5 Simple Strategies for Better Time Management
No matter what stage of your career you’re at, you always wish the clock had an extra hour. Whether it’s tight deadlines or a heavy workload, the stress levels rise as the tasks on hand only seem to increase. And once you finish the task, you often feel like you could have used your time more effectively to do the same thing, or knock-off more from the to-do list! It’s a never-ending cycle.
Poor time management can cost you dearly. It can result in missed deadlines and appointments, poor workflow and low quality of output, financial losses, strained work relationships, and poor work-life balance to say the least!
Efficient management of time can go a long way. It’s usually seen as a personal goal; however, it is definitely a skill that can take the team to the next level. Some people are better at managing their time, while others struggle. Yet, if there are some ground rules for a team that can help you to organise your tasks and use your time better, it’s easier to get more things done each day. A few simple things can help you lower your stress level and do better at the workplace. This takes time to develop and is different for each person. You just need to find what works best for you. Managing your time better and in turn, helping your team manage their time better, is also a great reflection on your leadership skills.
Here are five simple tips to follow to manage your time better and boost your productivity.
1. Set aside time for planning:
Yes, it actually requires time to plan your time! This involves setting priorities and scheduling activities to help you make the best use of yours and your team’s time. This is incredibly important because planning can really help out with your productivity. Knowing where your time is going to be spent allows you to schedule new work or tasks with ease. Sometimes, you schedule a vital stock-taking meeting during the week. However, something more urgent comes up (and this happens so often), and you will have to reschedule. A planned schedule will redirect you to reschedule the meeting and get the work done, and not just left unfinished. It goes a long way in enabling you to make realistic commitments too.
It also helps to schedule activities that you don’t enjoy as much earlier so it gets done with better attention. Allocating some time for possible contingencies, or unexpected turn of events is also a great idea. It will help you keep that target in focus and get the job done.
Impact on the team: It brings the entire team on the same page and hence the entire team works like a well-oiled engine.
2. Identify your priorities – for the day, week and month:
All projects—especially large, complex projects—need clear priorities. No matter how well-planned, projects involve change in orders, re-prioritisation and plenty of unexpected surprises. It’s just how things go. Yet, knowing how to prioritise work has an effect on the success of the outcome, the team’s involvement and your role as a leader.
One of the biggest challenges for managers is accurately prioritise the work that matters on a daily basis. Even if you have the best apps or technology devices to manage your schedule, you are the one who has to plan it! Also, it is essential that you keep the priorities as current as possible. If someone has fallen back on a previous deadline, it will derail the team.
As a leader, you have to take a decision on what to focus on, keeping the larger picture and goal in mind to ensure that nobody’s working on yesterday’s priorities. This may take some time and practice. Also, it is very subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else. It also helps to have mid-to-long-term goals – goals for the week, and goals for the month. These could be related, or sometimes even unrelated.
Impact on the team: Meeting priorities on a daily basis builds a sense of accomplishment among the team and motivate them to do more consistently.
3. Make a 5-point to-do list:
Keeping a properly structured and thought-out list of things to do sounds simple enough. But it can be surprising how many people fail to use them at all, never mind use them effectively. Many of us start making to do lists because someone asked us to make one. But do you check the list at the end of the day? Do you tick off tasks you’ve finished and add new ones? Is this a continuous process? Does it help you evaluate your pace and quality of your output? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves.
So, to make this work for you, it helps to have a running list of ONLY the top five tasks you want to finish at a time, preferably in a day. This will help you keep the list constantly evolving, and you will also be able to keep track of completed tasks and set new goals for yourself and the team.
No matter how fast or efficient you are, it’s practically impossible to accomplish more than 5 critical tasks in a day. Of course one can do more if they work extended hours each day. But the idea is to have a work-life balance and yet get more done efficiently.
Impact on the team: The 5 point strategy works very well when the entire team is cued into this practice and over time the same team will be able to make room for additional task as efficacy will set in.
4. Eliminate time-wasting tasks:
Time wasters are a real source of frustration provided we recognise them! The key is to identify the low value activities, and then evaluate the time it takes to finish the task, so you can concentrate on things that produce meaningful results.
A good way to evaluate the importance of the task is to ask ourselves why we are doing this. Does it fit our objectives, and can be justified with clear outcomes which provide benefit? The activity also has to be reviewed regularly. Reducing time-wasters is an ongoing activity. A measurable way to do this is to review the actions and tasks of the past week, and ask these questions, under more specific circumstances. Once you figure out which activity took up maximum time with least measurable results, you will easily be able to eliminate it from your schedule and make time for things that produce more results.
You can do this at an individual level to optimise your time and contribution towards the team; or once in a while for the entire team with inputs from the team. You will be surprised by the items that appear on that list once you make it. A word of caution though, the idea is not to become a workaholic and eliminate everything else to only focus on work. While making a list, team leaders typically will subtract all fun at work items and label them as time-wasters. Avoid falling in this trap. The real idea is to identify what helps fuel productivity (and it could very well be some fun activity) and what eats into time unnecessarily.
Impact on the team: It enables the team to see for themselves how they are spending time at work and helps drive ownership of work.
5. Make the right decisions:
Finally, complaining that there’s no time, and not doing anything about it is not going to make the cut. It will not be seen in a good light. Therefore, taking off from our previous tip, it is important to prioritise, and if something needs to be eliminated or changed it has to be done.
Sometimes, we may chart out activities that we think are important at the beginning of the month. However, when reviewing our tasks, if we feel something is not quite carrying us forward, we should not be afraid to make a bold decision of dropping the task or postponing it. Having said that, making frequent changes in our decisions will also not be well received. The idea is to reach a stage where you are in control of the work and are able to take the best operational decision so you can direct the team. This also means taking tough decisions and also saying no at times.
Yes, this is a very subjective call, but taking right and timely decisions will ensure that the outcome is met in the most efficient manner.
Impact on the team: The team will look at the manager as a go to person to solve any challenges, trust your judgment and recommendations. It strengthens trust in the team.
There can be endless tips and tricks up your sleeve to manage time better. And these are just five top-of-the-mind simple things you can do to use your time better. Starting out from listing everything you need to do, prioritising them and deciding what you can delegate to others, scheduling the tasks with deadlines, setting and most importantly also scheduling break times will lay the foundation to a more efficient workflow. Good time management requires daily practice of prioritising tasks and organising them in a way that can save time while achieving more. The old saying, “work smarter, not harder” is more relevant now than ever! Managing time isn’t about squeezing as many tasks into my day as possible. It’s about simplifying how you work, doing things faster, and relieving stress.
Yellow Spark can support you in formulating team specific processes that enable the teams to manage their time efficiently. To know how we can get started ; write to us on – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.