In the past, time management advice was fairly simple – “Get a day planner and use it!” Planners provided a place to take notes, establish to-do and project lists, and a paper calendar for meetings.
Over the last decade, day planners were replaced with a variety of electronic tools such as apps and electronic calendars. The new time management system is much more individualistic. Your personality and behavioral habits determine what tools work for you and no two organizational systems are exactly alike.
In addition to technology, other changes in time management occurred:
Work-life integration: The goal of good time management was to help people separate and balance their work and their personal lives. Technology has allowed people to integrate work and life, creating a whole new paradigm. With that change comes the good and the bad. There’s more flexibility to address personal issues during the workday, but work is more likely to invade personal space.
Multitasking: Once seen as a badge of courage, it is now known that multitasking is not effective as staying focused on one task. This has prompted many people to start scheduling an “interruption-free” zone, to do work. New research in distractibility has also helped to reinforce the notion that multitasking was never an effective way to be productive.
Mindfulness: The Mindfulness revolution is partly fueled by the findings of renowned researchers who can show that a mindful meditation practice can improve focus and productivity for anyone who gives it a try. It turns out that brains can be trained to get off of autopilot and focus on what’s most important. This can be useful for both home and work.
How should managers help their direct reports become more effective time managers?
- Model good time management for your staff. Be organized, keep track of delegated projects, and start meetings on time.
- Recognize the unique needs of each direct report.
- Observe the habits of your subordinates and talk to them about which tools are working for them.
- Establish some norms for good time management within your group. This might include some guidelines for calendaring, project lists, and team document sharing. The guidelines could also include suggestions such as scheduling travel time or 30-minute lunch breaks into the calendar, building shared group agendas for meetings, or guidelines for sending emails between certain hours.
- Offer training to your direct reports in the new time management.
Good time management is a win-win for managers and individuals. It’s a conversation worth having.