Have you ever sat back and wondered exactly where your work day went? It’s 5:00 p.m., you’re stressed out and you’re tired, but when you look back at your day, you have a hard time identifying exactly what you accomplished.
From impromptu meetings to unexpected client calls to an abundance of emails or small tasks, the day is full of distractions that can derail you from focusing on bigger projects and leave you lamenting the litany of tasks you left behind.
Time management is a fine art and a tough task to master. But as managers, it’s of paramount importance not only for you, but for your entire team.
Here are 4 tips to help managers master time management and disseminate it to their teams.
Track Your Time in Exact Increments
Tracking your time is essential in time management. Whether in Excel, in your notebook or in an app, do your best to track your time accurately in the smallest increments possible. This will allow you to look back not only at your day but at your entire week holistically to get a better understanding of the activities that monopolize your time.
Encourage your team to track their time as well. From there, you can get together to collectively discuss sticking points and establish processes to streamline productivity and maximize time efficiency.
Become a Task Opportunist
Multitasking is often viewed as a bad idea because of the belief that you can’t give adequate attention to more than one task at once. While some people find multitasking to be effective, others don’t.
If you’ve found that multitasking isn’t right for you, there’s a new tactic you can undertake. You can become a “task opportunist.”
A task opportunist looks at time in the smallest possible increments to maximize every moment. The idea is to ensure you have a task queued up if a spare moment presents itself – if meeting attendees are running late, or you have a long commute to work, or you have a meeting that ends early.
Break your to-do list down into buckets: large tasks, medium tasks and small tasks.
- Your large list can consist of sizeable undertakings which will require extensive dedicated time to achieve
- Your medium list should contain tasks that require focus and attention but can be squeezed in within a shorter time frame
- Save your small list for tasks that take 15 minutes or less
With your tasks built out in buckets based on time requirements, you’ll be able to easily assess and assign tasks based on spare time availability, in turn minimizing your to-do list and maximizing your productivity. You’ll be surprised how much more you can squeeze into a day when you’re able to maximize any spare time opportunities that arise.
By instilling a culture of “task opportunism” you can create a team that operates with minimal amounts of wasted time.
Prioritize the Important Tasks
In the whirlwind of a work day, most tasks tend to feel like a high priority. But you can only accomplish one at a time, so you have no choice but to determine an order in which to accomplish them.
To prioritize effectively, take a step back and examine your tasks. Ask yourself which ones important, and which are urgent – prioritize the latter. Next, look at the important tasks and determine the value of each based on their importance to your company or your clients and prioritize those with the highest value. If you have tasks that seem to take equal priority, asses the amount of work required for each and prioritize the task that will take the most effort.
To be an effective manager, it’s important to work collaboratively with your team to prioritize their tasks. Work with them to determine what must be done and what can wait until tomorrow to avoid burnout, minimize stress and maximize employee wellbeing and output.
Understand the Mental Toll Associated with Specific Tasks
When you’re looking at your to-do list, there are two things to keep in mind: not all tasks are created equal, and energy is a finite resource.
There are certain tasks which are simply more tolling than others – for instance, developing a new business pitch requires more focus and energy than sitting through an update meeting with your team. And while there are certain measures you can take to boost and maintain energy levels – such as getting a good night’s sleep, staying hydrating and eating healthy foods during the day – you will inevitably tire out eventually.
Trying to execute highly tolling work while you’re naturally low on energy not only makes things take longer, it also compromises your quality of work due to diminished focus. When examining your day – and your week – try to mix your challenging tasks among less challenging tasks to create balance and avoid burnout.
Effective time management is among the most challenging skills to master, but it’s also among the most important. Taking steps to improve your time management and disseminating those skills to your employees will create a more functional team and drive success for your organization.