether handwritten or electronic—are key. A quiet, comfortable workspace will help minimize distractions.
Establish an Efficient Daily Routine
Various studies have established that people are most focused two hours after they become fully awake. With that in mind, encourage employees to focus on their most pressing and important work during this time. To ensure maximum productivity, it’s good to devise a plan the night before—and stick to it.
A daily plan should include a schedule of work, meetings, and other events, and should allow for breaks and likely interruptions. Computer scheduling apps can ensure employees stay on task.
Some experts recommend breaking down the workday into uninterrupted ‘chunks’ or segments to enhance productivity. The thinking is that these segments be long enough to allow completion of a task, but short enough that they collectively work within a busy day.
For example, one such technique, the Pomodoro Technique, breaks the workday into 25 minute segments—separated by five minute breaks. After four 25-minute segments, the employee ‘earns’ a longer break. By chunking the work into limited time segments, rewarded by breaks, employees are forced to fully concentrate on their work.
In busy workplaces, where someone is always demanding an immediate answer and project deadlines loom endlessly on the horizon, it can be hard to juggle—or even distinguish—between the urgent tasks and those that can be delayed. Figuring out how to prioritize daily tasks effectively to complete work on time is a learned skill.
A good way to start is to create a master list of tasks with a rating system delineating work that’s:
- Urgent. Tasks that require immediate attention and/or have a hard deadline. This would include, for example, responding to the boss’s or important customers’ inquiries.
- Important. Tasks that, while mission critical, have later deadlines.
- Low Priority. Tasks that need to be done—at some point—as time permits.
The next step is creating a schedule of work with tasks in order of priority—and sticking to the schedule. That may mean learning to say no and/or delegating work as necessary.
While modern workplaces have long been rife with potential distractions, digital technology amplifies the problem by enabling 24/7 multimedia communications. Employees must be encouraged and empowered to mute and time shift non-urgent communications so they can complete daily tasks without interruptions.
Frequent meetings, particularly if they tend to go long, are a time sink and can make it hard to get work done. There are various techniques team leaders can use to make meetings more efficient. One tactic is to schedule meetings 15 minutes after the hour to end on the next hour, condensing hour-long meetings into 45-minute meetings, forcing meeting participants to get down to business immediately and stay focused.
Various studies reveal that employees are happier when they feel they have some control over their daily work.1 That includes having enough time to do everything that’s required of them. Taking the time to develop your employees’ time management techniques offers powerful returns. You’ll reduce absenteeism and turnover, while improving employee engagement and overall job satisfaction The result will be a more positive workplace which can only be good for the bottom line.
Contact LINK today for help building an engaged workforce.
- Research says this is the secret to being happy at work. – DeMera, Jayson, nbcnews.com. May 22, 2017.