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Importance of Time Management and 7 Tips to Improve It

Importance of time management
15 minute read

Time management can be described as a skill that helps you use your time as effectively and productively as possible, especially while at work. 

But this somewhat “dictionary definition” of the term doesn’t give us the full scope of what time management actually is. Not because it is inaccurate but because time management is so much more than a single skill or ability.

Thus, let's look closely at the importance of time management.

What Is Time Management?

Time management is a combination of different strategies aimed at helping you or your employees split time between specific tasks to achieve greater productivity and efficacy, better work results, and daily, weekly, or long-term goals. 

Time management can:

  • Help with your decision-making process
  • Teach you how to set personal and work-related goals
  • Allow you to allocate your time systematically
  • Helps you organize and prioritize tasks based on importance

Effective time management not only boosts your employees' productivity and efficiency but can help you create a calm and supportive work culture. 

When employees don’t miss deadlines and complete their work obligations consistently and on time, that can create a sense of accomplishment, which can go a long way in improving their overall job satisfaction. 

This is especially true if they are praised or rewarded for their good work performance (but that’s a topic for another day).

The Importance of Time Management: What Does the Research Say

Does time management work? A meta-analysis”, a study from 2021, examined the impact of time management on work performance and well-being, and the results the researchers got were rather interesting.  

Their conclusion challenges the modern narrative that time management enhances work performance and that any benefits to our health and well-being stem from that. The study’s findings illustrate that it’s actually the other way around — time management improves well-being, and the result of that is an increase in work performance.  

A 2014 study from the University of Wuerzburg further supports this claim. This study, done on a group of students, shows that effective time management helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety

With just two to four weeks of time management training, students reported a noticeable reduction in perceived stress and anxiety levels. Sadly, the study did not focus on the student’s academic results and how or even if time management had any effect on that, leaving much to be desired.

These two studies are just a small part of a larger body of research that has consistently proved the importance of time management by showing its positive effects on people’s well-being and/or work performance.

7 Tips to Improve Time Management at Work

Here are some tips that can help you improve your or your employees’ overall time management.

1. Employ Technology

There are numerous digital and cloud-based tools that can save you time, help you streamline tedious processes, and ultimately make you more time-efficient. 

  • One of those is time and attendance software, a solution that helps you manage your employees' time, track and manage absences, quickly create and export information needed for payroll, and more.

Like any efficient tool, time and attendance software will make certain processes easier and less time-consuming. This will allow you to switch your focus to other work or personal tasks and make you more productive. 

Time-tracking software is another digital solution that can help you improve time management at work. It will allow you to manage your and your employee's work tasks while also tracking work hours, task and project progress, and more. 

Time tracking tools aim to give you all the data you need to analyze the way you or your employees spend time at work. With that information, you can identify areas that need improvement more easily, then work on them and improve either your or your employee’s overall time management.

2. Set Clear Goals

A big part of improving time management revolves around setting clear goals and diligently working on achieving them.  

You can start working on your goals by listing them on paper, in a notebook, in a to-do list, or in a digital document (i.e., Google Docs, Word, etc.). 

After that, try to assess your goals and form a plan of action to achieve them. If that doesn’t work for you or you feel like you need more guidance, you can always try one of the many proven methods and techniques for setting goals.

One of those proven goal-setting techniques is the S.M.A.R.T method, a relatively simple yet effective way to increase your chances for success in personal development and business or project management.

To start with this method, you should:

  • Set Specific goals that are clear, defined, and focused.
  • Ensure that the goals you set are Measurable and include criteria that allow you to measure progress toward achieving them.
  • Make sure to set goals that are realistic and Achievable. Take into account your skills, limits, as well as available resources. Don't underestimate yourself, but also don’t overvalue your abilities.
  • Make sure the goals you’re setting are Relevant to you, your core values, and your personal and career objectives.
  • When you set goals, always make them Time-bound (i.e., create deadlines for achieving goals). This will help you stay on track by creating a sense of urgency.

3. Try out Different Time Management Techniques

A good way to improve your time management at work is with proven time management techniques. They are methods used by millions of people around the world. Here are a few very popular ones:

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix, a widely popular prioritization method, was developed by the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

This technique focuses on task prioritization by categorizing tasks based on their importance and urgency. The more urgent and important a task is, the higher it should be on your list of priorities.

To try it out for yourself, you should:

  1. Create the following four categories of tasks: Important and Urgent, Important but Not Urgent, Not Important but Urgent, and Not Important and Not Urgent.
  2. Evaluate your current tasks and put each of them into the appropriate category.
  3. You should do the tasks in the Important and Urgent category immediately.
  4. You should schedule a time to do the task in the Important but Not Urgent category.
  5. You should delegate the tasks in the Not Important but Urgent category.
  6. You should delete the tasks from the Not Important and Not Urgent category and not worry about them.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro time management technique was invented by a college student, Francesco Cirillo, in the late 1980s. This method puts an almost equal emphasis on rest periods as it does on doing the actual work. 

The Pomodoro method is really simple, and if you want to try it out, you should:

  • Set up a 25-minute timer and work until it goes off
  • Take a 5-10 minute short break
  • Set the timer again and repeat for four consecutive turns (work, short break, work…)
  • After the 4th round of work, instead of taking a short break (5-10 minutes), take a longer one (15-30 minutes)

The Timeboxing Method

The Timeboxing Method is a time management technique that revolves around setting up “boxes of time” for various tasks or activities and thus limiting the amount of time you spend on them. It’s about creating fixed schedules for tasks and sticking to those schedules religiously. 

To try it out:

  • Choose an activity or a task that you want to put in a timebox
  • Put a strict time limit on the task or activity you chose (i.e., create a timebox)
  • Do the activity until the time you’ve allocated runs out
  • Adjust the timebox if the activity or task took less or more time to complete than you originally anticipated

4. Minimize Distractions at Work

Distractions at work are one of the biggest productivity killers. A survey by Career Builder details some of the most common work distractions that office workers face. 

Some of those distractions are:

  • Texting or using cell phones
  • Spending time browsing the internet
  • Using or scrolling through social media sites
  • Gossiping or noisy colleagues (you know who you are)

These micro-level distractions can have a huge (read negative) impact on the macro level. This means that distractions can negatively affect a company on an organizational level, leading to various issues, including:

  • Compromised work quality
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lower morale due to other employees having to pick up the slack
  • Negative effect on the manager/employee or boss/employee relationship
  • Lowered revenue 

So, because micro-level distractions affect companies on a macro level, it logically stands that dealing with distractions on an individual level can prevent organizational issues

Whether you’re looking to minimize distractions for yourself or your employees, our advice is to try the following: 

  • Turn off your phone (or at least phone notifications) when you start working and advise your employees to do the same.
  • Don’t use social media at work or prevent the use of social media sites on work devices (mobile phones, computers, etc.)
  • Have a set time during the day to answer emails instead of checking your email throughout the entire day. If possible, advise your employees to do the same.
  • Try using earplugs if you find your work environment is too loud (can also help with chatty co-workers)

5. Learn to Delegate

Delegation allows you to use the strengths of your employees, team members, or colleagues.

It's a good way to improve your overall time management and give yourself additional work hours to focus on more important tasks. 

According to this study and many others, delegating tasks can improve employees' job satisfaction by creating a greater sense of autonomy at work. And why is job satisfaction important? 

Simple, because job satisfaction is closely linked with productivity at work, and if high, it can drastically improve it.

So, learning how to delegate impacts not only managers but also their direct subordinates, employees, or team members. It gives managers more time to deal with higher-difficulty, higher-priority, or managerial tasks while also empowering employees and increasing their job satisfaction (which in turn positively affects employee productivity).

To start delegating, you should:

  • Analyze your workload and try to identify tasks that you can delegate to others. These tasks could be standard routine tasks, tasks that take up too much of your valuable time, or tasks that you don’t have direct experience dealing with
  • Make sure to choose a suitable person for the job. One of the vital, if not the most important, parts of delegation is finding the right person to delegate tasks to. Getting it wrong can nullify all the benefits of delegating, making it take up more of your time instead of freeing it up for more important/difficult tasks. When deciding on the person to delegate tasks to, consider their skills, work experience, and current workload. You can also set up short meetings with your top picks (sort of like mini job interviews), where you can discuss their skills and relevant experience in greater detail.
  • Give clear instructions. Make sure to give clear instructions and provide any additional details about the tasks to the person you’re delegating them. Also, ensure they are aware of all expectations and any potential deadlines.
  • Create a feedback loop and give support to the person you choose to delegate tasks to. This will help them meet deadlines and will ensure that the quality of work is not compromised.

6. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking may seem like a good idea to increase productivity, but in practice, it does the opposite. 

Instead of allowing you to complete multiple tasks or projects, it puts most people into the position of working on multiple tasks or projects simultaneously but never finishing them (or not finishing them on time/within the deadline).

According to the study, poignantly titled “Multicosts of Multitasking,” working on multiple tasks concurrently can actually cause our brains to overload with information, effectively decreasing the brain’s processing power. This, in turn, lowers productivity and leads to higher chances of mistakes and, ultimately, lower quality of work.

So, instead of multitasking, try to invest your energy and time in individual tasks and work on them until they're done.

7. Take Breaks Regularly

A study that analyzed the effects of micro-breaks on well-being and performance showed that regular 10-minute breaks can significantly improve one’s well-being and reduce the build-up of work fatigue.

Regular breaks are a proven method for managing and maintaining your productivity during the day. In fact, not having breaks and working long hours can lead to being overworked and can also cause burnout. Which, frankly, nobody wants.

The important thing here is to realize when you need to take a break and then simply take one. A 10-to-15-minute break is not going to hurt your work (unless you’re an ER doctor), but it can do wonders for your focus, productivity, and well-being.

Main Benefits of Good Time Management (At Work and Personal Life)

There’s no better way to emphasize the importance of time management than through its many benefits. And that’s exactly what we aim to do here. Here are some of the most common benefits of good time management:

1. Higher Productivity Levels

Good time management allows you to prioritize your tasks more effectively and complete them in a timely manner. 

With time management, you’ll not only be meeting all of your deadlines but also increasing your overall productivity.

2. Increased Confidence Levels

The study, which examined the effects of self-esteem and time management skills on nursing students' GPA (grade point average), showed some interesting results. 

The researchers postulate a direct correlation between time management, confidence, and student’s GPA. The sample size was too small to empirically claim the connection. 

Still, the idea behind it seems logical and sound — The better someone manages their time, the more confident they’ll be and will produce better results.

3. Hitting All the Deadlines

Time management and deadlines are inalienably intertwined. Deadlines serve as checkpoints for time management that help you stay on track with your tasks, and never fall behind in their planning and execution.  

With time management, you can organize your work schedule and tasks in a way where you never feel overwhelmed or overworked. When you do that, meeting deadlines becomes a natural, calm part of your daily schedule.

4. No More Procrastinating

A small study looked at the effects of time management on procrastination. Procrastination is defined as a self-regulatory issue, and the idea the researchers had was to prevent it by dealing with self-regulation problems through the use of time management. The results showed that, as expected, time management works. 

The group that used time management showed little to no signs of procrastination, while the control group (no time management) kept making the same mistakes.

This study shows that procrastination directly results from not knowing how to manage time properly. When there is no clear focus on specific goals, people almost instinctively veer into procrastination. 

On the other hand, by having clear goals and actively working on time management, people can better manage their workload, feel in control of it, and ultimately stop procrastinating.

5. Better Self-Discipline

A study done on a group of high-school athletes had some interesting findings, with one of those being particularly riveting (at least to us) — the researchers found a direct correlation between self-discipline and time management. 

The higher the self-discipline is, the better the athletes are at managing their time. From there, it’s easy to postulate the opposite; the better someone is at time management, the better they’ll be at self-discipline.

6. Higher Motivation Levels

Finding motivation is a big problem for a lot of people. The same goes for managers and team leads who are always looking for new ways to motivate their employees. But what if the answer was so obvious that it was staring everybody in the face the whole time? Yes, we’re talking about time management. 

A 2020 study shows the positive effects of learning time management and self-discipline skills on students' motivation for learning. And, if time management can motivate students to study more, in this day and age, imagine what it can do for you, your employees, and ultimately your business. 

As you can see, there are many reasons to pay attention to the importance of time management. Wise use of time is essential if you or your company want to be more successful.

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