We all claim to have this on our resumes. Some even go as far as to mention this as a strength during the interview. We’ve all heard the phrase “strong time management skills” uttered at one point or another, but what exactly is time management and, more importantly, how do you measure an individual for strength in this area? Time management is the process of using one’s time wisely and efficiently to maximize productivity, so, naturally, an individual who consistently meets her goals would be described as having strong time management skills. If, however, you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and feel you are constantly competing with the clock to chip away at your daily tasks, you may have some room for improvement when it comes to managing your time.
In order to get a better grasp of your time management abilities, you first need to take a closer look at the job duties required of you on a typical work day. This can be accomplished by creating a written task list itemizing each task that needs to be accomplished each day. As the work day progresses, cross of the completed tasks so that you have a visual picture of how much was left undone at the end of the day. Ask yourself, “Why were these tasks not completed” and “What could I have done to ensure I had more time to complete these tasks”? Many workers admit that they have several workplace distractions, most notably using company time for personal uses such as accessing social media sites, checking personal e-mail or making personal phone calls. If this is the case, be sure to make yourself more aware of your time during the day so less time is spent conducting personal business and more time is focused on completing the items on your task list.
One of the primary attributes to strong time management ability is the ability to effectively set priorities. If you consistently fall behind schedule or fail to meet deadlines, this is the first area that you should revisit. Jot down each of your projects or tasks as well as their corresponding due dates. If you have multiple projects due on the same date, break them down even further in terms of the estimated length of time you anticipate for completion and overall importance in terms of organizational impact. For example, upon closer evaluation of your day you may decide to re-prioritize your task list to move items with impending deadlines to the top, followed by items of significant importance and, finally, clerical or administrative tasks that would not have much of an adverse affect if they weren’t completed until tomorrow.
Time measurement is most notably measured in terms of the percentage of goals completed, however your overall productivity numbers may be skewed if your daily goals are set too high or too low. So how do you know if your goals are adequately set? One way is by analyzing statistics such as performance of co-workers in the same or similar positions or by reviewing historical performance data for the position. You can also evaluate your comfort level based on your individual work speed and completion ratio. For example, if you feel that you are efficiently utilizing each second of your workday and are still unable to complete all of your tasks, it may be possible that your goals are not realistically attainable within a standard work day. Before you approach management regarding this issue, it is imperative that you be confident in the efficiency of your time management. Or in other words, make sure you are certain that your inability to reach your work-related goals is truly due to them being unrealistic and not due to being distracted by those last few phone calls or taking excessive smoking breaks.
A true sign of an individual who possesses strong time management skills is what he does with any downtime on the job. If you have completed your tasks ahead of schedule, do you use the remaining hours of your shift to goof around or do you seek out other projects or tasks to work on? The best way to utilize these unexpected gaps in your work day are to work ahead on the next day’s task list or ask around within your department to see what else needs to be done. This will ensure that you remain in control of your time, workload and, ultimately, a top contributor to your organization.
Have you recognized the need to improve your time management skills but do not know where to begin? Consider attending a workshop or seminar designed specifically to improve time management and workplace productivity. Companies such as Fred Pryor and Casey “The Productivity Coach” Moore continuously offer workshops in the Hampton Roads area as well as many other locations nationwide.