As the productivity and wellbeing guardians of the organisation, HR is best-placed to drive better time management. We’ve outlined 11 techniques and ideas HR needs to pass on to employees that will make a difference.
- Keep a diary or log of how you spend your time: employees should do this for a minimum of three days, while a couple of weeks would be best. It allows them to compare where time has been spent and what has been achieved to goals. Aquila (1992) says it also helps people see how much time is wasted on internal distractions, such as lack of confidence, lack of competency or perfectionism.
- Use the Pareto Principle: otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle contends that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. This is a good point to reflect on after keeping a time diary. What do you do that’s actually getting results? What do you do that gets results, but is inefficient and probably isn’t worth doing?
- Planning makes you feel better: Macan (1994) found that planning behaviour had a positive correlation with perceived control over time, and perceived control over time is crucial to whether time management has a positive impact. So thinking about how you spend your day and how you can be more efficient is a good thing in itself.
- Bucket your tasks into long-term goals: instead of focusing on project-related goals, Schippers and Hogenes (2011) suggest linking all activity to outcome-driven, long-term goals e.g. ‘Fundraising, Recruitment, R&D,’ and making sure that everything you do contributes to one of these goals.
- Use a suitable tool for tracking tasks and goals: some people like using a tech-based solution, like Wunderlist or Todoist, while others like to-do lists (simple, using a notepad, or more complex, like Bullet Journal). The key thing for HR to get across is why tracking tasks and goals not only helps you achieve them more easily but takes the cognitive load off your mind.
- Chunk your time around your goals, rather than tasks: when an email comes in, put it into one of your goal buckets, as above. Then, when you are focused on Recruitment, or R&D, you can tackle all the emails in that bucket. This helps prevent you falling prey to multitasking, which actually makes you less productive and can lead to burnout.
- Use a chunking system for time management: the Pomodoro technique is the most commonly-known here, where each day is split into work tranches, each with a break in between, with longer breaks at strategic intervals. There are other systems, like Getting Things Done (GTD). These don’t work for everyone, and for many, they are most useful wheeled out when necessary, rather than adhered to regularly. But they are very useful weapons in the time management arsenal.
- Pick a location to suit your focus: we’ve discussed in the past how there are four things you need to do in the workplace – communicate, concentrate, collaborate, contemplate. Employees will be less efficient if they choose to concentrate in the noisiest part of the office. Of course, HR has a job to do here in encouraging autonomy in choosing the right work environment.
- Learn to give important things priority: in the modern workforce, some things look like they are priorities but aren’t – emails are the obvious example. But to be efficient with your time, you need to be crystal clear on your goals and the tasks that achieve them, and then imbue these tasks with a sense of urgency so you prioritise them above non-urgent tasks that superficially look urgent.
- Develop your focus and concentration: Success is down to two things: being effective (doing the right things) and being efficient (doing them well). Planning, goal-setting and task management help you be effective. But if you can’t achieve flow and focus, you’ll struggle to be efficient. Mindfulness and energy management can help employees improve their focus.
- Reset interpersonal expectations: time management methods are useful but environmental factors, such as colleagues’ expectations, exert pressures that are difficult to overcome. Many jobs are now so interdependent that without resetting expectations within teams it can be hard for employees to take control of their time. HR needs to provide line managers with the training to support teams in this area.
Time is a valuable commodity in the workplace, so it’s important to help employees manage it. But what about energy? Successful organisations are now looking at workplace energy management as a crucial strategy for improving productivity.