You meant to start early and finish that presentation for tomorrow’s client meeting, leaving yourself some time for a final edit and creative touches. Instead, you arrive at your desk 7 minutes late, see the email pileup, and decide to answer “just a few”…
An hour later, your kid’s school calls about scheduling a conference. You need to check your calendar, so you switch tabs and search, while simultaneously responding to a client message that sounds urgent. Next thing you know, it’s noon, and you haven’t even touched that priority presentation. There go your creative touches…
How could you have prevented this maddening scramble for minutes? With a hefty dose of time management—planning, prioritizing, and organizing all daily, weekly, and monthly activities, enables a team to work smarter, not harder. It may be called a soft skill, but time management yields some hardcore, data-driven results. Let’s examine how.
Why Your Team Should Develop Time Management Skills
The average enterprise employee wastes 2.09 hours daily on non-work-related activities—often due to distraction, assignment confusion, or workload overwhelm. These obstacles can cause anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. Insecure, stressed out team members are more likely to lack self-regulation capabilities, leading to chaos and conflict—and nobody needs more drama in the workplace.
A strictly-managed, well-organized workload will relieve stress and engage your team members at meetings and throughout project execution—with time and energy left over to brainstorm big picture ideas for your company. Implementing a time management protocol will help them feel that they’ve “got it together,” which ultimately:
- Boosts self-esteem
- Enhances job satisfaction
- Avoids time waste
- Prevents conflicts
- Inspires trust–from co-workers and clients
- Enables big picture thinking and creativity
So, next time HR hears a job seeker ask: “What are soft skills?” make sure time management is at the top of the list. Any candidate that brings these hardwon strategies to your conference table will be more likely to grow a fruitful career—and your bottom line.
Time Management Tips
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to get promoted or earn a raise, demonstrating time management finesse is one of the savviest moves you can make. If it doesn’t come naturally, tackle one tip at a time, and gradually—in a matter of weeks—it should all feel organic.
People who successfully implemented these time management tips later report to their leaders they had no idea how they got anything done before. They find themselves fueled by an entirely new level of efficiency and productivity.
Document Your Time Usage
The first step is to break down exactly what you do with your days, weeks, and months by separating tasks and activities into buckets. Work is your biggest bucket–but what else takes up your days? Kids? Book clubs? Night school classes? Charities? Health club routines? Hobbies?
Next, write down how much time you spend in each bucket. Work will likely require 40 hours. Guesstimate how long the other activities take you, on average. Then share your numbers with team and family members to understand where your time goes and, so they can help you tweak the numbers.
Define and Protect Your Productive Peak Hours
Decades of research have shown that working too much can hamper your productivity. That’s because your brain’s ultradian rhythm allows you to focus for 90 to 120 minutes deeply at a time—after that, it needs a break to maintain optimal output levels.
Observe yourself and your team members for a few days and take notes. When do you knock out the most work? What time of the day yields the highest energy and the deepest focus? Guard those productive peak hours like a treasure. Inform one another that during those hours, to block out other distractions. Once the 90-120 productive peak minutes have yielded some high quality, pride-inspiring output, everyone will be in a much better mood to chat, present, strategize, or resolve HR issues.
Follow a Holistic Calendar
Do some research to find a calendar platform you love—you’re going to be spending a lot of time with it. Whether you choose iCal, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook Calendar, or any of the various time management apps out there, make sure it’s easy for all of you to use and share—then stick with it.
Explain to your team the purpose of a holistic calendar. This is where all of the buckets you named above will live. All your tasks and activities—work tasks, family activities, social events, household chores, healthcare, entertainment, hobbies, clubs, philanthropies, etc.—will be posted for all to see. Ideally, these categories will be color-coded for scannability.
This way, nobody will schedule a client meeting on the day you have your daughter’s teacher conference. Nobody will ask you to come in early the day after you return from a wedding abroad. Nobody will wonder why you’re not at your desk on the day of your annual check-up. When you share your calendar with your family members, they’ll know not to call asking where you put the laundry detergent during your big client presentation. Holistic calendars allow the “whole you” to show up and thrive.
As a company, we use Google Suite; everyone uses Google Calendar for all company and personal activities.
Plan Your Ideal Week
Once your team has determined every member’s productive peak hours, created task buckets, and implemented a holistic, color-coded calendar, you’re ready to draft your ideal week.
Take each category from your “work” bucket and block out time for it on your calendar. Are your productive hours 8:00 am -10:00 am? Schedule that strategy research that requires your deepest focus at that time. Does your sales team like to meet on Wednesdays and Fridays? Block out “Sales Meeting” on those days. Do you have a client who only has time to talk at the end of the day? Block out “Client Calls” in your work day’s last hour. The specific project or program you’ll actually work on or discuss can be filled in later—but having a predictable work category routine will get you into a productive groove that saves decision-making time and energy.
Then, do the same with all the tasks in your other buckets. Block off your entire week, including the weekend—leave no space empty. You will very quickly understand where your time goes, and if you don’t like what you see, you’ll be able to pivot nimbly. President of Uhuru Network and founder of Stylishlyme.com, Vanessa Lang, has created a handy Ideal Week Planner to help your team take on this critical initiative.
Productivity Tools and Routines For Easy Time Management
Once your ideal week is staring back at you in all of its organized glory, you can begin adding these tools and routines that will help you fulfill your vision:
Any team that’s serious about managing time will need to track it. Time tracking provides you with the data that enables you to:
- evaluate your workload
- set benchmarks
- prioritize goal-promoting activities
Do you know how long each type of task generally takes your team to complete? Do you know precisely how you’re spending the hours? Are you estimating task time allocations accurately, or are you finding it’s taking you much longer than you expect to complete specific tasks?
A time management tool like Toggl can help you keep track of all team activities and home activities to help you answer those questions. The platform allows you to create projects and tags as you track and analyze data so you and your team can pivot when necessary. It also allows your clients to see exactly the amount of time spent on services they’re being billed for.
Thanks to the innovation of career coach Brain P. Moran there’s a simple way to maximize your effectiveness and output during a specified period by categorizing your time into three types of blocks:
- Strategic Blocks: 3 hours of scheduled, uninterrupted, distraction-free time in which you complete the most impactful task of the week
- Buffer Blocks: 1-2 hours allocated for unplanned activities like calls, emails, HR issues, unexpected client edits, or PR emergencies
- Break-out Blocks: relaxation time scheduled during regular working hours to prevent burnout and inspire creativity
Whether you relax most when walking, biking, reading, listening to music, meditating, chatting with a friend, or writing silly texts to your spouse—make sure to take breaks during the workday, or you will disrupt your ultradian rhythm and your output.
“Get Started” and “Shut Down” Routines
How can you protect your ideal week from getting upended by emails, texts, tweets, and random requests? Schedule those disruptions into your calendar.
Uhuru Network President Vanessa Lang has devised “Get Started” and “Work Shut Down” routines that her teams use during the first and the last 30 minutes of their workdays. This is the time to check all emails, messages, appointments, and comments on all of your communication platforms—both internal and external.
Having this time allocated every day helps her and her employees reply to team members and clients faster and more efficiently, preventing everyone from checking those channels throughout the day and disrupting their flow.
Message Responding Routine
When responding to a message requires a bit more time than is allocated in the “Get Started” and “Shut Down” routines, you can always add extended messaging time in a lower productivity time slot of your day. Your team should be aware of who schedules this time and abide by it strictly, without exception.
Responding to specific project related issues can be done at daily 15-30 minute huddles in which only team members working on a particular project check in to report what they did the day before, what they plan to do today and what hurdles they are facing that could prevent them from making their group determined deadline.
Task Prioritization Routine
One of the central time management techniques that career coach Brian Tracy promotes is to “Eat The Frog”— get the most important tasks out of the way first. The task that will most impact you, your team, your company, or your position within a company is often one you tend to put off. Don’t. Develop the discipline to dive into these critical projects head first with all your peak productive energy. You won’t be sorry. And, you won’t be as cranky when you get to go home with this burden off your shoulders.
Agenda Crafting Routine
You will never regret having an agenda to distribute at every meeting—and neither will your team. Well-written agendas save time, money and stress for everyone involved because they prevent meandering, repetition, and irrelevant tangents in the meeting room. Make sure the document is clear and concise, with plenty of room for note-taking.
Midweek Planning Routine
Uhuru’s Vanessa Rodriguez Lang, whose digital marketing agency just experienced its most productive year on record, always plans her week on Wednesdays. Why? To avoid what she calls “weekend lag.” After two days spent relaxing, traveling, or focusing on personal goals, Monday morning is not ideal for planning out the coming week. It is a good time to complete the already familiar tasks you started the week before.
All Uhuru teams hold planning meetings on Wednesdays, after which each team member fills in his or her holistic calendar through the following Wednesday. The mental shift to “starting” a fresh week on Wednesday allows everyone to begin new projects during their focus peak, without a weekend interruption.
Time Management To the Rescue
The tips above may sound overwhelming and time-consuming at first glance, but in the end, they will save you time. If you follow this strategy strictly and consistently, you’ll soon realize that you are enjoying more of your days, weeks, and months. When people in a wide array of positions and industries embrace these tools and routines, they soon can’t imagine life without them. As they become more calm and productive, they feel centered and in control of their lives.
Instead of scrambling for minutes, you too can learn to drive your days by managing your time, energy, mood, and, ultimately, your bottom line. Wondering how to improve time management skills for your unique team? Enterprise coach Vanessa Rodriquez begins her team strategy consultations by asking clients to fill out their Ideal Week Planner.