The business value of time management is simple: Better quality work, produced more frequently, with fewer mistakes. But how do you actually teach this concept to employees? Here is how employers can teach time management.
While leading by example works in other forms of management, practicing time management skills yourself won’t train your employees on how to implement the principles into their day-to-day responsibilities. Time management skills must be taught.
From interns and entry-level employees all the way to the CEO, there must be a daily, collective goal of quality, efficiency, and growth. In that light, here are a few things that you as a leader can do to promote good time management skills among your employees:
1. Give Them a Reason.
Explain to employees how improving time management is good for them, not just the company: They’ll be less stressed, have better relations with co-workers, and perhaps even earn a larger bonus when the revenue numbers arrive.
What if simply sharing the personal benefits of better time management doesn’t bring about behavioral change? Put employees most in need of help on a performance improvement plan. Use both carrots and sticks: If they can boost volume by a certain percentage, perhaps there’s a raise at the end of the road. But if things don’t change, be clear that you can’t afford to pay people to sit around.
2. Set Goals Together.
There is a true sense of pride that comes from accomplishing a goal — especially if it’s one you had a hand in setting.
What’s so powerful about simply setting a benchmark? There are four reasons why goal-setting works:
Goals promote action.
We’re all goal-oriented to some degree. Having something to work toward motivates us to, well, work for it.
If someone wants to lose weight, for example, they could constantly come up with excuses on why right now is not a good time. But if that person specifies that they want to lose 10 pounds before they go on vacation this spring, they suddenly have a reason to change their behavior. With an end in sight, they see a reason to work out and eat properly.
Goals build momentum.
Think back to how getting that gold star in grade school made you feel. Reaching a goal creates a sense of accomplishment and success.
Setting goals as an adult works the same way. When you accomplish what you’d intended to, you give yourself a push to keep going. Encourage team members to set stretch goals, but make sure they’re not so unrealistic as to be unachievable — which can sap momentum.
Goals help you see past distractions.
When you’re working toward something, it’s easy to cut out all of the peripheral things happening around you. Goals focus your attention on the next step, making you more efficient. And if you do get distracted, having a goal helps you steer yourself back toward what you should be doing.
Goals promote mastery.
Until you accomplish a truly challenging goal, it can be tough to see just how capable you are. Setting goals helps you realize how long certain tasks take you, where your skills are weak, and what you can do to improve. Self-awareness is critical for setting and accomplishing goals.
3. Emphasize Quality.
Good time management doesn’t mean rushing through your work. When training your employees to become better time managers, it is important to stress that doing shoddy work amounts to wasting time.
Be concrete: If your team members don’t know what quality work looks like in a given context, share examples. Use hard numbers whenever you can. Is a 5% click-through rate indicative of quality work? What’s the maximum number of bugs you’d like to see in a certain number of lines of code?
4. Fight Procrastination.
Everyone has slow, unproductive days. What’s important is that you take steps to minimize them.
Arm your employees with ways to identify and beat procrastination. Here’s how to do it:
Know what distracts you. Know when during the day you tend to get distracted. If you start to procrastinate, don’t be afraid to take a quick break or change up your work environment.
Invest five minutes.
If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself: Spend at least five minutes on it, and then take a break. Because getting started is typically the hardest part, you’ll be far more likely to finish something if you can just get yourself to take the first step.
Find the right calendar.
Procrastination and disorganization go hand in hand. Not knowing what you should be working on is one of the easiest ways to waste time.
Use an online calendar to set deadlines for yourself. Stick tightly to the priorities you set. Use time blocking to squeeze more time out of every workday.
Get it over with.
In some circles, this is called “eating the frog.” Go ahead and tackle the most grueling task first. That way, you can look forward to everything else being easier or more enjoyable.
Think about it: Why bother to dread the ask for the whole day? Why would you want to tackle it at the end of the day when you have the least energy and brainpower left?
5. Reward Success.
Employee recognition is an incredibly powerful tool. By rewarding top performers — in this case, your best time managers — you set the example and create an incentive for others to follow suit.
Remember, money is not the only way to reward success. Employees can be motivated by a simple thank you, a thoughtful card, or a fun afternoon out. Positive peer recognition is a reward as well.
Your employees are human beings. When helping your team become better time managers, be understanding and level-headed. Hold your team to the same standards you hold yourself, but give grace when it’s needed. You’ll build not just more effective, happier employees, but also a better, more profitable business.