It’s ironic that to share some tips on effective time management, we had to carefully work around a busy schedule to find a free slot in which to write this article! It’s a harsh reality for many people, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day which has clearly been exacerbated due to the current home working situation a lot of us find ourselves in. This can lead to a lot of resentment as work time drifts into leisure time, and the work-life balance of individuals becomes less of a balance. For some, this is more a case of hanging on for dear life trying not to completely let go of the other.
A rather depressing quote from Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, goes:
There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.
Great; if even one of the most successful professional women in the world finds it impossible to maintain a balance, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Well, as depressing as the above quote may be, Sandberg actually inadvertently (or perhaps it was her plan all along) catalysed the launch for flexi-work programmes from large and small businesses the world over. This is just as well, as a recent Workplace Flexibility Study found that over two-thirds of employers believe their workers have a healthy work-life balance – a sentiment that 45% of workers disagreed with.
This disconnect between managers and workers is very telling and highlights the need for better time management practices to be taught in the workplace. Everyone has only 24 hours in a day; so how can these best be utilised?
It may sound silly, and maybe doesn’t count as a practical method of time management, but it all starts with positive thinking. If an individual – whether a manager or lower-down employee – starts their day thinking, “I’ll never get all this done”, then the likelihood is they won’t. Managers should allocate work that can be completed, even if it looks hard, and ensure all employees know that it is achievable within a normal working day. Being positive will also help to make the time spent at work a little more bearable.
If you want to be productive, be organised; plan what it is that needs doing, when it needs doing by and how long a specific task will take to help structure the day and lay out the basis for a productive eight or so hours at work – leaving you a relaxing 16 more to do what you want! Calendars, daily planners and checklists are all time-management lifesavers.
When someone has a really busy workday ahead of them, it can be easy to get bogged down in negative thinking (see above) and also get distracted easily. Try to start work within five minutes of arrival and try not to fritter the time away with things that are unimportant or that can wait. Do, however, remember to take the odd break, else concentration levels will decrease dramatically and this will waste even more time.
No means no.
It’s also important to value your time and learn when to turn down work if given the option. This goes for employees being asked to do favours by colleagues, for example, but should also be kept in mind by managers; trust that if a worker says that actually, they can’t send that email/make that call/read that report they have a legitimate reason for doing so, and they will be more likely to work harder when they do have the time.
Be near a clock.
Lastly, always be positioned near a timepiece of some form – it’s quite hard to effectively time manage without one!
Ultimately, time management is inextricably linked to life management. With unprecedented changes to the way we are all working due to a global pandemic, employee welfare must become a priority for those high-up in a company to not only take the matter seriously but invest in time-management training for their employees. It may be that you are holding the fort while others in your team are furloughed, the holiday season has sparked more interest or that a new project will bring with it higher workloads – whatever the reason for a change in workload, managers need to help their employees achieve the balance they supposedly lack. After all, a good balance between work and life can improve the mental health of employees, nurture their relationships and aid productivity in the workplace.