Everyone, at one point or another in their career, struggles with time management and can benefit from planning their time better. In fact, one study found that employees can free up 20 percent of their week simply by exercising more discipline in how they manage their time. That’s reassuring news considering that, just as an example, the average corporate executive receives over 200 emails a day and meetings take up 35 percent of the workweek.
Here are six specific steps you can take to help employees who are struggling with time management.
1. Uncover the source of the problem (and try to minimize it)
Whether someone gets caught up in the details of lower-level priorities or they get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the volume of work, uncovering the source of time management issues can be the first step toward solving them. To get started:
- Talk it through: Have conversations with employees to understand the cause of their time management issues. For example, when an employee complains that they don’t have enough time to complete work and they’re feeling burned out, offer reassurance and help the employee understand which responsibilities are a higher priority and where they should focus their efforts.
- Minimize distractions: Identify distractions like white noise levels or inefficient workspace configurations and try to minimize them. A possible solution is providing flexible work arrangements that allow employees to work on larger, more complex projects from home.
- Recommend a time log: Have employees fill out a time log for a week and then examine the alignment of their time with priorities, where they got derailed, and strategies they can use to get caught up. This is a useful tool that will direct their personal reflection and how they can improve going forward.
2. Make expectations and priorities clear
One of the best ways to ensure individuals meet deliverables on time is by making expectations crystal clear and repeating them as necessary in meetings and one-on-one. Some examples of how you can do this include:
- Using direct language and project schedules to communicate goals, due dates, priorities, and accountability for assignments.
- Talk about team culture when a new member joins. For example, during onboarding, stress that time management is important and employees are expected to be at meetings on time.
3. Offer a helping hand
Some employees may recognize that they need help with time management, while others may not. In any case, you can offer help and support to employees who seem to be struggling with organizing their time wisely. The following techniques are usually quite effective:
- Checking in periodically with employees and simply asking, “What can I do to help?”
- Putting employees in small teams that allow them to divide a large deliverable into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Meeting with individuals one-on-one to brainstorm ideas and create a plan that will help support more effective time management.
4. Model behaviors and coach employees
Employees take time management cues from their team leader. When you arrive at meetings on time and deliver on your commitments, they can see that you practice what you preach. Once you’ve identified that an employee is experiencing a time management challenge, you can also coach them to make the appropriate changes in their behavior through MCR (Model, Coach, Require) coaching, which is comprised of the following steps:
- Model: Leaders model the behavior they desire from an employee, so that the employee sees, understands, and believes in the change.
- Coach: Leaders assess employee behavior and provide coaching, ideas, and a plan for making the improvements a reality.
- Require: Leaders set expectations that require the employee to be accountable for making the necessary changes to their time management behavior.
5. Teach new techniques
An excellent way to help employees practice better time management at work is to teach them how. Effective time management training includes ways to effectively manage resources, as well as techniques for staying organized. Training in the following three areas will significantly support effective time management:
- Planning and prioritizing: Learning how to plan and estimate the timing of key tasks helps employees anticipate how their day will play out. Prioritizing also helps employees avoid playing catch-up on overlooked deliverables.
- Organization skills: It’s necessary to organize time, as well as the space around you. A disorganized work space can lead an employee to waste time looking for a lost item, which can result in a missed deadline or late arrival to a meeting.
- Communication skills: Training that focuses on improving communication skills teaches employees how and when to give updates on the progress of their work.
6. Recognize improvements
Positive reinforcement and recognition help employees understand that they’re meeting performance expectations by effectively managing their time. You can recognize employees who meet deadlines in one-on-one discussions and team meetings. Intentional reinforcement of what employees are doing right will inspire them to continue their efforts and strive for greater improvements.
Time management can be challenging for everyone, but it is a crucial skill in every industry, department, and role. There are many ways to help employees who are struggling with time management, like making expectations clear, providing them with coaching and skills training, and reinforcing their behavior when they master skills. The outcome is less burnout, improved productivity, and an organization full of teams and individuals who manage their time effectively.