Time Management for Managers: Tips, Tools, Advice, and More
Managers often have the same thing running through their minds — there’s never enough time in the workday to get everything done. It’s an age-old concern that doesn’t lessen with experience.
On top of your day-to-day activities, reports, and duties, you must support your staff to help them complete important tasks and projects. With so much on your plate, personal and professional development is out of the question — you’re merely treading water.
But the high-wire act of balancing routine, people, and workloads isn’t completely out of reach. It boils down to how well you manage your time. Through organization, self-awareness, reflection, and planning, you can turn less time into productivity and learn the principles that guide and govern time management for managers.
Why Time Management for Managers Is Essential
Time management is the process and act of dividing time between various activities and prioritizing the most important tasks. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Good time management skills are typically not innate — both experience and first-time managers can struggle to develop time management strategies and skills.
However, time management is the glue that makes the rest of your managerial duties far easier. Not only does it alleviate waste, but it can also permeate into other areas of your personal and professional life.
Prioritizing is a huge portion of time management, but prioritizing time management itself over other duties can differentiate between success and failure.
Some of the other top benefits of superb time management for managers include:
- Improved work-life balance, more free time, and less chance of burnout
- Reduced stress levels and better mental health and wellness for team members and yourself
- Lessened chance of procrastination
- Increased energy levels and focus
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Fewer distractions
- Enhanced productivity and quality of work
- Efficient, streamlined decision-making
Depending on the amount of time you’re currently wasting and how much you devote to time management for managers, you may find additional or specific advantages within your industry or company.
8 Time Management Tips, Techniques, and Strategies for Managers
Perhaps unsurprisingly, mastering time management takes quite a bit of time on its own. In order to shorten the transitional period between lax time management and exemplary time management, you need a framework.
While you’re going through these time management techniques, tips, and strategies, think about how each one would apply to your unique situation and which ones you need to prioritize as a result.
1. Eliminate Multitasking
Despite the seeming necessity of multitasking in the workplace, studies show that multitasking is actually detrimental to productivity and time management. Humans are meant to handle one problem at a time, known as “monotasking.” When you include additional tasks, you’re more prone to mistakes and inefficiencies — two aspects that can hinder time management for managers.
2. Delegate Tasks
As a manager and leader, you likely didn’t earn your position by deflecting your tasks elsewhere. But when you have pressing tasks, coworkers and employees become assets that can pick up the slack.
Learning how and when to delegate tasks and setting day-to-day roles and responsibilities for your staff is an essential skill. It allows you to focus on more difficult, time-consuming, and specific tasks and discover the people or personalities on your staff capable of handling side work in stride.
3. Set Boundaries and Limit Distractions
Anything that doesn’t contribute to task completion is ultimately a distraction. Unfortunately, distractions are everywhere — both onsite and in remote workplaces. Social media, television, talkative coworkers, and family members all pose a substantial threat to successful time management.
To limit these distractions, set boundaries. Kindly yet firmly tell coworkers that they shouldn’t distract you during certain times of the day. Do the same for your spouse, roommate, or children if you work from home.
4. Set Goals
Without clear goals, you lack direction. You have no idea what you’re trying to achieve or what direction to take. As a result, a lack of setting goals or settling on OKRs (objectives and key results) is one of the biggest detractors of effective time management for managers.
To maintain balance and order, set daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals and stick to them. Make sure they’re achievable, specific, and measurable, and you should find that you’re focusing more on the tasks that matter and less on the ones that don’t.
5. Prioritize and Complete Urgent Tasks First
Even when you set goals, the inevitability of urgent tasks will sometimes take precedence. It’s part of project management and something that every manager encounters at one time or another. Have a contingency plan to deal with urgent tasks by either shuffling your schedule or delegating tasks to others.
On a project, urgent tasks are those which you must complete before other people can get to work or the project can move forward. Though they’re often time-consuming and arduous, prioritize them. By doing so, you open the floodgates to more productivity for others without creating a bottleneck that can derail your time management.
6. Incorporate Task Management
Though inherently different, task management and time management for managers are intertwined. Without one, the other becomes nearly impossible.
While time management focuses on using your time more efficiently — work smarter, not harder — task management deals with getting down to brass tacks. It’s how you take action and complete the task in an effective and efficient manner. Once you’ve focused on time, turn that attention to the task. The transfer of this focus from time to task is one that will keep both aspects in line.
7. Avoid “Pre-crastination”
Procrastination is putting off tasks altogether, but research has uncovered another anomaly. Studied by researchers at Penn State University, “pre-crastination” is the overwhelming urge to do unimportant or easier tasks rather than prioritizing.
Pre-crastination is as much about task management as it is about time management for managers, but it’s something that you may do subconsciously. In an effort to alleviate stress, your brain automatically follows the path of least resistance and pushes simple tasks to the top of the list.
With a bit of self-awareness, you can avoid the temptation to pre-crastinate. If you need a break from more difficult tasks, set specific time limits on easier assignments so you stay on track.
8. Learn to Say “No”
Not every job needs your immediate attention. Poorly planned meetings are notorious time-wasters — although effective meetings still have their place. If possible, ask for meeting minutes or a brief afterward if you’re already working on something that requires your undivided attention. The same goes for tasks that you can delegate elsewhere but were passed to you by a superior.
The ability to say “no” may seem out of reach or damaging to your career aspirations, but it’s a quintessential skill for time-efficient managers.
3 Effective Time Management Tools for Managers
Implementing the tenets of time management for managers is the first step, but you should also embrace the tools that make the transition and establishment of time management smoother. While you should do some research and trial-and-error to find out what tools work for you, here are a few tried-and-true options that have proven useful for managers over the past few decades.
1. The Eisenhower Matrix
Former U.S. President and five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower was a man of many talents, but his words about time management and prioritization lent themselves to a revolutionary time-management tool:
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Enter the Eisenhower Matrix. This 2x2 table/template has two columns labeled urgent and not urgent and two rows labeled important and not important. This allows you to prioritize four tasks (or a to-do list) as follows:
- Important and urgent
- Important and not urgent
- Urgent and not important
- Not urgent and not important
By visualizing these tasks in the table, you ensure that you’re always prioritizing to the best of your abilities.
2. Time Blocks
Time blocks are a schedule for your day, but they’re an effective tool for time management for managers. Instead of jumping around to seemingly unrelated tasks, you block off time throughout the day for specific tasks.
For example, you could devote 30 minutes to emails, six hours to a project, one hour to a meeting, and 30 minutes to winding down. Tailor each block to your own tasks and allotted time, and you should stay on track.
3. Apps and Software
Apps of all types have transformed how people work, and time management is no different. Whether you’re on your phone or at your laptop, these programs allow you to effectively manage your time without much legwork. Test a few of these out to find which one works for your needs:
The Next Step for Managers
Time management for managers is essential to maintain workflow and streamline operations. But the ability to manage an entire business or staff can reach a bottleneck without extra help and training.
Through leadership training and development, managers can improve their abilities to motivate, inspire, and succeed while also mastering the art of time management skills. With Unicorn Labs coaching, retreats, and resources, you can transform your approach to time, leadership, and management for the betterment of yourself and your team. It might just be the little push you need to make your business run like clockwork.