Effective Time Management Increases Productivity and Keeps Companies on Track

Recent shifts in work routines due to the pandemic have increased the need for employees to develop effective time management skills.
woman working on her laptop at night

Amid the current pandemic, recent shifts in work routines have brought to light the importance of effective time management skills. Workers across the country are scrambling to cover child care needs while also dealing with changing work responsibilities. Those working from home may find it difficult to escape from their job at the end of the day. Learning to set a schedule and stick to it through the work week will help your staff to get their jobs done, while allowing them to carve out the time they need to for a healthy work/life balance.

What is time management?

Time management is the ability to prioritize and complete job tasks within a set schedule. To be successful, employees must develop a work routine that helps them accomplish their goals. Effective time management can be achieved through different processes and what works the best may depend on one's personal productivity schedule. For example, those who work better on complex tasks in the morning should aim to set aside the beginning of the day for mentally challenging work, and perhaps leave email correspondence for later in the afternoon. Others may prefer to burn the midnight oil. Additionally, detailed tracking and project lists may be highly effective for some employees when managing their workload, while others can work more intuitively, with more general guidelines.

Why is time management important?

Time management is one of the best ways to deal with deadline-related stress and generate an overall sense of accomplishment. Employees at home during the pandemic face a work day that may be filled with interruptions from kids, a spouse, pets, or non-job-related activities. They may not always have the ability to work uninterrupted for eight hours in a row. In these cases, learning how to manage time efficiently by setting a schedule and aiming for short bursts of activity may increase productivity and boost an employee's sense of accomplishment.

Benefits of effective time management

Both employees and employers can benefit from effective time management. Working together to develop daily or weekly schedules that fit job requirements and personal needs can move a business forward and ensure essential tasks are completed on time. Other benefits include:

Less stress

When employees know what is expected of them, they can structure their day accordingly. The ability to take the time to plan out their work can ease stress. Giving your staff realistic deadlines and helping them set interim steps along the way can help them manage expectations. Employees can use their time more effectively than someone who's spinning their wheels on open-ended assignments with only vague directions.

Greater productivity

Time management involves setting goals to help employees focus on the most important aspects of their job. This strategy allows workers to prioritize what needs to get done in the short-term. When employees are given clear instructions on what to do and how to do it, they are often more productive and more likely to stick with a task rather than giving up before they reach the end goal.

Improved work/balance

Scheduling out your day works well not only for job responsibilities, but for personal ones as well. Constant work can contribute to burnout and low productivity. As such, any discussion of time management should include the need to establish time away from work, which leads to a healthier balance.

How to improve time management skills

Effective time management techniques can help employees find reservoirs of time where they strive to accomplish more throughout the day. For those who are constantly running behind, it may be time to devise new strategies and apply them to their professional (and personal) schedule.

Things to consider for your business and its employees:

Saying no

As your business grows, you'll find increasing demands on your time from employees, customers, vendors, and others. In some cases, it's best to take on some of these demands, but for many situations, an effective strategy is simply saying no. It can be difficult to meet with everyone who wants a chunk of your time, attend every meeting, or business lunch. Delegation can work and is a great way to model time management skills for your employees.

Discipline with technology

Left to haphazard management, your calendar could quickly fill with time-sapping activities that may have little to do with moving the business forward. Taking a more disciplined approach can help alleviate this problem. Find a calendar app that works and use it to map out your day, week, and month. Integrate your calendar with your team's schedules. Set email notifications to ensure you don't miss anything important. Use your digital calendar to both schedule meetings and block out time for individual tasks.

Prioritize and set goals

Long to-do lists can be overwhelming, but a few bullets describing daily priorities or goals can help make sure you and your team achieve what needs to get done. Decide how you'll prioritize work — by deadline, relative importance, or using some other factor. Track progress and offer incentives for meeting goals.

Set guidelines for meetings

When you're working from home, matters that were previously addressed through short, in-office conversations might turn into multi-participant, hour-long video calls. Gaining consensus from a group of remote workers can pose challenges. To save time, try to establish new guidelines for business meetings. Don't hold a meeting if communication via phone or email will get the job done. Let your staff take a meeting where you don't have to attend and ask them to update you at the end of the day.

Eliminate distraction

Work day distractions can include phone calls and emails that don't have to be handled immediately, non-essential Facebook and Twitter usage, or back-and-forth texting. Additionally, working from home presents a host of other distractions such as ringing doorbells, barking dogs, or small children wandering in your office. Decide how you'll handle these distractions and resolve to stick to your strategies. Tell the kids you'll see them at lunchtime. Check email once in the morning and then not again until later in the afternoon. Remove social media apps from your phone to keep you focused on what you need to get done during work hours.

The effects of poor time management

The inability to manage time effectively can have a negative impact on an employee's work, which flows over into the business as a whole. Constantly missing deadlines sets everyone back and creates a domino effect. If you're looking for signs of possible issues, here are some clues:

Wasted time

Do your employees appear to be sitting around, waiting for work? Has productivity level dipped? Or is the amount of time it takes them to complete a task increasing? Look for signs of wasted time before it costs your business and causes employees to stagnate.

Poor work quality

Is the work turned in by your staff not what you're used to seeing? As quality of work drops, the long-reaching effects could have devastating consequences, including damage to your reputation and lost customers.

Poor work/life balance

A poor work/life balance can result in low employee engagement and unhappiness. Everyone needs time to recharge. Even if you're working from home, that doesn't mean you always need to be available. Encourage your staff to set hours for personal time and try to stay out of the home office.

Lack of completion

If the items on your to-do list never seem to get crossed off, there could be an issue with time management. Encourage employees to effectively budget time to complete tasks and find ways to motivate them to finish, such as personal recognition at the end of projects.

Conclusion

As more outside pressures threaten productivity in the workplace, time management has become an essential skill. Although some may find time management a more intuitive trait than others, this skill can always be honed and further developed. Advanced HR tools such as time and attendance tracking technology can provide a better picture of how an employee spends their work days. If your business needs improvement with time management, a dedicated Paychex HR professional can also recommend additional strategies.

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