Time Management

Time Management

Time management in the workplace is very important since it makes the employees’ life easier which is more effective for the organization. Employees for carrying out their activities need to manage time. They have to manage time to keep up with the time, to renew policies and strategies and to implement them in the organization. The process of time management is a very complex task and is necessary for the development of the employees and the organization. If every the employees have good time management skills then they are more productive and this makes the organization more efficient and productive. Hence, the organization is required to train the employees to be more effective in time management.

By practicing time management in the workplace, employees are able to set priorities for their daily work and they can carry on with their duties by doing the assigned tasks in order of their importance. Employees work with targets. For an effective time management, it is always better to discuss things at an early stage than make them more difficult later. Hence, the employees are assigned with those tasks only which are within their capabilities. Employees are also to share their duties with others employees to complete the assigned tasks within the time frame. For this, employees are required to plan regularly in order to complete the tasks within the available time.

The importance of practicing time management in the workplace is that the employees experience positive effects. Efficient use of time can reduce costs and simultaneously cheer up and motivate the employees. The time management provides the organization with more effective employees. Hence, the organization is required to pay attention to the time management and communicate to the employees its importance. Further, if the organization determines the roles of the employees, it help employees knowing what their roles and responsibilities are and this saves the time misuse which happens when the employees do not know their responsibilities and duties clearly.

Time management is basically essential for the purpose of instilling discipline while carrying out their routine tasks. Effective time management gives the opportunity to the employees of having time and being creative. It helps them to be independent of small concerns which constitute the major obstacles to creative thinking. If employees plan appropriately their working time then they can have time to devote for creativity.

The objectives of the time management include (i) to determine goals for a given period of time, (ii) to utilize the time management techniques, and (iii) to identify ways to improve the time management skills. For understanding the importance of the time management, it is necessary to know (i) the things which are planned to be done need around twice the time which have been planned for the things, and (ii) everything which can go wrong is going to go wrong if measures are not taken to prevent it.

Time management is necessary in the organization for two main reasons and these reasons are related to each other. The first reason is that the ignorance or lack of the time management is the main source for the development of stress at work since the expectation is always for doing higher amount of work in the given short time. The second reason for which the time management is important is for creation of suitable strategies for finding time to carry out successfully all the activities, and simultaneously having a good performance at the work. Good time management is required to include finding time to pursue those objectives related to work, in which the people believe, bring pleasure in working, and include activities which stimulate. People give their best if they like what they do, when they have faith in their ability to do well, when they can react spontaneously to new opportunities, and when they are not distracted by doubts that they should have been doing other things.

Time management is a set of skills which allow people to be more productive and efficient in completing the tasks. It is the ability to use time to get things done when they are to be done. To be effective, time is to be used to accomplish what is required to be done in the time available. It is a set of principles, practices, skills, tools and systems which work together to help people to get more value from time to improve the quality of life.

Time management has been defined as ‘the process of skillfully applying time to finish and perfect a specific activity within time constraint’. It is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. It is about the consistent and goal-oriented application in practice of proven work techniques in such a way that managing oneself and one’s environment becomes effortless while the time at one’s disposal is used up in the most meaningful ways possible.

Time management in the organization is not a universal practice, so there is a better way to do things for everyone. It is closely related to employees’ personality as well as their commitments. Employees normally are characterized by various problems related to the time management. Employees who are skilled in time management use their time efficiently and effectively, and value the time they have. When efforts are concentrated on the highest priorities, more is done in less time, thus enabling these employees to attend to a broader range of activities. Employees who are not skilled in the time management are disorganized and they waste time and resources. They erratically move from task to task with little purpose and fail to set priorities. These employees cannot say no but they can only concentrate on one task or issue at a time. They are easily distracted and react to the ‘hot’ issue of the moment. They have no plan or method for managing their time.

Regardless of the employee position in the organization, it is necessary for them to be successful in the present day work environment, and hence time management skills are essential for the employees. The key to time management is the use of the right tools and to develop a plan which allows the employees to complete the tasks necessary to reach the established objectives.

The psychology of time management is based on a simple principle called the ‘Law of Control’. This law says that people feel good about themselves to the degree to which they feel they are in control of their own life. This law also says that people feel negative about themselves to the degree to which they feel that they are not in control of their own life or work. Psychologists refer to the difference between an internal locus of control, where the people feel that they are the master of their own destiny, and an external locus of control, where people feel that they are controlled by circumstances existing outside of them.

Time management includes (i) creating an environment conducive to effectiveness, (ii) setting of the priorities., (iii) carrying out activity around the set priorities, and (iv) the related process of reduction of time spent on non priorities. The objectives of time management are (i) analyze the issues which affect the use of time, (ii) identify the significant time problems which impact the work, (iii) develop practical strategies for solving the time problems, (iv) use selected time management principles to improve the effectiveness, (v) establish goals which reflect personal and / or organizational decisions about the benefits to be derived from future action, and (vi) set priorities more effectively.

There are four ‘Ds’ of effectiveness with respect to the time management. The first ‘D; is desire. People are required to have an intense, burning desire to get their time under control for achieving maximum effectiveness. The second ‘D’ is decisiveness. People are required to make a clear decision that they are going to practice good time management techniques until the techniques become a habit. The third ‘D’ stands for determination. People are to be willing to persist in the face of all temptations to the contrary until they become effective time managers. Their desire is to reinforce their determination. And finally, the most important key to success in life is the fourth ‘D’ which is discipline: People are to discipline themselves to make the time management a lifelong practice. Effective discipline is the willingness to force people to pay the price and to do what they know they are to do, when they are to do it, whether they feel like it or not. This is critical for success.

Time management plays a very important role not only for the organization but also in the employees’ lives. It includes (i) effective planning, (ii) setting goals and objectives, (iii) setting deadlines, (iv) delegation of responsibilities, (v) prioritizing activities as per their importance, and (vi) spending the right time on the right activity.

Effective planning – Employees are to plan their day well in advance. They are to prepare a ‘to do list’ or a ‘task plan’.  High priority work is to come on top followed by those which do not have much of the importance at the moment. The pending tasks are to be completed one by one. Fresh work is not to be started unless the previous tasks have been finished. The jobs which have already been completed are to be ticked. Finishing of the tasks within the stipulated time frame is to be ensured.

Setting goals and objectives – Working without goals and targets in the organization is similar to a situation where the captain of the ship loses his way in the sea. Without the goals and targets, the objectives are not achieved. Hence, it is necessary that the targets are set for the employees and it is to make sure that the targets are realistic and achievable.

 Setting deadlines – It is always better to set deadlines and then strive hard to complete tasks ahead of the deadlines. Employees are to learn to take ownership of the work. Employees are the best people for the setting of the deadlines for themselves. They know the time needed to be devoted to a particular task and for how many days. Use of a planner to mark the important dates against the set deadlines helps in this regards.

Delegation of responsibilities – The roles and responsibilities are to be delegated as per the interest and the specialization of the employees so that they can finish the tasks within the deadlines. The employees who do not have knowledge about something, requires more time than those employees who know the work well.

Prioritizing activities as per their importance – Prioritizing of the tasks as per their importance and urgency is essential. The difference between important and urgent work is to be known. It is necessary to identify which of the tasks are to be done within a day, which of the tasks to be done within a month, and so on. Tasks which are most important are to be done earlier.

Spending the right time on the right activity – It is necessary to develop the habit of doing the right thing at the right time. Work done at the wrong time is not of much use. It is not necessary to waste a complete day on something which can be done in an hour or so.

There are seven guidelines for improving the productivity and also the organizational skills through time management. These seven guidelines are (i) prepare in advance, (ii) schedule the time, (iii) start early, (iv) have the organizational skills, (v) increase the productivity during prime time, (vi) take the time needed for doing a quality job, and (vii) take a time for getting training in the time management.

Prepare in advance – Preparing in advance mean the preparation of the work list for the following day, the evening, or night before the day begins. A major benefit of preparing the daily list the night before is that this exercise lets the employee have a sound sleep. This helps the employee to increase productivity throughout the next working day.

Schedule the time – Scheduling of the time reduces the stress and releases energy. The very act of using the organizational skills for planning the day, week, and month gives the employees a greater feeling of control and helps in the increase of the productivity throughout the day. It actually increases the self-esteem and improves the sense of personal power.

Start early – For increasing their productivity, the employees are to start the day early. The more time they take to sit, think, and plan, the better organized they are in every area of their life. They develop great organizational skills and the habit of going to bed at a reasonable hour and rising early. When they get up early and plan their day in advance, they tend to be more calm, clear-headed, and creative throughout the day.

Have the organizational skills – Employees are to be determined to improve their organizational skills and use a filing / storage system both at home and at work. A large amount of working time is spent looking for the misplaced items. These are items which are lost since they have not been filed / stored correctly. In conjunction with a filing / storage system, one needs to have in a single place a master list or record of all the files and, the location details of the stored items. This master list gives the information regarding where the file / stored item is located.

Increase the productivity during prime time – Employees by organizing themselves are doing creative work during the internal ‘prime time’. The internal prime time is the time of day, according to the body clock, when the employees are the most alert and productive. Each employee is to give some thought to structuring their day for both their external and internal prime times.

Take the time needed for doing a quality job –By doing work right the first time can take more time upfront, since the errors which normally occur results in spending time for making corrections. This in turn results into taking more time overall for doing a quality job.

Take a time for getting training in the time management – Employees are to learn the management techniques in time management by attending the management training programme on the subject which can be either internal programme arranged by the organizational management or an external programme conducted by the management training institutes.

There are seven tips for time management. These are (i) setting of the goals, (ii) prioritizing wisely, (iii) setting f a time limit, (iv) taking of breaks between tasks, (v) organizing of personal activities, (vi) removing of non-essential activities, and (vii) planning in advance. Fig 1 shows these seven tips of time management.

Fig 1 Seven tips of time management

Time management is more than just managing time. It is about controlling the use of the most valuable as well as undervalued resource. It is managing oneself in relation to time. It is setting priorities and taking charge of the situation and time utilization. It means changing those habits or activities which cause waste of time. It is being willing to adopt habits and methods to make maximum use of time. With good time management skills people are in control of their time, stress, and energy levels. People can maintain balance between their work and personal life. One finds enough flexibility to respond to surprises or new opportunities. It is not how much time one has, but rather the way one uses it. The bottom line is how well one manages time.

Time management is needed not only for the work activities, but it also includes personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Time management is a necessity when a given task is to be completed in a specific time. Since time management is a management process just like any other, it is to be planned, monitored, and regularly reviewed. The absence of time management is characterized by last minute rushes to meet deadlines, meetings which are either double booked or achieve nothing, days which seem somehow to slip unproductively by, and crises which loom unexpected from nowhere. This sort of environment leads to inordinate stress and degradation of the performance.

By following a set of simple rules facilitating their work it is possible for the employees to change their perspective on the routine procedures and to think outside of the box. Good time management can be regarded as a resource of key significance for effective functioning of the organization. Further, by gradually implementing various work techniques, employees can increase their efficiency and work better and with better results. The ten benefits which are derived from planning and by using up the  time well are (i) delivering tasks with a smaller amount of energy invested, (ii) better organization of the work, (iii) better work results, (iv) lesser chaos and stress, (v) higher satisfaction from work, (vi) higher motivation, (vii) time to engage in tasks of ‘higher order’, (viii) lesser pressure at work, (ix) better focus on efficiency, (x) fewer mistakes, and (xi) quicker attainment of work and personal goals.

Poor time management is frequently a symptom of over confidence. The techniques which are used to work with small projects and workloads are sometimes simply reused with large ones. But due to it, the inefficiencies which are insignificant in the small role are ridiculously increases in the large projects.

Time management covers how to eliminate tasks which do not provide help to the employees or value to the organization. According to Sandberg, task lists are not the key to productivity and time management. He reports that an estimated 30 % of the employees spend more time managing their lists than completing the tasks listed on them. Hendrickson has asserted that the rigid adherence to the task lists can create a ‘tyranny of the to-do list’ which forces one to waste time on unimportant activities. Stephen R. Covey has given the following categorization scheme for the time management approaches.

The first generation is a reminders based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible, it can be used to alert a person when a task is about to be done. The second generation is the scheme of planning and preparation based on a calendar and appointment books and includes setting of goals. The third generation scheme consists of planning, prioritizing, and controlling (using a personal organizer, other paper-based objects, or computer, or personal digital assistance based systems) activities on a daily basis. This approach implies spending some time in clarifying values and priorities. The fourth generation is used after being efficient and proactive using any of the above tools. The scheme places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favours importance over urgency.

An environment which is conducive is needed for effective time management. The strategies for the environment to be conducive are (i) to get organized and to set priority for paperwork and for tasks, (ii) to protect the employees’ time by insulation, isolation, and delegation, (iii) to achieve time management through goal management and through goal focus, and (iv) not to procrastinate on a decision until it reaches a crisis.

Julie Morgenstern has suggested ‘do’s and don’ts’ of time management which include (i) to map out everything which is important, by making a task list, (ii) to create ‘an oasis of time’ for one to control, (iii) to say ‘no’, (iv) to set priorities, (v) not to drop everything, and (vi) not to think that a critical task can be done in the spare time.

Time management strategies are frequently being associated with the setting of personal goals with respect to tasks. These goals are recorded and can be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For every task or goal, an importance rating can be established, deadlines can be set, and priorities are assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list, or a schedule, or a calendar of activities. The planning periods can be daily, weekly, monthly, or other planning periods which are associated with different scope of planning or review. This is done in various ways as given below.

Task list – A task list is a list of tasks to be completed, such as jobs or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory. Task lists are normally used for management of time in case of self management, operational management, project management, or software development. It can involve more than one list. Time management in relation to implementation of goals frequently centres on the creation and management of task lists. There are time management approaches which emphasize the need for more focused and simple implementation including the approach of natural rhythm. More unconventional time usage techniques include concepts which de-emphasize the importance of squeezing every minute of the employees’ time.

ABC analysis – This is a technique which has been used for the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are frequently marked A, B, and C.  Activities are ranked upon these general criteria namely (i) tasks A which are perceived as being urgent and important, (ii) tasks B which are important but not urgent, and (iii) tasks C which are neither urgent nor important. Each group is then ranked in order of priority. ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups. ABC analysis is normally combined with Pareto analysis.

Pareto analysis – Pareto analysis is also known as 80-20 rule. It indicates that 80 % of planned tasks can be completed in 20 % of the time available for disposable. The remaining 20 % of planned tasks normally takes 80 % of the time available for disposable. This principle is used for sorting out the tasks into two parts. The tasks which fall into the first category are assigned a higher priority.

POSEC method – POSEC is an acronym for ‘Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing’.  By prioritizing, one plans his time and defines his goals for the different tasks. Employees organize things which they have to accomplish for getting success. They streamlines those things which they do not like to do but are to do. They economize on those things which they are to do or even like to do, but these things are not pressingly urgent. Finally they only contribute attention to the few remaining things which makes a difference.

Time management matrix – It classifies the activities into four categories namely (i) urgent, (ii) not urgent, (iii) important, and (iv) not important. Urgent activities cannot wait and have to be dealt with at once, e.g. answering the phone which is ringing. Urgent activities put pressure on the employees to take immediate action. The category of importance is connected with results. If an activity is important for the employees then completing it contributes to increased self-esteem and becomes a priority. Employees react to urgent matters. More initiative and involvement is needed to deal with the matters which are important but not urgent.

The idea of measuring and combining the two competing elements in a matrix has been attributed to both former US President Eisenhower and Dr Stephen Covey. Eisenhower’s quote, ‘what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important’ sums up the concept of the matrix perfectly. This so-called ‘Eisenhower Principle’ is said to be how Eisenhower organized his tasks. Covey brought the idea into the mainstream and gave it the name ‘The urgent / important matrix’.

The time management matrix is composed of four quadrants. These activities of quadrant 1 concern matters which are both important and urgent, the consequences of which are of vital significance, and which are to be dealt with at once. Some employees tend to spend a lot of time dealing with matters which are urgent but not important (quadrant 3). The employee feels that these items belong to quadrant 1. The employees react to those urgent matters which they also consider important. Quite often, the urgency of these matters is based on other people’s priorities and expectations. In general, the employees who spend practically all their time in quadrants 3 and 4 are irresponsible. Such behaviour can even lead to getting rebukes from seniors at work. The heart of the effective self-management is at quadrant 2. Here belong matters which are not urgent but important. These include building meaningful relationships, long-term planning, physical activity, and preventing undesirable situations etc. These are the things which the employees are suppose to do but hardly ever find time to do.

Good time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things which the employees want to achieve, means spending their time on the things which are important and not just urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, employees need to understand this distinction between urgent and important. The important activities have an outcome which leads to the achievement of the employees’ goals while the urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are frequently associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals. Urgent activities are frequently the ones which the employees concentrate on. These are the ‘squeaky wheels which get the grease’. They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. The urgent / important matrix is a useful tool for thinking about this.

The urgent / important matrix is a powerful way of thinking about priorities. Using it helps the employees to overcome the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that they can keep clear enough time to focus on what is really important. This is the way the employees move from ‘fire fighting’, into a position where they can improve their performance and their career.

The quadrants of the matrix help evaluate urgency and importance. All the tasks are evaluated and placed in appropriate quadrant of the box based on their importance and urgency. Tasks in not important / not urgent quadrant are dropped, tasks in important / urgent quadrant are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant / urgent quadrant are delegated and tasks in  important / not urgent quadrant get an end date and are done personally. The matrix can be drawn as shown in Fig 2, with the dimensions of importance and urgency.

Fig 2 The urgent / important matrix

There are several misconceptions about time management. These misconceptions affect the employees including those employees who are considered quite successful and effective. As per one misconception, time management is frequently being considered simple which needs only the common sense. While the concept is simple, self-discipline is needed for practicing effective time management.

Another misconception is that work is best performed under pressure. Psychological studies show this to be no more than an excuse for procrastination. One does not work well under pressure, and only does the best when one can under the circumstances of his control. Pressure and challenge are not to be confused.

There is another misconception that by keeping a diary for a to-do list and or having a personal assistant helps in keeping a person organized. One has to keep oneself organized since no one can do it for others. The trouble with the disorganized persons is that they hardly have time to listen to their personal assistants or look at their diaries.

As per one more misconception, employees think that they do not have the time. The effective employees frequently get more work done in the earlier hours of the morning which the most laggards get done in the whole day. They then no longer have to work against tight deadlines and under stress.

Yet as per another misconception, employees think that the time management is good for only some kinds of work but their jobs are creative. Time management is not about routine, it is about self-discipline. Lack of the discipline prevents one from being great instead of simply good.

It is frequently been thought that time management takes away the fun and freedom of impulsiveness. Working under stress, forgetting appointments, making constant excuses and apologies are not fun. Much more fun is available by better organization and one has one or two more hours every day are available to spend for doing other jobs such as planning for tomorrow.

Poor time management shows up by way of one or a combination of typical perceptible symptoms. Employees do well to look for and reflect on whether they are subject to any of those symptoms with a view for taking necessary corrective actions. Some of the indicators of poor time management include (i) constant rushing (e.g. between meetings or tasks), (ii) frequent delays (e.g. in attending meetings, meeting deadlines), (iii) low productivity, energy, and motivation (e.g. one cannot seem to get worked up about anything), (iv) frustration (e.g. ‘ things just do not move ahead’), (v) impatience (e.g. ‘where is the that information which has been asked’), (vi) chronic vacillation between alternatives (e.g. ‘whichever option is chosen it is going to be a big disadvantage’), and (vii) difficulty in setting and achieving the goals (e.g. ‘employees are not sure what is expected of them’).

Employees normally have little time because of (i) management by crisis, (ii) lack of planning, (iii) incomplete information, (iv) personal disorganization, (v) attempting too much, (vi) inability to say no, (vii) unclear responsibility, (viii) ineffective delegation, (ix) inadequate manpower and resources, (x) too much paperwork, (xi) poor communication, (xii) poorly organized meetings, (xiii) leaving tasks unfinished, (xiv) inadequate controls, (xv) lack of self-discipline, (xvi) too much socializing, (xvi) drop-in visitors, and (xvii) telephone interruptions.

The eleven biggest time-wasters, which take away some of the precious time away from productive use of the employees, are given below.

Poor planning – The failure to see the value of planning and getting impatient to get something done are the causes of poor planning. Absence of a plan of action is likely to trigger off a false start, resulting in unproductive time utilization on the critical path of the task being undertaken. As a result, the employees do not find enough time for completing the task.

Crisis management – Most frequently, crisis management is an offspring of lack of prioritization of tasks. As a result of the inability to distinguish between the urgent, the important, and the unnecessary tasks, unimportant tasks are likely to get done first at the cost of important tasks. Consequently, the employees are not likely to find enough time to get around to the important things.

Procrastination – It is easy to put off tasks if they are not due right away. The trouble is that the tasks pile up and can force the employees to run into a time crunch later. Procrastination is normally triggered off by the fear of failure / success, perfectionism, wanting to do it all or incorrect priorities. It is a virtue to want to do a good job. But some people become so anxious about getting a job done perfectly, which they never complete it. Employees are to examine whether their efforts to get the job done perfectly are really improving things or preventing them from getting the job done.

Interruptions – Interruptions and distractions arise due to lack of planning, poor concentration, and lack of control over environment. These are unnecessary thieves of the employees’ time and come in many forms such as drop-in visitors, telephones, e-mails, unscheduled meetings, poor communications, and confused chain of authority etc. Employees are to be less willing to automatically give away their time just because they demand it. The employees are to learn to avoid distractions if they are to get work done. They are to work in areas where they are less likely to be disturbed and tell people when they are busy and cannot be disturbed.

Not delegating – Wanting-to-do-all by oneself is yet another thing which can let the employees to lose control. They feel that other employees can never do anything as well as they can. They fear that something is going to be wrong if someone else takes over a job. These employees lack time for long-range planning since they are bogged down in day-to-day operations.

Unnecessary meetings – If a meeting is held without a specific agenda and nothing productive comes out of it, clearly that meeting has been unnecessary. Obviously, such meetings results in the waste of time and things do not get started.

The ‘shuffling blues’ – Employees frequently waste much time because of disorganization. Keeping things which they need in a specific place, eliminating clutter, making sure that they have all the materials or information which they need before starting on the task and following a day-planner or schedule help keeping the ‘shuffling blues’ away at the workplace.

Poor physical set up – Not having the things which the employees need frequently within easy reach and having a lot of the things which they seldom require close-by results in wastage of a lot of time, wearing out the carpet, retrieving what they frequently need. And of course, as they pass others they frequently pull them aside to steal some of their time.

Poor networking – Quality relationships with employees and others can be a substantial time-saver as they open doors for the employees with all kinds of opportunities. Failing to develop a good network base causes them to waste time creating what they can have through their network.

Bad attitude – Nothing sinks a day more effectively than having a poor attitude. It causes the employees to dwell on the problems and not the solutions and makes it possible to throw the day away. When they are burdening others with their problems and complaints they are wasting their valuable time.

Negative people – Being surrounded by negative people can mean the employees are spending a lot of their time listening to them but getting nothing much or purposeful from them. Obviously, avoiding such people helps the employees to minimize wasted hours and get some of their productive time back.

Advantages and disadvantages of time management

The ability to manage the time effectively is important. Good time management leads to improved efficiency and productivity, less stress, and more success in life. The advantages of the effective time management include (i) improve the quality of work life, (ii) increase in the productivity, (iii) improves availability of time for work, (iv) reduce the stress, (v) realization the goals in short time, (vi) provide more opportunity, (vii) better performance in terms of on time delivery to customers, and (viii) increased profitability

The disadvantages are (i) discipline and self-improvement are mandatory, (ii) access to technologies is needed, and (iii) time management is compulsion of time bound performance.

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