In today’s world of work being busy is the norm, but it doesn’t always equate to effective time management and productivity. While recent ONS figures show that UK productivity is back up to its pre-pandemic levels, many organisations are struggling with labour shortages. This places additional pressure on those employees as they endeavour to keep their organisations’ operations running smoothly.
Technology – friend or foe?
While technology can automate aspects of work, it can also be disruptive if people let it. In a survey by Timewatch last year, 32% of people reported constantly looking at email, with 31% responding immediately to each notification.
This paints a sobering picture when figures from Statista suggest 306 billion emails were sent and received every day worldwide in 2020. The figure is projected to increase to over 376 billion daily emails in 2025.
How people use their time
In a recent Development Academy and Acuity Training study, people reported wasting 91 minutes each day on tasks and meetings that aren’t important to their role. A survey by Zapier in 2021 found 76% of respondents spent 1-3 hours a day simply moving data from one place to another.
There are clearly many demands on people’s time. How they choose to respond to those demands can influence if this is positive or stressful to their lives.
Recognising there is a choice is essential, and this quote from performance coach and business speaker Michael Altshuler is a good reminder…
Being alert to your approach
In discussing how people use their time at work, the Business Club members touched on some common time management styles that Clockify had defined.
The Time Martyr – fills their schedule with others’ requests rather than their own tasks.
The Procrastinator – delays work on everything.
The Distractor – has fleeting attention and is easily distracted.
The Under-estimator – rarely lives up to their optimistic deadlines.
The Firefighter – tries to tackle everything on their own, right now.
The Perfectionist – often doesn’t know when to quit when they’re ahead.
Recognising the strengths and weaknesses in your approach to time can greatly help. It can prompt you to tackle unproductive habits, seek help or training when needed, and create an environment to minimise distractions.
Being proactive to liberate time
Club members shared ways they had applied or observed, which helped to effectively manage time and productivity at work.
Rethink your approach to admin
While it is a facet of many jobs, can you delegate any of it to be more productive? Some teams have prohibited non-essential admin being done with key ‘productive’ hours in the working day – for example, between 10 am and 4 pm.
An imposed and unrealistic deadline can be distressing for all parties. With labour shortages, more organisations are having to think carefully about the work they take on and the timeframes they commit to. Have an open conversation with customers/clients early on. Where possible, discuss and collaborate to arrive at an outcome both parties will be happy with.
Similarly, some Club members found it helpful to set a false (earlier) deadline for themselves so they achieved a target on time. To avoid procrastination, others described creating a flagging system to alert them if they had repeatedly deferred an essential task.
Allow more time for decision-making
In today’s busyness, less time is allocated to making important decisions. Some club members argued this could bring risks for organisations long-term. Instead, when faced with a decision, people should be able to request more information and reflection time if they feel it is warranted.
Play to your energy levels
Everyone’s energy levels are different. The importance here is to recognise your unique energy and productivity zones in the day and organise your work with these in mind. While one person may want to tackle challenging assignments first thing, another may benefit from doing these later in the day.
Empathise and redefine instead of saying no
Club members also discussed ways to say no, if they received a work request they felt they could not accomplish. Many thought it was difficult to give a straight refusal to work coming in. Instead, some recommended showing enthusiasm for the work but explaining that a constraint (time, resources, the cost proposed by the customer) would prevent them from accomplishing it.
This would then lead to a further discussion about adjusting components of the work required and its deadline. Such joint re-scoping of the project/task could bring a more satisfying outcome for both.
Help people to help you
People often face ‘busy’ seasons in their work or try to cram in multiple deadlines before they take a holiday. To avoid work coming in which could be done earlier or later, club members found it useful to give colleagues and customers plenty of warning about their busy times or holiday dates.
Delegate, but so colleagues can succeed
Delegation is an essential facet of time management, however, any delegated work needs to be done well to bring efficiency benefits. Business Club members discussed the importance of ownership transfer in delegation – so the delegatee has everything they need to complete the task well. This is helped by:
- Thinking about the person you need to delegate the task to and how they’ll respond.
- If you are emailing them the task, invest time to call or meet with them to check their understanding and answer any questions they have.
- Let them have ownership of the task once you’ve delegated it – they need to decide the deadlines or key stage goals to fit within other work commitments they have.
- Be responsive to any queries they have.
Distractions can be a real drain on people’s time and productivity. Club members recommended switching off as many pop-ups, sounds and other notifications on their devices.
Others value considering the best environment if you have an important task to do. This will be unique for each person as some may find it better to be in the workplace, a quiet meeting room, or working from home, etc.
Club members also stressed the importance of blocking out time for key tasks (as you would a meeting) to have a realistic chance of completing them. Again, playing to your individual energy levels across the day was viewed helpful if you were going to accomplish things well.
The world of work will continue to be busy, but it is essential that people feel comfortable with what they have to accomplish in the time they have available. New technologies bring time-saving and productivity-boosting features; however, their benefits diminish if these add new distractions. Organisations must also be mindful of the digital overload many employees have complained of since the pandemic.
In recent years many are questioning the effectiveness of multitasking. In some reports, multitasking is seen to reduce productivity by 40%. Enabling people to focus on the job at hand and do it well comes from the policies, procedures and skills development an organisation puts in place.
It also comes from individuals acknowledging their unique strengths, weaknesses and energy levels when managing their time and that they are indeed the pilot.
Thank you to all the Club members who joined us at our March event. If you would like to attend our future Business Club events, please get in touch with the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.
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