No one is born a master of time management. Time management is more like a craft than an innate talent, and the clock is your creative medium.
So how do you become a master craftsperson of the clock?
At our firm, we invest considerable resources in the seemingly simple pursuit of managing our time better.
This pursuit of time management serves as both a prioritization process and a budget vs. an actual process to ensure that we are getting the highest return on our time (i.e., making the greatest impact on our goals and mission).
This is why it’s so important to have an airtight process around time management. Fortunately, there are simple steps you and your team can take to squeeze seemingly more than 24 hours out of every day. Having an effective time management process is how you’ll make the biggest impact with your most valuable resource: time.
Step 1: Prioritize Your Goals
The first step to taking responsibility for the time you have is to determine your priorities. This includes prioritizing your goals based on the weight of the impact accomplishing them could have on your life.
People who don’t prioritize their goals by impact tend to accomplish whatever goal is the easiest first. Prioritization can also prevent you from focusing on too many goals at once. Essentially, focusing on too many goals at one time is just as bad as not choosing any goals to focus on.
For organizational leaders, these habits can sabotage a team’s progress. By failing to set priorities around organizational goals, team members may take on only low-impact goals that disrupt the completion of larger projects. They might also focus on too many goals at once. This lack of focus may limit their productivity and potentially cause burnout.
You may determine that you only want to focus on one or two major goals, but this ranking will provide you with clarity about which goals you should accomplish first.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Actions
Next, prioritize the action steps you need to take to complete your priority goals. You and your team should be on the same page about which action steps in which sequence can help you make the highest impact on your goals.
Make a list of action steps for a goal. Rank them in order from most to least impactful.
It’s important to be objective about what actions have the highest impact. Humans tend to avoid doing the least pleasurable tasks for as long as possible, but this step in the time management process will help you take action.
READ: Taking a Macro Approach to Prioritization
Step 3: Schedule Your Actions
Step 3 takes list-making to another level. Not only are you making lists of action steps, you’re appropriating time to complete each action. Ultimately, list-making helps you not only map out your calendar but complete each item on your calendar on time; people who write action items down on a schedule are significantly more likely to complete their goals. If you are scheduling these items for yourself, you are far more likely to pay attention to a task with a looming deadline. The pain of missing the deadline will help you overcome the gratification of procrastination.
Similarly, if you are scheduling these items for your team, putting important tasks on the calendar helps provide everyone with visibility on everything else they need to accomplish a goal. This step an ideal time to allocate resources, cement a timeline, delegate as needed, and get everyone on the same page of the plan for accomplishing this goal.
Step 4: Track Your Time
In the time management process, many people stop at Step 4. However, it’s important to track how you actually spend time working towards a goal.
As you make progress on your goals, be sure to analyze how you are spending time—and in equal parts, how you are not spending time. You might have some shocking revelations when actually analyzing your time.
You should also encourage every member of your team to track their time. If nothing else, it provides them great visibility on how they are actually spending it. According to this set of statistics, only 17% of people actually track how they spend their time. Missing out on this information can limit your personal productivity.
At the office, workers typically spend up to four hours a week on unproductive tasks. These tasks could be anything from browsing the news to checking social media to taking extra snack breaks. By bringing these behaviors to the attention of your team, they may be able to curve their effects.
The goal isn’t to stifle fun at the workplace, but rather to get the highest return on the time your team uses for productivity. You and your team will be much more fulfilled when you’re as productive as possible during this time.
Step 5: Reconcile
In addition to Step 4 of the time management process, many teams also miss Step 5: reconciliation. After analyzing how you spend your time, you need to reconcile the calendar or time budget (where you intended to spend your time) with the time tracker (where you actually spent your time).
In doing so, you must hold yourself accountable for how you spend your time. Take time to analyze how you can use your time to make a bigger impact than the impact you’ve already made.
Be sure you make any necessary adjustments at this point. Ask yourself: Am I spending too much time in meetings? If so, cut your meeting times in half. If you find that you’re losing time to a task you could have delegated to a team member, outsource or delegate that task.
Comparing your time budget and time tracker is an essential part of improving your time management skills. Remember: The time management process isn’t static; you should improve as a time manager over time.
READ: The Greatest Return: The 10 Secrets to Time Management
How This Time-Management Process Serves You
Spending 10 to 20 minutes every day planning how you are allocating your time can significantly increase your return and productivity.
This approach helps you to improve your time management practices in three critical ways:
- It provides a sense of accountability.
- It measures the efficiency and effectiveness of your time management.
- It measures the reliability of your time estimates.
Treat this process as you would treat a budget. After all, time is a much scarcer resource than money, so you should monitor it much more carefully. The impact you can make through proper time management will be well worth it.
The Bottom Line
Proper time management is not a skill people are born with. It takes time and effort to learn and master the process. If this is an area of growth for you, you’re not alone. People are rarely taught how to manage their time well, so you’re already ahead of the curve by learning about this process.
This article was inspired by our eBook, The 10 Step Arootah Success Formula. Make sure you’ve downloaded your free copy to develop more impactful skills in your life or organization.
How are you going to implement this process going forward? What time management tips have worked for you? Let us know in the comments!