Time is the most precious resource anyone has, yet no one is able to use it with 100% efficienty. Although this may be true, it's important that you use it the best you can. This is an issue a lot of employers have with their employees unfortunately.
When employees don't use their time wisely, this leads to overall lowered productivity in the company. On top of this, bad time management can create negative attitudes and a degree of chaos.
However, like with most problems, there is a solution.
The first step is to understand that good time management skills is not something that you are born with, it's something you develop as a child and then master in adulthood. However, for some strange reason, not everyone masters this important skill. That's why it's important to not get mad at the people with lackluster time management capabilites, but rather see it as an opportunity to help someone reach their potential.
Now, you may think it's funny that the first step into helping someone else blossom is to change your own mindset, but as a manager, you have more power than you think in helping your employees evolve as workerts.
The next step is to identify the employees with the time management skills "deficit." The first offenders are the people who don't plan ahead so that everything runs smoothly on time. So for example, people who walk into meetings at 9:30 when the meeting is supposed to start at 9:30. This can be seen more as a mind-reading problem; not everyone can read your mind.
"Make sure it's really clear," says Bruce Tulgan, author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap. Use very direct language: "If we have a phone call, I expect you to be on the line at the time the call is scheduled." You can even go the extra mile and ask, "Is there something you need from me to help you meet that expectation?" Tulgan suggests. Then thank the person for meeting the expectation, or note when she doesn’t meet the expectation, and reiterate it. Says Tulgan, "What a lot of managers find is that’s really all they had to do."
That's not too bad right?
The second offenders are the people who don't meet deadlines, cram before them, or ambush teams with last-minute requests. These are the difficult ones to deal with.
Maia Heyck-Merlin, author of The Together Leader, suggests having your team member track his or her time, ideally for a whole week. Then you can look at the data together. She suggests asking a few questions:
- How well is your time aligned with what matters most?
- What gets in the way of spending time on your priorities?
- What took more time than you thought it would?
- What took less time than you anticipated?
- How well are you able to use small pockets of time?
Once these questions are answered, you and your employee can brainstorm ideas together. You don't want to force ideas on them, but rather make it feel like they are making the changes through their own will.
Sometimes brainstorming with an employee will open your eyes to some mistakes you could be making as well, such as overscheduling or putting unrealistic deadlines on projects.
So put yourself in a coaching mind-set. As your employee approaches a long-term project, "Have them make a plan, and then you’ve got to review the plan," says Tulgan. Include lots of intermediate benchmarks with deliverables and dates. Have the person create a list of concrete actions necessary to achieve each benchmark with estimated time budgets for each task. "Make sure the time budgets are realistic," says Tulgan. Has he thought about what he’ll need from other departments? Has he thought about what might go wrong? If you arrive at an estimate of four hours for a step, then you can look at his calendar together and block in when that can happen.
It's not an easy task to improve time management for employees, but it's well worth it. Just have an open mind when approaching the problem, and follow our advice and you will end up saving time in the long run.