How to Become a Master of Time Management at Work
How can you help your employees master time management and turbocharge productivity at work? In today’s digitized world of chat messages and constant notifications, the fast pace of the modern workplace is a common source of stress. According to Udemy’s Employee Experience Report, half of the survey respondents (and 53% of managers) said they could improve their time management skills. And while the number of productivity tools like email, chat, and online collaboration spaces has proliferated in recent years, 37% of respondents said that these tools can be great “sometimes, but not always.” It’s not too surprising, then, that time management was ranked the #2 top soft skill in the workplace for 2019 by Udemy for Business.
When it comes to time, it’s important to recognize that we’re dealing with a finite resource. We each get only 24 hours a day. And that’s it. But at the same time, we all have different personalities, experiences, circumstances, and skills. This means there’s not necessarily a “right way” to do things, but there is a “right way for you” if you want to accomplish your goals.
In my Udemy for Business course, Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less, I help employees create a system for task management that allows them to capture, organize, and prioritize their workload, so that nothing falls through the cracks and they are able to use their time intentionally, in service of their goals and values. But beyond this, I explore why time management presents such a challenge and offer practical strategies and techniques for boosting productivity; doing more and stressing less.
In this post, I’ll explore three keys to effective time management: identifying common roadblocks, understanding personal tendencies, and developing a task management system.
Identifying common roadblocks to time management
There are three major reasons why most people struggle with time management and productivity:
- Attempting to rely on memory
- Not having a system for tasks and to-dos
- Distractions and focus struggles
Attempting to rely on memory. Memory can be a very powerful tool. But it shouldn’t be the place where we store all the stuff we have to do.
Attempting to use our memories to keep track of what we need to do isn’t very effective and it actually increases stress.
We want to use our brains for thinking about and focusing on the task at hand, not for remembering that we need to pick up milk, call mom, or write that report.
When people feel like they’re not present at work, home, or on the phone, it’s often because their brains are working overtime trying to hang onto everything they know they have to do. And when this occurs, it’s very hard to focus on the present.
In my course, Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less, I teach learners how to stop relying on memory by creating and using an external system to keep track of all tasks, projects, open questions, etc.
Not having a system for tasks and to-dos. Not having a system, or not using the system that’s already set up is another common roadblock to managing time effectively. What do I mean by “system”? That’s going to be a bit different for each person, but at its core, a system is a method for capturing, organizing, prioritizing, and documenting tasks so that learners can achieve consistent results and know they are spending the right amount of time on the right things.
Distraction and focus struggles. Finally, distraction and focus struggles are real issues for most people. A recent study out of UC Irvine shows that it takes on average 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption. And that holds true even when we are distracting ourselves (say, when we decide to check our email in the middle of writing a big report). An average 8-hour workday breaks down into about 21 periods of 23 minutes. If you or your employees are distracted more than 20 times a day, it’s no wonder it’s a challenge to get everything done! My course, Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less, provides concrete, easy-to-implement strategies and techniques for minimizing distractions and increasing focus. Here are a few strategies for employees to think about when it comes to time management.
1. Understanding personal tendencies
Understanding who we are and where our natural tendencies lay is crucial to productivity and time management. Understanding our body clocks, our learning styles, and our energy levels helps us to organize our workday and manage our tasks and projects in a way that complements who we are.
For example, we can’t really change our body clocks, but we can be mindful of them to maximize how we spend our time. When we work with our body clock instead of against it, we’re able to get more done. Knowing when our bodies need to sleep helps to ensure that we actually get enough sleep and helps us to ward off procrastination. Without sleep, our energy and our brains suffer and our productivity goes down with it.
Personality type is another factor that can have a significant impact on productivity. People tend to fall into two main categories: introverts, who may enjoy the company of other people but need time alone to recharge, and extroverts, who recharge by spending time with others. Practically speaking, knowing how you gain and lose energy can help you to figure out how to best plan your day for optimal energy and optimal productivity.
2. Developing a customized task management system
Task management is a central component of time management. Task management is how we capture, organize, prioritize, and document all that needs to get done and deciding when to make time to actually get it done. It’s about making progress instead of procrastinating, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks, and planning in advance so that you can get everything done without scrambling or pulling all-nighters. Time management, in many ways, is task management.
Once a person gets all the tasks and projects into a system, they will not have to spend energy either remembering these items or having them wrack through their brain in a constant loop. Whether it’s the middle of the workday or the middle of the night, there’s a central location to store any tasks that come to mind and an easy way to prioritize and track progress. In my course, Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less, I teach people how to develop a customized task management system that works for each individual based on personal tendencies and behaviors.
A central key to time management and productivity is removing obstacles for ourselves. We want to make things easy and convenient, so they take less time, less effort, and reduce stress. Productivity is often about getting out of our own way and creating systems to help us to achieve that. I’ve found that it’s much easier to build a productivity system around who someone is already than trying to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” system. We’ve all got natural tendencies, we just need to use them to our advantage instead of to our detriment. In my course, Time Management Mastery: Do More, Stress Less, I’ll teach employees how to do just that.
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