Time management is a key factor within a business. Maintaining a steady workflow and keeping a record of time is crucial to running an efficient company. When it comes to filling your day with useful tasks, every minute counts.
Despite the importance of time management, studies show a large majority of people waste time during an average day. Whether this is deliberate or subconscious is up for debate - but either way, it shouldn't be happening at all. Even if one employee is time-wasting, this is cutting into the working day and reducing workplace efficiency.
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How much time is wasted?
A study by Salary.com claims a massive 89% of employees waste at least some time each day at work. The top 10% waste a staggering three hours or more daily, while 31% waste around 30 minutes. That equates to an average of more than 15 hours per week of wasted time, affecting productivity and increasing costs as a result of poor time management.
The study concludes that any employees who waste more than half their working day on non-work activities are likely to be "beyond help". Researchers claim even time management training may not help alleviate their issues, as there either isn't enough work for them, or they need to find a new role.
For other employees who have less serious time management issues, there are several ways of helping them to be more productive. Workers who are wasting time may actually wish they had more to do. It could be a case of the management not managing the workload efficiently. In this situation, low employee morale can result, leading to a reduction in staff retention.
Some employees who have the potential to be high performers can get lost in time-wasting if this is the general ethos of the workplace, so it's important that the leaders step in to nip it in the bud.
How can businesses manage their time efficiently?
The first step is to set goals, both long and short-term, making sure every staff member is aware of them - so they understand how their individual activities are crucial to meeting these shared goals. Be precise rather than vague: simply saying your goal is to "grow the business" isn't good enough. You need attainable goals that employees understand.
A modern method is the SMART goals theory. "Smart, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound" goals require managers to draw up clear, step-by-step duties for employees. When you've set SMART goals, work with employees to determine the individual steps that must be taken to achieve them. Have a daily plan, so staff can work on the activities directly relating to growing the business in this way.
Have you got your priorities right?
Once goals have been set, make sure you're getting the relevant things done on time. Self-help author Stephen Covey suggests compiling a "to do" list based on urgency, before working your way through it. Each individual task should be placed under a specific heading: Important/urgent, important/non-urgent, urgent/not important, or non-urgent/non-important.
The top category is filled with tasks that must be done immediately and your energy should be focused on completing them before you even think about moving on to something else. The important/non-urgent tasks may look important on the surface, but when you examine them more closely, you realise they can be postponed to a later date if necessary, without any detriment to your business - they can include tasks that are integral to your business, but can wait if there are more pressing things to do. For example, updating your website or finding a more efficient payroll solution. Both are important, but your business won't suffer if you don't do them today.
Urgent but not important tasks are described as those that "make the most noise", but have little lasting impact when accomplished. They can include things like dealing with a sales call from a potential supplier seeking to work with your company, or a co-worker who pops into your office unannounced to ask a favour. If possible, delegate these kinds of tasks.
Non-urgent/non-important tasks are low-priority stuff that can make you seem busy. In reality, these things can wait, as they are not vital to your own workload or achieving the company's goals.
As you complete each task on your list, tick it off, as this gives you a sense of accomplishment. It can further motivate you to carry on moving through your list. Once the most important tasks have been achieved, it's time to tackle the less urgent ones when you have the time.
When you’re the boss, you don't always have to say "yes" to requests if they are not vital and detract from the important goals you have set yourself in the particular time period. If there are any projects and activities that seem to be going nowhere, you can cut your losses and move on, rather than trying to complete something you know isn't working, just for the sake of it.
Priorities can change and it's important to be on the ball and flexible enough to admit something isn't going as planned and to then move on to something more productive.
ISGUS UK specialises in innovative time management solutions that are both efficient and cost-effective. We can help businesses across many different sectors. Please contact us for further details of our products and services.