5 Time Management Skills to be More Productive

How many times have you, or someone you know said with an exasperated sigh, “There are not enough hours in the day”? Most likely even if you haven’t said it out loud, you’ve thought it on more than one occasion, especially when trying to maintain a good work-life balance. As a manager, not only are you responsible for your own projects and well-being but also that of your entire team.  Burnt out employees are not productive employees and can result in higher turnover rates.  Adding to the normal stress associated with work, according to a recent report by NPR, many Americans don’t take lunch breaks anymore and in the US, millions of vacation days go unused every year. So how come we are still so pressed for time?

As there are only so many hours in a day, the key is to try and be more productive with your time, to accomplish what needs to be done at work to then hopefully get home earlier, spend more time doing what you enjoy outside of work and to get the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night.

Productivity Killers

In any given day, there are a bunch of different factors that can kill your productivity.  These may be related to physical well-being, emotional well-being, available resources etc., however, there are certain common issues that tend to arise more frequently in the workplace.  These include unexpected delays, prioritization issues, and meetings.

Issue: Unexpected Delays

Have you ever had a day go by when nothing new or unexpected arises? Think about receiving an unscheduled phone call, having colleagues visit your office, dealing with a sick child or getting stuck in traffic. It is these types of frequently unexpected delays that can throw your whole day off track and seriously cut into your productivity level.

Issue: Prioritization

It is easy to prioritize tasks when certain projects are obviously more important than others, but what about when every project is equally as important? Trying to use a continuous to-do list or digital equivalent for managing tasks makes it impossible to prioritize at all and so:

  • You waste time repeatedly looking at the same things
  • You miss important items
  • You focus valuable time on less important tasks
  • Frequently by the time you get to a task it’s no longer relevant

Issue: Meetings

Ahhhhh….the infamous workplace meeting.  What is designed to allow employees to collaborate and complete projects, has turned into a running joke of how to waste time in an office setting.  A well-run meeting can be a very productive activity, but more often than not, people are included in meetings when they shouldn’t be, the meeting takes longer than required, and when there is no set agenda participants end up leaving confused, frustrated and exhausted.

Productivity Boosters

Better time management is imperative for increased productivity.  Being able to do more in the same amount of time (without getting burnt out) is every manager’s dream.  Below we’ve included a list of 5 time management skills to make you more productive.

(1) Ruthlessly evaluate - don’t be afraid to say no and learn to say no more often.

  • This includes saying no to colleagues asking for input on a project that is not relevant to you.
  • If there is a task that would be more appropriate for someone else at the company, don’t be afraid to point that out.
  • Leave meetings when the topic no longer applies to your work. Don’t be afraid to leave a meeting early if the discussion no longer pertains to you and participants start to focus on something else.

(2) Deal with quick items first.

  • If something comes across your desk or in your inbox, evaluate whether it’s important and will take no more than a couple of minutes. If so, it is more efficient to just do it, rather than plan it out.
  • BUT – it must legitimately be something you know will only take a couple of minutes. If after you start working through it you realize it will require more of your time and focus, schedule it for another day.
  • This principle works great for keeping your email organized.

(3) Assign tasks to specific days and times.

  • If a project comes up that will require more time and effort, plan it out and assign it to a specific day.
  • In order to avoid being interrupted while then trying to complete this task, close your office door, go into a quiet room or let colleagues know not to disturb you for a specific period of time.

(4) Prioritize tasks every day.

  • At the end of each day, prioritize and rate tasks for the following day and then follow that order until you get through everything.
  • Be realistic about how long each task will take so that you’re not getting behind on what needs to be done. Also be realistic when letting colleagues know how long a task will take if they are waiting on you to finish it.
  • Allocate “open door” time where you’re not working on anything in particular and your team members can interrupt you with any questions or tasks that require your input.
    • This also encourages employees to solve their own issues if they know they will have to wait in order to discuss it with you.

(5) Plan meetings.

  • When a project does require a meeting and collaboration between team members, make sure you set an agenda and stick to it.
  • Have someone assigned as the meeting head to make sure people stay on track with the topic and to keep an eye on the agenda and timeframe.
  • Consider having a stand-up meeting where employees are on their feet – this often helps to keep things moving and stay on track as employees are more likely to want to finish quickly in order to get back to their desks.

No matter what company you work for, there will likely be times where you will have to chip in to work on other projects that would not typically fall under your responsibility.  This is part of what makes any given team successful, however, it is important to not let these tasks prevent you from being able to perform your regular responsibilities and to not let these tasks cause burn out. As a manager, it is impossible to know everything that your team is working on each day and in general how much is on their plates. Regular communication about work responsibilities and checking in with employees will help to make sure your team does not burn out and has the resources available to complete their tasks on time.