Master your time management

Wishing you had more hours in the day? You can't change the amount of time you're given, but here's how you can change what you do with it.

Master your time management

Do you wish you had more hours in the day? Nikki Heald, managing director of Corptraining explains that it's not the amount of time, it's what you do with it, that matters:

If you think it’s getting harder and harder to manage your time, you’re certainly not alone. More and more employees are complaining about the pressure on their time and how their workload appears to be increasing.

We each have 24 hours in our day, so why is it that some people breeze seamlessly through their tasks and others struggle with time?

Time management is really about managing yourself. While we can’t control the number of hours in our day, we can control the way we work.

Firstly, in order to make positive time-management changes it’s important to develop the mindset that your time is valuable. In other words, recognising the importance of what you do and deciding what deserves your energy. The essence of working effectively is; firstly, knowing what to do; and secondly, just doing it. 

Now while these appear to be very simple steps at first glance, with so many distractions and interruptions in the workplace, it’s easy to lose focus. Research has demonstrated that approximately 2.1 hours per day is wasted on trivial intrusions. These time wasters destroy any attempt at effective time management if they are not identified and eliminated. Some interruptions, of course, are necessary and cannot be avoided but many are just needless annoyances.

Think about your working day and consider all of the inconsequential disturbances that may occur. Some of the biggest time wasters include checking Facebook, texting, social chit chat, smoke breaks, IT issues, humorous emails, feeling tired, personal phone calls, questions from colleagues and notifications. It’s easy to see just how quickly 2.1 hours can accumulate. 

Additionally, a lot of time may be spent on Low Pay-Off activities, rather than High Pay-Off Activities. Our high pay-off activities are those activities that bring us maximum return. Essentially, they are tasks or actions that are the most significant. High pay-offs are duties that are generally aligned with our KPI’s, targets or form part of our job description. 

Low pay-off activities are those activities which, in reality, don’t significantly impact on results or the bottom line. And yet it’s often these tasks that get the majority of our attention. Why? Well, firstly they often require minimal effort and can be done quickly. This provides us with instant gratification - we feel as though we’ve been ‘busy’. Additionally, because they are easier, they may be more pleasant and enjoyable to complete than high pay-off tasks.  

High pay-off activities will vary from person to person, job to job. A low pay-off for one individual may well be a high pay-off for another. Either way, it’s vital you have a clear understanding of what your high pay-offs are. That way, you can ensure that maximum time is devoted to these.

In theory and ideally, we should be aiming to work on high pay-offs for around 70 - 80% of our working week. Unfortunately, research has demonstrated that realistically only about 40% of our working week is actually spent on them.

The trick is to identify your low pay-offs and once you’ve done so, consider ways to remove or eliminate them. Not everything has to be done by you!

  • Create a list outlining low pay-off tasks in one column and high pay-offs in the other. Doing this will provide clarity about where the majority of your time is being depleted and allow you to recognise where your time should be invested.

Learning to manage your time wisely not only improves productivity but also has important health benefits. When we feel more in control of our workload it’s only natural we are likely to feel less stress. How many times have you taken work home or logged on remotely late at night? If you find yourself doing this consistently, it’s important to recognise the toll on your health, well-being and ability to relax.