Time Management in the Workplace

Time management is a term that refers to the conscious control over time spent on certain activities and it is a key skill in the workplace. Employees and employers are constantly facing deadlines and overloaded with appointments, assignments and projects. The concept of multi-tasking has been implemented in most workplaces and working individuals need to master time management and flexibility in order to succeed in their job.

The American Psychological Association (APA) study shows that one in three employees are chronically overworked. One in five admits to making numerous mistakes as a result of overwork. Annually, job stress costs the United States economy more than USD 300 billion due to absenteeism, turnover and diminished productivity. Stress can be significantly reduced by better time management.

Effective time management in the workplace is closely linked to a number of other skills, such as planning, goal setting, delegating, analyzing and prioritizing. The first step to learn how to manage time is to examine an individual's daily process of work. Keeping a time diary or a time log is important as this will help develop an understanding of planning and action patterns and enable an individual to see what can be improved and modified in order to save time. Experts suggest that a worker should divide their day into 15-minute intervals and at the end of each hour record how it was spent. The log should be kept over a week or two.

In his book Time Management and Personal Development (2003), John Adair argues that time is the most valuable resource that a manager has and other people's time should be considered just as important. He states that having a daily to-do list is essential as it not only helps to visualize the tasks for the day but also provides a sense of control and direction, which in turn helps boost confidence. Tasks should be rated according to urgency and importance and a time limit for each one should be allocated. Adair advises that a daily plan is best written at the end of the previous day.

A simple system of prioritizing has been suggested by Alan Lakein in his work How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (1973). According to Lakein, an employee should first decide on which tasks are the most important and mark them with an A. The less important activities will be awarded B and C. Next, take the A group and rank the most important of the tasks as 1. This method will produce the top priority for the day, A-1. Lakein says that A-1 should not necessarily be done at the very beginning of the day and an employee might start with an easier task, B-2 or C-1, just to get the momentum going.

Another important aspect of effective time management is knowing how to make the best use of your time. For example, depending on whether an individual is a morning or night person, it is best to plan meetings at different times of the day. Learning to say "No" is a key strategy in time saving. Being focused on the objective at all times helps achieve it faster, keeping distractions to the minimum.

Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1990), claims that there are seven steps to achieve optimal time management and to achieve goals. The steps that he suggests are proactive thinking; starting with the goal in mind; prioritizing; trying to achieve an all-win situation such as searching for mutual benefits; making sure an individual understands what is happening in a situation; synergizing by sharing problems and looking for advice from colleagues, family or friends; and trying to always improve on skills and abilities.

Effective delegation of tasks is key to time management. Usually managers have more responsibilities than they have time to take care of them. By delegating, managers are left with more time to lead and manage, which in turn can result in a better quality of work. Employment experts argue that it is essential to take the following steps into consideration - who to delegate tasks to, as choosing the right person is crucial for the successful accomplishment; briefing and checking what has been understood; in addition to supporting staff sensibly and sensitively.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Time Trap
Alec Mackenzie; Pat Nickerson.
American Management Association, 2009 (4th edition)
Life Coaching: A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach
Michael Neenan; Windy Dryden.
Brunner-Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Time Management"
The Concise Time Management and Personal Development
John Adair; Melanie Allen.
Thorogood, 2003
The Bargaining Manager: Enhancing Organizational Results through Effective Negotiation
Bernard A. Ramundo.
Quorum Books, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "Managing Time"
The Time Famine: Toward a Sociology of Work Time
Perlow, Leslie A.
Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 1, March 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Time, Growth, Complexity, and Transitions: Entrepreneurial Challenges for the Future
Slevin, Dennis P.; Covin, Jeffrey G.
Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, Vol. 22, No. 2, Winter 1997
Measuring How People Spend Their Time: A Time-Use Survey Design
Stinson, Linda L.
Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 122, No. 8, August 1999
Get the Right Balance: CPAs Who Use a Mix of Business Strategies and Time-Management Tips Can Achieve Harmony between Work and Home
Miller, Susan W.; Doucet, Thomas A.
Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 194, No. 1, July 2002
The Role of Socially Constructed Temporal Perspectives in the Emergence of Rapid-Growth Firms
Fischer, Eileen; Reuber, A. Rebecca; Hababou, Moez; Johnson, William; Lee, Steven.
Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, Vol. 22, No. 2, Winter 1997
Synchronizing Time for Work and Family: Preliminary Insights from Qualitative Research with Mothers
Morehead, Alison.
Journal of Sociology, Vol. 37, No. 4, December 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Training and Development of School Principals: A Handbook
Ward Sybouts; Frederick C. Wendel.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Time Management " begins on p. 118
Close the Deal: Smart Moves for Selling
Sam Deep; Lyle Sussman.
Perseus Publishing, 1999
Relationships between Supervisor Behavior, Family Support and Perceived Time Management Ability
Burt, Christopher D. B.; Forsyth, Darryl K.
New Zealand Journal of Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 1, June 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Computers as Assistants: A New Generation of Support Systems
Peter Hoschka.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Systems to Support Cooperative Work: Coordination Support by Task Management"
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