Time Management Skills
Knowing how to manage your time effectively can be one of the most important skills you can learn.
You may have wondered how some colleagues can spend ages chatting to others, mindlessly drinking endless cups of coffee, and still manage to get all of their work done while you struggle to keep up with your workload.
The answer is usually because that person can manage their time effectively.
Time management skills are the ability to work quickly, productively and effectively.
They are transferable skills that can be used in any business, across any sector.
Employers want to recruit people who can manage their time effectively because they are likely to get the work finished to a high quality while adhering to deadlines and timescales.
Time management is about understanding what work needs doing and when it needs to be done.
Time management skills are a catch-all description that covers a range of capabilities, including organizational skills, the ability to delegate and prioritize workloads, multi-tasking and problem-solving, as well as decision-making.
With many different facets making up time management skills, it's easy to see why employers are keen to work with those who have these proficiencies.
Although time management is essential to almost every workplace, many careers rely on time management.
For example, in professional services such as law or accounting (where you may bill by the hour), you need to demonstrate what work you are doing throughout the day.
Similarly, project management or account management job roles where you are responsible for keeping projects or campaigns running on time/budget need someone who can adhere to deadlines.
They need the input of someone who can multi-task and seamlessly juggle various elements
Time management is also about knowing how to organize someone else's time effectively.
Roles such as secretarial positions and administrative assistant job roles will rely on time management because the job is about managing someone else's time.
As a candidate, you need to be able to demonstrate your ability to manage your time effectively. Ultimately, your time management skills should help you break down the specific steps required to complete your chosen goal.
In the workplace, your time management is about organizing your workload effectively – perhaps through the use of to-do lists or work plans.
It's about knowing how to prioritize your tasks and learning how and when to delegate to others.
If you are good at managing your time effectively, you can complete tasks quickly, and you will reduce the impact of being burned out with stress.
If you struggle with your time management skills, you may find that tasks take much longer than anticipated to complete.
As a result, you may miss deadlines or need to work overtime to complete the work. Your quality of work could decrease, or you may not know how to prioritize what tasks need completing.
There are various tools and strategies that you can use in the workplace to improve your time management skills.
A commonly used matrix is the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as a priority matrix). This allows you to visualize the tasks that need urgent priority.
As you can see from the example above, the Eisenhower Matrix breaks up your daily tasks into urgent/important tasks. It allows you to identify what your priorities should be.
You should also make the most of effective to-do lists. These to-do lists are tools that identify your goals.
You can break these goals down into individual steps that allow you to see what you need to do to accomplish these goals. Those who are good at time management tend to write comprehensive to-do lists to help them prioritize tasks.
Multi-tasking in the workplace is also a key element of good time management.
It is unlikely that you would only be working on one task at a time, so you need to find strategies that allow you to work on different tasks simultaneously.
As we mentioned earlier, time management is a phrase that encompasses a wide variety of skills.
Good time management allows you to make effective decisions. This is because you can see what needs to be done and when.
Part of time management is knowing what you can do. If you know that tasks need doing, but you don't have the time to do them yourself, you can delegate them to others.
It's about doing what it takes to get the overall activity done. If you are working as part of a team, delegation is about establishing collaborative solid working practices and understanding how to improve communication amongst team members.
It's easy to start on the enjoyable tasks first, but these aren't always the most critical or urgent jobs.
Your time management skills should allow you to focus your attention on the priorities without being easily distracted.
Your time management is about setting goals and understanding what you need to do.
These could be short-term or long-term goals. It would help if you thought about what is achievable and realistic.
When setting a plan, you may wish to consider the SMART acronym.
Time management skills are about being organized and using careful planning techniques to map out your tasks.
This gives you a clear overview of what you have been asked to do and why.
Organization is about creating a solution that allows you to work effectively, having a clean and tidy desk, a logical filing system or even knowing how to schedule your meetings carefully.
As we mentioned with the priority matrix, knowing how to prioritize your workload is a sign that you can manage your time well.
You need to identify what tasks are essential or time-consuming and allocate enough time for completion.
If you are a good problem solver, then you will likely be good at time management.
This is because you can identify solutions that will allow you to overcome any issues and keep projects on track.
Making sure you allocate enough time for tasks and meetings is a good sign of effective time management.
When you're meeting with someone, you need to anticipate how long it could take and allow enough time for meetings to overrun so you are not constantly behind schedule.
Can you think carefully about the bigger picture? Can you establish why specific tasks need to be prioritized and how this links to your overall business strategy?
Knowing what's essential to the bottom line may help you to identify the key priorities.
Good time management allows you to manage your stress better.
If you are not overwhelmed by your workload, you can be far more relaxed and enjoy a better work-life balance.
Those with poor time management skills are far more likely to need to work overtime and suffer the effects of burnout.
Good time management skills may come naturally to some personality types. But if it's an area where you struggle, you can use strategies to improve your time management skills.
One of the most straightforward strategies is to understand how to set goals.
Break your tasks down into manageable chunks – some plans may be short term; others may be longer term. Your goals could be project-oriented, or they could be personal.
If you're looking to progress your career, then a long-term goal could be to move into a more senior role.
If you break this down into manageable short-term goals, you may need to invest in new training opportunities to upskill yourself or spend time updating your resume.
One practical way to improve your time management skills is to think about using your time more effectively.
If you're constantly in meetings or answering emails/phone calls, you can quickly run out of time to complete your work.
You may wish to use a ‘do not disturb’ feature on your phone or email to give you enough time to work on your tasks.
Another skill is knowing when you need to attend a meeting. If you anticipate a lengthy discussion that will impinge on your ability to do your work, why not see if you can only participate for a short period?
You can ask if you can dip in and out at an appropriate moment, freeing you up to continue getting your work done.
Your prioritization skills are about learning what needs doing first of all. This is a skill that takes practice.
You could work with a line manager or even a mentor to identify your pressing priorities.
Or you could figure out ways to delegate tasks to others – perhaps to other colleagues or even outsourcing to third-party contractors.
This is where to-do lists and work plans can be effective. The more comprehensive the list, the easier it is to know your limitations of what you can or cannot do.
Time management skills cover an array of different skills. Therefore, you need to be clear about how they all blend cohesively.
Try to think about how you can demonstrate these skills.
Think about when you prioritized tasks or moments when you've managed to complete a project on time. Time management isn't about showing an employer that you're prepared to work overtime to get things done – it's about demonstrating examples of when you've achieved tasks or goals within the allocated timespans.
Remember that time management is a skill that you can learn and a skill you can improve upon. There will always be areas for improvement, and the more practice you have, the better your time management skills will become.