Time management

Timing is key in any aspect of life and business. Though everyone has the same 24 hours in a day not everyone achieves or utilizes the hours the same way. In businesses and workplaces, timing and time management are vital to profitability.

Effective time management in a workplace setting has various effects on the overall management and productivity of any venture. One of these effects is the reduction of stress and ensuring working smart. Time management and stress management are closing related in effect. Work or working becomes less stressful if there is quality time management practice. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ This shows that time management can be implemented on both workforce and work tools.

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A work tool that undergoes proper time management lasts longer and works effectively than those used without a proper time management plan. This strategy also applies to the workforce of any organization. But often, people wonder if time management can be a visible practice. There is a heretical belief that suggests that humans cannot stick to timing unswervingly; others have also argued that time management can only be achieved with artificial intelligence (AI) machines and robots. Tony Robbins said, ‘Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!’

It is might seem taxing to implement time management in a very busy and demanding workplace where meeting targets is the sole aim of the business or job description. However, regardless of your job descriptions, organization (organizing activities and tasks) is needed to reach your goals or target. Why? Naturally, we are faced with several options and opinions daily; inclusively, we battle with new ideas, thoughts, emotions, worries, and fear. These agents find their way into our minds from time to time and we cannot block them out of our daily lives especially while at work. With an adequate time management plan for workers, you will hardly find workers who mix pleasure with work or workers who fall asleep in the middle of an assignment.  Stuart R. Levine said ‘We give our time away all day long, to emotions that gain us no advantages, to people who do not value our time, to inefficient habits. If you want to take back this time, you need to cut to the chase.’

How do you cut the chase? How do you effectively implement time management at the workplace? An internationally celebrated business idealist, Peter Drucker once said, ‘Time is the scarcest resource of the manager; if it is not managed, nothing else can be managed.’ John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership trainer provides the heart of time management saying, ‘Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.’

Prioritize your task;

Your prioritizes is what you end up doing in the long run regardless of the important tasks ahead of you. Once you are not able to set your priority straight, you are bound to start a day and end it without achieving anything. At your workplace, you should know what your priority is, what the priority of the organization is; and what the priority of your department is. Priority in other words connotes ‘main concern’ or ‘urgency’. Once you fail to prioritize every given assignment or workload, you might end up doing the right thing at the wrong time. In order not to fall into this trap, adopting Eisenhower Matrix can help you set your priority straight. Eisenhower Matrix is based on four Ds which states Do, Defer, Delegate and Delete. You are to DO what is important and urgent; DEFER tasks that are important but not urgent; DELEGATE tasks that are urgent but not important, and; DELETE tasks that are not important and not urgent.

            Plan as a team and as an individual;

Daniel J. Levitin once spoke of an old saying which says, ‘A man with one watch always knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never sure.’ Regardless of who the team lead might be, learn to work and plan as a team, do not make plans or decisions individually. The best way to plan and create a friendly timing for the next task is to sit together as a team at the end of every working week to review and implement new plans and strategies for the coming week. By doing this, each team member knows what is expected of him or her in the coming. They go to their various home and develop an individual plan around their task on how to maximize the working hours in the coming week towards achieving their goals. Understand that the team plan is a long-term goal of five working days, but your plan should be a short time goal of each work hour that comes with each workday. This generates proper time management. In a situation where your organization has a laid down time-management policy, you should be able to structure your planning around the organization’s time-management policy.

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            Employ Alan Lakein’s Swiss cheese method;

Alan Lakein, author of “How to Get Control of Your Time & Your Life” suggests that one of the fastest ways to get a big project done is to pick surmountable tasks from the project one at a time. You do not necessarily have to complete a task on a go or in one sitting. If you apply a proper time management plan to a mountainous project or an official assignment, you will be able to break down the project into convenient time fractions or scope bases.  As an employer, you can apply this method to any project by drawing out the deadline for submission, your most convenient timing when you know you are at your best wit, pick an aspect of the project once at a time. Start from the simple to complex if possible and do that consistently according to your time management plan until the end of the project. This is the secret of how seemingly impossible tasks are made possible. As an employee, you can help your workforce by breaking a big project into different units or stages, allowing your staff to know which stage can or should be done first and which should follow immediately.

Schedule break between tasks;

Arnold H. Glasgow exposed that, ‘Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.’ Taking a break during work or work hours is not wrong when it is done at the right time. Experts believe that the human brain functions well when it is not overstressed and does not lack rest. There is something called the brain cycle; it is a cycle that explains why and when the brain goes to sleep and when it wakes up. Each cycle lasts 90 minutes on average, while some cycles can be as short as 50 minutes and as long as 100 minutes or more. To be able to make the most use of an active brain, the brain should not work excessively for over 90 minutes (1 hour and 30 minutes); and, this is also applicable for the eyes in a case where job description involves spending time on the computer. Therefore, it is advised that a break should be taken at every 90 minutes interval from tasks that challenges your intelligence and requires your eyes on the screen. A good application of the Swiss cheese method of time management should evolve around this timing. Organizations, where knowledge or computing is the sole trade commodity, should adopt the school system of scheduling breaks between tasks to ensure the mental health and stability of their workers.

            Do not multitask;

Lady Stella Reading noted that ‘The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.’ Is multitasking a skill, or a gift? It is quite unfair to see companies and organizations pick multitasking as one criterion for employment. Multitasking causes anxiety; it increases your chances of making mistakes and reduces your ability to be creative. A good time management plan will not require any multitasking skills and will also provide room for standards. In situations or cases when you feel the urge to multitask, refer to Eisenhower Matrix and prioritize your tasks. In other words, organizations should promote less multitasking among the workforce and work tools but rather implement time management.

            Discourage the use of unofficial apps and distraction;

Jean De La Bruyère observed that ‘Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.’ To avoid negligence at the workplace there must be clear instruction of tools, discussions, and behaviour that are not tolerated within the work environment. For instance, the staff is not expected to be with personal mobile phones during work hours. This could also include no side talks, no group discussions during work hours or in unauthorized places except the meeting room, no noise in the meeting hallway, no buying, and selling in the premises, no receiving of private visitors, no hanging around, no eating in public places among several others. Those who work with access to a computer and the internet should be disconnected from any form of social media platforms except if the nature of their job permits it.

            Develop or adopt time management tools for business;

You don’t get time. You create time.” Sanhita Baruah once said. Time management tools are too numerous to mention, a simple search on any search engine will provide a list you cannot exhaust. The majority of these tools are software that can be download on phones and computer systems. The major function of these tools is to create time and also promote your efficiency in time management. It is like setting up an alarm clock with a to-do list hanging by the side. The time management tool will remind you of how you had planned to make use of the day; when to start working, when to rest from work, when to resume work, when to get some glass of water, when to have lunch, when to relax and when to call it a day. There are other time management tools that can perform more tasks than just providing these notifications. These tools can be installed in the computer systems used in the organization. It can also be installed in each department where they tasks and work schedule are closely related. An example is a timekeeper in Nigeria primary and secondary school system who tell the school when to change lesson, when to go on break and when to close for the day by ringing the bell.

Some time management tools that you can implement and their function

Focus booster – is an application mindfully designed for people with an easy tendency to procrastinate. The time management tool involves alternating 25-minute solid working blocks with short breaks to help you stay focused while preventing mental fatigue, exhaustion, or monotony from setting in.

Rescue Time – this time management tool analyzes how you spend your time online and sums it up in convenient, easy-to-read reports. This provides you with a comprehensive and concise overview of what you’re doing with your time online (something which we’ve all probably wondered about at some stage).

Trello – this time management tool allows multiple people to use it at the same time. Access can be shared between colleagues, freelancers, or even with. It’s an interactive whiteboard that teams can use to monitor and manage their numerous work tasks. This way, you can ensure that everyone has a clear idea of what needs to be done, and what deadline it needs to be completed by.

ZoomShift – this is a scheduling and employee time tracking tool that gives you greater control over your work schedule and that of your employees, creating schedules, allocating shifts, and tracking labor hours with the minimum of difficulty.

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Toggl – This tool works by connecting to over 100 other apps, allowing you to monitor just how long it takes you to perform particular tasks, giving you an overview of where your time is going. It can also create visual reports detailing – in a clear and easy-to-understand way – how you’ve been spending your time during the working day.

In conclusion, Leo Christopher said, “There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s whom we spend it on.” An enabling work environment is what makes time management practicable and recyclable. The workplace is expected to be filled with happy and healthy people who are constantly glad to see their colleagues and share knowledge. Organizations must employ good work policies that encourage health and safety management, career growth management, office space beautification according to office occupants’ comfort, and promote risk mitigation measures. You cannot expect a staff who sits on a bad chair or uses a slow computing system to think of work or workplace and be happy. Similarly, a sick worker or one who is exposed to risk at work daily will not find working or resuming work as comforting and might also not be able to consider time management at this state. If the work must be done well and timely, the workforce and workplace must be well and tidy.

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PS: “Some time management tools that you can implement and their functions” was sourced from SMB Management Blog: https://www.zoomshift.com/blog/time-management-tools/ on 22 June 2021.