Managing a team can be a challenging task, especially having in mind that an average employee usually has problems with efficiently organising their work hours. This article explains.
Providing our employees with the right time management techniques which can assist in completing tasks on time, while keeping the stress and the tension away, is the most valuable gift they will appreciate.
Knowing how to prioritise tasks isn’t something we are born with, nor is the ability to gain an insight into how exactly we plan and use our time. The same applies to procrastination, the trap we all risk falling into as we’re attempting to reach perfection.
Too many distractions are around us, whether we spend our work hours on the internet or not. Learning how to stay away from these time snatchers is a skill that we need to master.
Here are some ideas for time management techniques you can implement into the everyday practice of your employees. These will give them a sense of achievement and satisfaction, as well as help them reach common goals much easier.
Eat that frog
Eat that frog is a perfect technique for those members of your team who are prone to procrastination.
Although it may seem harsh, if one must swallow a frog, delaying the actual event won’t make it go away, neither will someone else do it instead. So, what’s the use of putting it off?
This technique teaches us that we need to do the most difficult or the most important task first, and not move on to another one until we get it done. The next task we move on to should be the second in line either in terms of importance difficulty.
Sometimes even a boring task can be a frog to an employee, but avoiding it can bring undesirable consequences to the team goals. The main takeaway of this tactic is learning how to greet your teeth and eat the frog right away.
Learn how to prioritise
Not everything we need to do is of the same importance, and when planning our daily work activities, we should focus on the tasks crucial for our moving forward.
An excellent method for setting your priorities right is The Eisenhower Matrix, with which every employee should be acquainted. Its first step is making a list of all the tasks that have to be completed within a certain time frame, and marking them with U if they are urgent and I if they are important.
Afterward, we classify the tasks into the matrix, determining which field they fit the most:
- DO – those are the tasks marked with both U for urgent and I for important, and that need to be finished as soon as possible;
- SCHEDULE – tasks that are important but not urgent, so we should make a plan when to work on them;
- DELEGATE – tasks which are urgent but not very important, so we can easily have someone else do them;
- DELETE – tasks which are neither important nor urgent, so forget about them.
Our perception of time spent working on different tasks, replying emails, or on the phone, is usually vague, so logging the time spent on each activity is of tremendous value. Tracking time doesn’t help only with recognising how much time is lost due to different distractions, but also for getting valid data which we can use for planning our future activities.
Using a tracking application can be a great help to every employee who is trying to organise their daily activities better. This free time card calculator made by Clockify is enough to cover the basics.
It’s a piece of general advice to track every activity, including lunch hours, telephone calls, and breaks to gain a clear insight into how much we work effectively. We can use this data to better motivate our employees by offering them a reward if they cut on the time wasters, or if they complete an important task before the deadline.
Listen to your inner clock
Not everyone inner clock ticks the same, and we all had those moments when a 9 a.m. meeting with a client seemed like the worst possible nightmare.
Leaving our employees the freedom to organise their working hours according to their rhythm, while still achieving tasks and common goals on time, should be a must in every team.
We should teach our employees to use their energy level peaks to work on the tasks they find most challenging and which require their utmost focus. For some, it could be early in the morning; for others, it could be right after the lunch break.
Advise your employees to log their daily activities during a week or two to get a clear picture of what time of day works for them best and determine their prime time. Making a daily activity plan according to their prime time can sometimes make a breakthrough in their productivity.
Your employees will greatly value this well known time management technique, as it will give them a sense of control of their time as well as enough breaks to provide them with the energy they need to keep going.
They should start with parceling their task into four 25-minute sessions, and set their timer when they start working. After the session ends, a 5-minute break follows. After they complete a four-session cycle, it’s time for a 20-minute break.
This technique is especially useful when a task ahead takes time due to its complexity so that we can use these breaks wisely to avoid underperformance. A short walk around the office, 5 minutes of neck and shoulder exercises, or a relaxing chat with a colleague will prevent burnout and make a huge difference in their productivity.
Make your meetings effective
Many people think that meetings are toxic. No wonder when executives themselves spend 23 hours a week sitting in them.
When you’re running a team, you also have a great responsibility to help our employees show their value as well as be as productive as possible. To do so, consider making time- and energy-draining staff gatherings a thing of the past, and replace them with well-scheduled meetings, with a recognisable role for every employee.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, famously sticks to a “two pizza rule,” which means that meetings he calls aren’t longer than it takes a group of people to eat two pizzas.
If this rule is too vague for you, there are a few, more specific, tips you should follow:
- schedule a meeting only when you need to make a decision, or do an activity together as a team;
- limit the duration of the meeting and make it short;
- limit the number of participants to the ones you need;
- create an agenda and send it a day before so that everyone can come well prepared;
- avoid all the distractions during the meeting, and stick to the agenda.
Say no to distractions
Many things may go wrong when trying to achieve our planned goals and finish the important tasks if we don’t find a way to keep distractions at bay. Checking our email inbox every time we hear the notification sound can be a perfect example. We may feel an irresistible urge to respond right away or finish the task that wasn’t on our to-do list, and there goes our concentration and productivity.
Relevant research has shown that it takes 23 minutes to regain focus and get back to the tasks after the distraction, and that’s quite a lot of time to lose in terms of efficiency. It’s a good idea, for example, to check email only once or twice while at work. Limiting social media time, phone calls, and surfing the internet is also important for staying focused.
The best way for your employees to realise that is after they’ve logged the time spent on each activity for a few weeks.
The 10-minute rule
Another method fit for your procrastinating employees is to start working on a task they’ve been avoiding for ten minutes. After this period, they can determine if they are capable of continuing for another 10 minutes.
This method can bring great results because for those who are prone to procrastinating the hardest part is the very beginning of an undesirable action.
You can implement these several tips and time management techniques with your employees if you want to make your team more efficient, and avoid the stress which comes from rushing to get things done at the very last minute.
Learning how to make priorities, avoid distractions, make your meetings productive, as well as how to use tried-out techniques such as Pomodoro, Eisenhower Matrix, or the 10-minute rule will certainly have an impact on your employees’ productivity as they will make them feel relieved and far more accomplished.
So, waste no more time, and try implementing them right away.
About the Author
Marko Maric has worked with several startups over the years and helped them grow their brand and business online. Currently, he is at Clockify trying to make the world a more productive place. Follow him on Twitter for more.