Missed deadlines, frequent following up on assigned tasks, errors in what is completed - these are all signs that an employee may have time management issues. As a leader, it is your role to coach employees to be optimally productive. Taking the time to do this not only strengthens the employee’s contributions but also strengthens the contributions of your team to the organization. Like developing any new skill, time management takes practice and coaching. Here are four ways you can help an employee with time management issues.
1. Set Expectations and Deadlines
When an employee doesn’t have a clear deadline for a project, it will inevitably fall to the bottom of the list in favor of more urgent items. However, those ignored tasks will eventually become urgent, causing the employee unnecessary stress and possibly impacting their quality of work if they don’t have enough time to thoughtfully complete them.
For leaders, it’s important to set clear timelines with employees. Less experienced employees can also benefit from being told how long specific tasks should take because they might not yet have a sense of this.
2. Determine Priorities
Setting priorities is one of the most effective ways to manage time and people. The most effective way to manage your team is to ensure that they are all focused on the items of the highest priority. To create an effective priority list four criteria need to be considered:
Urgency: How crucial is it that this task is done soon? If very crucial move it up the priority list.
Authority: How high a priority is this in the opinion of leadership? The opinions of leadership should carry very significant weight.
Time Required: How long will it take to complete this task? A short task can often be moved up the list. Similarly, a long task may need to be delayed, or broken into several smaller tasks over time; each of which is now short so can easily be moved up in priority.
Impact/Consequences: Once the task is done, what will be the impact? Will it be very significant? Conversely, if the task is not done, or delayed, what will be the consequences? How severe will they be? Determine the priority by its impact once completed. Items of little consequence should move down the priority list.
3. Co-Create a Schedule
This might seem like a basic step, but it can be very effective. Helping an employee schedule their time each day to make sure they complete all of the work items on their list. Ensure they schedule more than just appointments and meetings— have them block out time to work on specific tasks.
Ask them about their productivity levels throughout the day and schedule around their own behaviors. If they are more productive in the morning, make sure they have time carved out to maximize that period of high output. It may seem obvious, but it’s important that they look at their schedule at the beginning of each day, before diving into an email or responding to the first question that is asked of them. Starting their day with a clearly outlined schedule will help ensure that the tasks you have prioritized will get completed because they are not just reacting to issues as they arise.
Once you have co-created a schedule have them create the next week’s schedule. This is a great opportunity to further coach on them on priorities, expectations, and deadlines.
4. Help Employees Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks
Many of us can relate to receiving the news in a meeting of a large project that needs to be completed and thinking where do I even start. Often, employees feel the same way. For leaders, it is important to help employees who are feeling overwhelmed to break up the task at hand into smaller steps so they can see constant progress and stay motivated to completion.
Some tasks might require a significant amount of time (or brain space) to complete, but when you help your struggling employees break the tasks down to fit their work into these discrete-time blocks, the tasks can feel more manageable, whether they complete them in 15-minute chunks or an hour at a time.
Building new time management behaviors doesn’t happen overnight, but by working with your employee on these four strategies, you will find that they have more time in their day to be far more productive.