Never underestimate the power of time management. Without it, you’ll miss deadlines, deliver sub-par work, gain a bad reputation, increase your stress levels, and fail to achieve a work-life balance. But, isn’t time management a personal responsibility?
As a leader, you’re in charge of getting your team to do their best work promptly. So, time management should definitely be an area that you help your employees perfect. You can successfully lead your team to accomplish the time management goal in the following seven ways.
1. Establish clear expectations and timelines.
At some point, we’ve all been guilty of committing common time management mistakes. Maybe the guilt you feel is because you haven’t planned out your day in advance. Possibly you procrastinated and let distractions continuously interrupt you. These are personal planning errors.
However, there also plenty of times when you’re the cause of your employees time management issues, such as:
- Not clearly communicating expectations, priorities, and timelines.
- Constantly adding assignments — even though they’re at full capacity.
- Creating a “yes” culture where those who take-on new responsibilities are rewarded. Those who decline requests for their time are frowned upon.
- Scheduling too many unnecessary and unproductive meetings and conference calls.
- Constantly calling, emailing, texting, or messaging your team. These interruptions are a significant problem when an employee is engaged in deep work, taking a break, or off-the-clock
- A considerable blunder is a boss who believes that the employee’s job can be done faster than it can actually be done; or erroneously thinks the task is much more straightforward than it is the case.
Admitting your faults is never easy. But, if you want to guarantee that your team member will meet deadlines and avoid stress — then make sure that you aren’t the culprit.
Before the start of a project, make sure that everyone is aware of the expectations, priorities, and timelines. Periodically check-in with them and ask if anyone on the team needs any clarification on the deliverables you’ve established.
Limit the number of tasks you assign to your employees, don’t punish them when they say “no,” and reduce the number of meetings you schedule. Don’t bombard your employees and overwhelm them. They need time for uninterrupted work and to disconnect in order to recharge.
2. Help them learn to plan and estimate their time.
In 1979 Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first proposed something called “the planning fallacy.” This cognitive bias explains why we miss deadlines. The reason? We underestimate how long it will take to finish a specific task based on your personal past experiences. Your past has nothing to do with current work, and will only display a confirmation bias; which is generally faulty.
We expect to write a blog post or record a podcast, for example, in an hour or so because that’s the norm — or so we assume. But we have not anticipated any obstacles that may occur, such as writer’s block, technical difficulties, or having to conduct additional research.
Even though you may only be “writer’s blocked” for a few minutes — amazingly you also forget that this blip on your screen took 25 minutes and several false starts. Then your technical complications may take only 20-30 minutes (you think — but it actually is an hour). The two seconds you looked up a couple of research items actually took you 30 minutes. You have probably not stopped to add up that you’ve now spent three or four hours extra. Everything else you had planned for the day now has to be pushed back.
To prevent you or your employees, from falling into this trap of not correctly calculating how long a project will take, help them learn how to plan and estimate their project time better. You can start by inviting them to be a part of the planning process. Encourage them to break the project into smaller, more manageable chunks.
This way they can better estimate the amount of time for each part; as opposed to trying to calculate the time it will take to finish the entire project. Remind them to take into account the time it will take to gather resources and reach milestones. Finally, have them block out specific periods in their calendar to work on each project.
3. Implement a no meeting day.
Meetings can be a massive waste of time for your employees — it’s also a common interruption. Instead of working on their priorities, the team is pulled away from their work to attend an unproductive meeting. Meetings often become a time-suck, and as a result of this, many organizations do not schedule meetings on specific days. The day you to cut out meetings is up to you and your team. The point is that by not being distracted by a mandatory meeting the employees can entirely focus on their most important tasks or creative work.
4. Solve complex issues.
If you notice that an employee is missing deadlines frequently, staying late in the office, or asking the rest of the staff for last-minute requests, then this is more than just simple time management errors. There’s a complex problem going on here.
Suggest that they track their time for a week by logging their time and using time-tracking tools. Then you both review the data to see where how they’re spending their days. Are they aligning their time with what matters most? What’s distracting them? What tasks took more or less time than expected? Are there pockets of time that they can use to their advantage?
After the employee has answered these questions, brainstorm practical suggestions with them of how they feel they can improve their productivity. It may not resolve the problem overnight, but, keeping track of time, on what time is spent and how it is spent, puts an individual on the right path.
5. Embrace AI.
Instead of resisting AI, embrace it so that your team can reduce the amount of time spent on recurring and mundane tasks. Just make sure that the technology is focused on your initiatives and is helping move the business forward.
For example, by tapping into the power of machine learning, Calendar can review your company’s meeting history. With this information, Calendar can then make smart suggestions on when, where, and what type of meeting to schedule. It can also automatically send out invites and create your meeting agenda.
6. Encourage ownership.
Imposing strict processes and overhead is a surefire way to prevent your team from being as productive as they should be. Instead, encourage ownership through autonomy.
“Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions,” writes Joan F. Cheverie, Manager of Professional Development Programs at EDUCAUSE — a nonprofit review of how IT trends affect higher education.
In other words, pay more attention to managing people and not micromanaging the tasks they’re working on. As long as the work is getting done, autonomy allows your employees to work how they prefer. It also motivates them to get more done since it shows that you trust them enough to take the ball and run with it.
7. Consider flexible schedules.
Everyone has their own peak productivity hours. For example, you may be a morning person who does their best work bright and early. However, some employees are night owls. Forcing them to come into the office first thing in the morning means that they’re forced to work when they’re not as focused and alert. As a result, it takes them longer to complete their work.
While not always feasible, consider giving your team a flexible work schedule, even if it’s just a couple of days per week. Flex schedules allow them to work on their most important work when they feel most productive. Consequently, they’ll get more done in less time.