Many people struggle to fit in all their responsibilities, especially at work. That’s where learning proper time management skills can help. When employees use time management, they can improve their organization, goal setting, and task completion.
Time Management Methods
Time management is a process of determining what exactly needs to be completed, and dividing time among tasks to get it all done. There are dozens of ways to manage time, especially in the digital age, but most methods have been around for years. Some examples include:
While each method varies in its exact process, they all generally require that you determine what your goals are and then rank them by some level of importance. When choosing how to manage your time, the method doesn’t matter as much as the habit.
Benefits of Practicing Time Management
For employees, time management can be the difference between a productive day and a day of distractions. The primary benefit of time management is not actually getting everything done, but rather, getting the most important things done. Other benefits include:
- Setting goals
- Reducing distractions
- Reduced stress
- More time to do what you enjoy
- Better organization
Without time management, employees are likely to struggle with staying organized, completing projects on deadline, and unnecessary stress.
Setting SMART Goals
To practice time management, employees should start by setting both professional and personal goals. These can help to narrow down their focus area and spend less time on tasks that don’t contribute to reaching their goals. To set goals, the acronym SMART can help:
Before using SMART, a goal may just be to “finish the McGilliver project.” After SMART, the goal may look more like this:
- S = Design the image for the McGilliver advertisement and get it approved by management before sending it for printing
- M = The image must go out for printing by June 1st, and it is May 14th
- A = Have designed all previous images
- R = McGilliver is the primary client right now
- T = Complete the image by May 25th
By using SMART, the goal has gone from uncertain and open, to specific with a deadline. Even if they create a false deadline, employees can set themselves up for success by planning ahead and knowing their goals are achievable.
Once an employee has created SMART goals, they can use them to build a to-do list. Before the goals, the employee would probably just have written down “Complete McGilliver project,” whereas now, they know that it is going to require several different steps to finish. After SMART, the to-do list might look more like this:
- Design draft of McGilliver advertisement
- Send draft to colleague to review
- Update draft based on colleague feedback
- Send draft to management
- Finalize draft
- Send draft out for printing
This list is far more detailed and gives the employee a process to follow when creating the advertisement, reducing their time spent trying to figure out what to do next.
Time management isn’t just about writing down to-do lists. Employees should also consider their workspace and how it is affecting their work. By keeping their desks organized, employees are less likely to lose things, fall behind on work, or get distracted by something else. For example, if Sam has a messy desk and Janice puts an important document on the pile, it easily could get lost underneath other documents. Rather than just proofreading the document and sending it to the next reviewer, Sam now has to spend valuable work time sorting through everything on their desk just to discover the paper underneath a cup of coffee, which stained the work.
One method that employees can use to limit the clutter on their desk is the “one touch rule.” Whenever an employee receives a document or email, they should immediately find where it will live. That might be a to-do box, a file folder labeled “To Do,” or filed away. This method encourages employees to create a natural organizational system that works for them. Some take this process a step further and complete the task immediately. For example, if they receive a document to proofread, they will proofread it as soon as it is in their hands. This won’t work for everyone, especially for those who have tight schedules, but is an option that can help with focus and productivity.
Employees should also eliminate distractions that might be preventing them from focusing fully on their work. The digital age means that most people always have access to social media, texting, and personal email. While this makes connecting easier, it also makes disconnecting a lot harder. Employees should consider putting their cell phones and other electronic devices in a designated drawer. If easily distracted by emails and instant messaging noises, these notifications can frequently be turned off, allowing the employee to decide when to check them and limiting interruptions.
Time management can help employees both at work and at home. Rather than leaving a disastrous desk and an inbox full of unanswered emails, employees can stay focused, finish their work on time, and reduce their stress levels.