Time is money. The old adage has never been truer. In today’s business world, companies are continually striving to do more with less. Employees are feeling increasingly pressured as a result. Constantly barraged by emails, voice mails, and faxes, they face information overload. And as companies struggle to reinvent themselves in order to stay afloat, employees find themselves faced with priorities that seem to change with each passing year. No wonder prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications are on the rise.
There are many ways to help employees work smarter and be less stressed. The most effective – and easiest to achieve – is by cultivating an environment that stresses the importance of time management.
By definition, time management is the act of “exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity.” Indeed, experts from the American Management Association stress the impact of time management on worker productivity. Through time management courses, their experts teach people to how to delegate tasks or implement new paperwork systems and also provide suggestions for avoiding interruptions from colleagues.
Workers are encouraged to prioritize their daily activities, completely purging worthless tasks from their agendas. Some time management experts, like best-selling author Julie Morgenstern, recommend not checking email in the mornings when an employee is fresh and energetic. Instead, she says, that is the best time to concentrate on critical projects. She also recommends activating voice mail and discouraging colleagues from dropping by to chat, saving such time “nibblers” for later in the day.
Some companies have begun directing employees to keep a detailed log of their daily activities. They typically use a format that divides the day into 15- or 30-minute intervals. Employees are told to keep track of everything they do throughout the day. After a couple of weeks, they are told to tally their activities by the amount of time spent on them. The idea to identify time wasters let them see how much time they are actually spending on unimportant activities. They are then able to prioritize their activities by assigning specific times on the calendar for each day’s tasks.
In recent years, time management software has automated the task of logging employee activities, although it clearly has its limitations. For example, time spent talking with co-workers cannot be automatically logged. Such software is primarily useful for tracking computer activity, thus giving an employer insight into what staff is working on, as well as how much time they are wasting surfing the net or playing solitaire. Other software applications, such as task list applications, provide built-in task hierarchy, allowing for easy ordering of tasks.
Regardless of how you introduce employees to time management, you will clearly reap rewards in the form of a more productive workforce. Consider rewarding employees when they demonstrate they are practicing good time management practices.