What is Time Management?
Time Management Definition
Time management is the practice of being productive by effectively managing how time is spent each day. Yet, many leaders and entrepreneurs still struggle to protect their most precious resource.
For example, in a Maui Mastermind’s 2017 in-depth survey on time management, executives and business owners worked an average of 72 hours per week. However, they wasted a total of 21.8 hours a week on “low-value and no-value activities [which] accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks.” Imagine having 22 extra hours dedicated to your hobbies, your family or driving your business growth. With this information in mind, time management tools can give a person a significant part of their life back.
So, what prevents high performers from being more effective and productive with their time? Find out how business professionals can start making the most of each day with these four practical time management tips.
Table of Contents
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Step 1 – Schedule Productive Times
Effective leadership requires strategizing, connecting with team leaders and planning the future of the company and its people. Without making time for specified “productive days,” distractions, procrastination and lost time quickly add up. In her research on time management skills, Gloria Mark, an information scientist at the University of California discovered it takes nearly 30 minutes to recover from a single interruption. When multiple interruptions happen every hour, time spent being productive diminishes due to lack of focus.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix, developed by five-star general and U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, provides a straightforward approach to productive days. This strategy helps increase efficiency by organizing and prioritizing tasks. Assign work into one of the following four quadrants:
- Do first—urgent and most important
- Schedule—non-urgent but requires completion
- Delegate—urgent but assignable
- Eliminate—non-essential or unnecessary
After categorizing tasks, help increase the team’s efficiency by delegating jobs employees can start addressing immediately. Next, schedule objectives onto the calendar that will need attention in the future. Finally, block off time (at least several hours) during the week for finishing jobs tagged with the highest level of importance. Productivity requires concentrated focus so create an environment with limited disturbances—turn off emails, texts, and phone calls.
Time blocking often begins with prioritizing work. With only so much time in the day, prioritizing helps leaders figure out what to say no to. For example, Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, advises: “Don’t let your calendar fill up randomly by accepting every request that comes your way. You should first get clear on your life and career priorities and pre-schedule sacred time-blocks for these items.”
Scheduling blocks of time dedicated to uninterrupted focus on one particular task helps people get into the flow of doing “deep work.” Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, defines this skill as, “The ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task,” thus enabling people to “master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”
Step 2 – Plan and Prepare for Growth
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Scheduling time to prepare equips everyone for any upcoming challenges and lessens the need to operate defensively. Those in leadership need to lay out a clear roadmap through preparation and planning. Think of the CEO of an organization as the coach of a football team. Just like in business, players without an offensive strategy from the head leader find themselves playing a reactionary game.
While planning days can seem uninspiring or too structured, in reality, they provide the opportunity for innovative thinking. Often, stepping outside of the office and working in a creatively inspiring place for the day helps people get out of this mentality. Approaching planning with a positive perspective allows room for effective goal setting. Additionally, it helps leaders evaluate their priorities and lay out an overall strategy for the company.
When planning growth, consider:
- Strategies for adaptation and innovation
- Ways in which growth affects current employees and customers
- Phases for launching new objectives
- Creating new roles within the company
- Steps for new hires
- Cultivating positive team culture
- Measures for increasing impact on customers’ lives
Remember, growth is a significant transitionary period for those working within the organization. Involving leaders throughout the company, creating buy-in for new initiatives and working together on a plan for the future helps these efforts succeed. Being in business is an ever-changing landscape, but with time dedicated to planning, change can feel seamless.
Balance Positives and Negatives
Being prepared involves discussing what’s working and what no longer serves employees and customers. When describing how top performers prepare, writer Jeff Haden explains in an article for Inc.com, “First, they focus on the mistakes and figure out, in detail, how they will react to them. [In] Phase Two, [they talk] about everything going exactly right . . . Many top performers (Steve Jobs and Peyton Manning jump to mind) embody this approach.” This helps those guiding the organization to focus on what to leave behind and what to concentrate on in order to move forward.
Step 3 – Press Pause
Having a great work ethic includes scheduling time for resting and recharging. Disregarding the need for regular “pause days”—Saturdays, Sundays or vacation time—increases the likelihood of burnout and exhaustion. Mindfully reserving time for restoration keeps leaders acting within the best interest of the company and its people. For example, spending a few hours per week practicing hobbies such as golfing, cycling, hiking or reading helps give the mind and body rest. Effective time management creates more time to spend with family and friends. When a person’s life revolves around their business 24/7, it affects the quality of care they put into the company.
Restore Energy Expended
The human brain isn’t designed to constantly yield energy. In fact, constant thinking actually generates fatigue. “Regular refueling—input—is a prerequisite for quality output, because the brain is an energy machine, consuming 20 percent of the body’s calories . . . Burning up mental resources without replacing them leads to stress, burnout and poor performance,” provides writer Joe Robinson, who says in an article for Entreprenuer.com that the secret to increased productivity is time off.
Plan for Time Off
While taking time off helps alleviate stress and restores a person’s performance abilities, the U.S. Travel Association reports that Americans left 768 million vacation days on the table during 2018. This was almost a 10 percent increase from the year before. Practicing effective time management doesn’t mean working more hours. During planning time, write out goals and include refuel incentives for achievement of those goals. For example, this might include a week-long retreat if the company meets its yearly revenue goals before the end of the year.
Anticipating planned times to pause can invigorate one’s levels of productivity. Showing up in the right frame of mind for effectively interacting and impacting others’ lives benefits the entire company. Whether it’s a quick workout, lunch away from the office, a free Saturday or a two-week vacation, intentionally include pauses from work in your calendar.
Step 4 – Practice Priority Management
Effective leaders have well-rounded, multi-faceted lives. Taking work and personal priorities into account creates balance. With only 168 hours in every week, business owners and executives must decide what requires their time and what doesn’t. Anything that’s a personal or professional objective must be considered during the prioritization process.
Start prioritizing by:
- Writing down how much time is spent on loved ones, career goals, life mission, finances, personal fulfillment, hobbies and aspirations.
- Analyzing whether or not this amount of timelines up with your priorities.
- Making time management adjustments for the things that are not top priorities.
Learn To Say No
Time management is time protection. Ultimately, a person must decide what priorities take precedence and how to structure time for focusing on them. Saying “no” to some things clears the way for saying “yes” to what matters most. Daniel DiGriz, an entrepreneur, solidifies this point in a Forbes article: “When everything is a priority, nothing has priority. When everything is urgent, all things are equally unimportant.”
When working through priorities, look back on the list created for this week. Now shorten it by 80 percent. This will tell you exactly what absolutely requires a “yes” and you can confidently pencil time for these top priorities into the schedule.
Plan Next Week Now
Making time management a habit requires consistent upkeep, meaning leaders need to daily use the system they select when incorporating the five principles shared in this article. To get started today, check out the list below: