How to improve your time management skills
May 9, 2022

How to improve your time management skills

It can feel like you never have enough time as a manager. But why is that?

What you’ll learn:

  • How to prioritise your time
  • How to empower your team to work independently 
  • Tips on how your team can manage their time 

A good way of looking at your time is to classify it into different categories. This helps get a better understanding of what to prioritise and prevents you from feeling like you’re constantly busy but not getting enough done. 

There are roughly three types of time constraint when it comes to work: 

1. Work requested by your manager

These are activities your manager requests, and ignoring them will create significant problems. It’s also important that you understand whether the hierarchy of importance has changed at any time. 

2. Work taken up by your team

These are requests you might receive from your team. They may sometimes (if you’re busy) require a ‘holding email’ where you reassure the team member that you know the task needs doing and will get back to them at an agreed time. 

3. Your own personal work tasks

These are the tasks you want to complete. These could include background reading or training but also personal admin too. It’s important that you don’t put your own tasks to the bottom of the pile so it’s worth scheduling in a couple of these each day so you feel that you’re gradually working your way through them. 

There are of course a lot of other tasks which end up taking up large amounts of time too- these are also often done automatically without much thought i.e. checking emails/social media platforms/work communication platforms. 

Be clear on when you are available 

One of the most important things is to be clear on is setting boundaries. This means that if a team member wants you to check a document then you need to be clear on when you’ll need it by. Much of managing a team's time is about being clear and transparent on expectations in terms of when you expect something to be finished by. 

It may feel like you’re sometimes being too explicit in talking about what time you have and don’t have but the more you spell it out, the less likely your team is to send you something at the wrong moment which will lead to frustration and working overtime. 

Check in at regular intervals to avoid last minute emergencies 

Another common mistake is to leave a team member with a task and then receive it and it’s not finished or doesn’t meet your expectations. 

So typically you should set the task, provide a thorough briefing and notes on what you need, feed in when you want to see a rough draft, then edit and update what you receive and send back at an agreed time. This avoids receiving something last minute and then having to spend time working on it which again interrupts your own workflow. 

Empower your team so they can work autonomously 

The objective for you as a manager is to get your team working with less of your involvement rather than more. This means that they manage their own time rather than you having to micromanage their schedules. 

The way to do this is to let them shadow you on specific tasks that you want them to take over, then give them the opportunity to do the task with you in the background, and then finally handover the task and ask them to complete it on their own. So for example get them to sit in on a client call, then you sit on the call but they lead it and finally you get them to do a call on their own. This results in more time for you! 

Tips on how your team can manage their time 

  • Have a conversation up front about the timelines and what your availability is like over the coming days. Be explicit on when you expect tasks to be done and check to see if this fits with their schedule. 
  • Be mindful of any personal issues that might prevent your team member from completing a task i.e. do they have a sick child? Are they trying to navigate a health concern? Who can you delegate too if they are unable to complete the task?
  • Be clear that you have your own boundaries and so plan to leave at a certain time. This not only sets up good boundaries for everyone else but also ensures you don’t get last minute tasks thrown in your direction. 
  • Have a weekly resourcing meeting where you talk to your team about what they have on, what they need support with, what the priorities are that week. You can potentially use a platform to do this but it needs to be backed up with conversation so you can understand the nuances and also get to grips with what kind of week each team member has. 
  • Give tips on time management. One tip might be to set a timer and log out of distractions for that period of time i.e. no social media for one hour. Another technique is to only check emails/Slack at certain times of the day rather than checking all the time  (which means your attention is taken away from your task). Interestingly university students who multi-tasked took longer to do homework and got lower grades (so multitasking impacts on time and on quality of work too) 

Developing your team to be more independent can be time-consuming in the beginning but the pay off is positive as it means you will have more time to do your own work too!