The concept of billable hours is definitely familiar for companies that bill their clients by the hour. Software consultancies and agencies often work on the so-called "time and materials" basis. It means that they need to track...
Do you consider yourself a busy manager?
If so, which description fits you better?
- you have a lot to do,
- you’re occupied constantly, to the point where it has a detrimental effect on your job, personal life, and health.
Hopefully, you can see that these two ways of explaining the term “busy” have very different connotations. Chances are that, as a manager, you’ll often stay busy in the sense of having things to do. You will have goals and priorities, and your team will seek your advice. However, being always occupied is something you can definitely avoid with successful time management.
In this blog post, we will share our best tips for effective time management. Some of them are relatively easy to apply, and others will require you to seriously re-evaluate your work habits. However, we’re confident that being able to manage your time effectively is worth the effort.
Effective time management tips for managers:
Find out why you’re busy
We highly recommend that you start working on your time management skills by analyzing your work habits. Why are you busy? Perhaps you spend hours every day sitting through meetings? Or you’re often switching context trying to address new tasks and challenges as soon as they arrive? Try to evaluate the way you work and spot potential improvement areas.
How to approach such an analysis? If your company uses employee time tracking software, you might be able to rely on historical data. Otherwise, dedicate a couple of days to note down what you’re up to and how much time it takes you to do it. You can also try to pick up on red flags: stress, negative feedback from your team, not being able to deliver important tasks on time. We’ll still try to convince you to embrace proper time tracking (see tip #7), but quick notes can be a good start to understand why you’re so busy.
Define goals and prioritize tasks
Can you, off the top of your head, list the main goals you want to achieve this week/month/quarter? Can you tell which general objective your current task contributes to? In order to be a productive manager, you should have clear goals aligned with company and team objectives. Spending a couple of days designing goals for your team and yourself can save you much time in the long run. It will be easier to stay focused and motivated when you know you’re working towards a specific, measurable goal. On top of that, you will be able to successfully avoid time-wasters—activities that may seem urgent, but in reality, have little to do with your team’s success.
Now that you have defined the goals, you should outline and prioritize tasks that will take you there. Being a manager, you probably will only work on some of the tasks, so try to make sure that you pick ones that truly require your expertise. If you want to read more about prioritization techniques, check out our guide to project task prioritizing.
Stick to your priorities
While we’re on the topic of priorities and time management, it’s absolutely crucial to remember that you need to stick to your priorities. At the risk of sounding like a buzzkill: don’t work on things just because they’re exciting!
Let us run a scenario: imagine you’re a senior manager at a creative agency. You’ve started your career as a UX designer, and you still cherish the feeling of flow when working on wireframes. Your current job requires you to overview all creative proposals made by your agency and work with a team of UX specialists and illustrators. You believe they’re great at their job, but you still like to, every now and then, jump in and take over some designs. This type of behavior is a sign of micromanaging, but it also might be terrible for your productivity.
We’re not trying to say that you should devote your days to mundane tasks—ideally, you will be excited by your primary managerial duties as well. The thing is to stay on track and get one step closer to meeting your objectives. However, if you feel frustrated with your current responsibilities and would rather explore a different career path, it might be a sign for you to take a closer look at this need.
New emails appearing in your inbox, Slack notifications, employees entering your office with “can I take a minute?” — we’re sure most managers can list plenty of potential interruptions happening during their workdays. As a manager, you probably won’t avoid all distractions, but you can manage them more effectively. Set some rules, both for you and your team. For instance, you might decide only to check your email twice a day and deal with all urgent emails immediately instead of “starring” them and leaving them for later. Another idea would be to schedule a “do not interrupt” period in your calendar. It may do wonders for your productivity, as long as you devote it to focused work.
Learn what helps you to focus
Some people do their best work when listening to music on sound-proof headphones. Others appreciate small rituals at the beginning of a focused work session – brewing a green tea, for instance. Can you identify things and circumstances that support your focus? Knowing what puts you in the flow state will help tremendously with time management as long as you follow the next tip as well.
Play to your strengths
Once you realize what supports your productivity, take advantage of it. If you’re most productive before noon, set a time block devoted to deep work. If you struggle with creative assignments in the second half of your workday, schedule them for the early hours. Knowing your productivity patterns and making the most of them is a foundation of excellent time management.
Track your time
We’ve talked a great deal about analyzing your work habits and productivity patterns. Do you know what will help you notice them? Time tracking. Granted, we’re not talking about the timesheets you sign off at the end of the week or month just to adhere to your organization’s guidelines. These are often useless for measuring anything. But if you fill out your timesheet in real time using a robust time tracking application, you can learn a lot from this data. You’ll see how you spend your time at work: how much time goes into current tasks, team management, or potential distractions. With this knowledge at hand, you can make optimizations: embrace effective meeting management, try out different time management techniques, and move things around in your calendar.
Bonus advantage: if you utilize time tracking team-wide, you can also get more insights about your employees’ productivity and keep track of their projects’ progress. Read more about timesheet management.
Find time for your team
When looking for optimizations in your schedule, you shouldn’t forget about your team. Naturally, you’ll still need time to talk to them, give them feedback, and help them grow professionally. It’s a good idea to set time for your one-on-one meetings in advance to not forget about them or schedule them in a suboptimal time slot. Bonding and communicating with your team is important for many reasons, but one of them has to do with time management directly. Knowing more about your teammate’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know better to whom you should delegate a given task.
Take control of your calendar
What happens to your calendar when you have an “empty” day? Most likely, people start scheduling meetings, brainstorms, job interviews with potential employees, etc. Sure, sometimes you simply have to participate in a meeting, but you can do it on your terms. Use your online calendar to block the time you already know you will dedicate to a certain activity, e.g., your focused work sessions. It doesn’t mean you should block your whole days just because you don’t want to be bothered by meetings or other requests. As we said, you won’t be able to avoid them once and for all. What you can definitely do is putting your most important activities in the calendar and leaving some time for others to book.
Have visibility into your and your team’s workload
Goals outlined? Tasks prioritized? Great! Now, it’s time to make sure that you and your teammates have just enough work during the day. Maintaining optimal resource utilization is critical: You don’t want to overwork your employees (or yourself), but you also need to avoid underutilization.
How does it play into your time management? As a manager, you should be willing to delegate some tasks to your teammates. When you’re not sure about their workload, you can, inadvertently, put extra pressure on someone who already has a lot on their plate.
Now, you might be wondering: how should I keep track of my workforce’s workload and utilization? It’s not about looking your employees deep in the eyes seeking signs of fatigue. Resource planners like Teamdeck give you a robust way of tracking people’s schedules and optimizing them for better productivity. You will also be able to monitor your own schedule and, once you see that it’s getting tight, you can delegate tasks to your team in advance.
Resource planning tools like Teamdeck give you great visibility into your team’s workload, timesheets, and vacations. Sounds like a good solution for your team? Drop us a line and schedule a product demo with Joanna.
Manage time effectively
Being overworked is terrible for your well-being, and it can take a toll on your personal life. Busy managers are also worse at their job: managing teams. Research shows that “bosses with heavier (vs. lighter) workloads prioritized core technical tasks over treating employees fairly, and as a result, were less likely to be reported as acting fairly by their employees.”
Surely, you don’t want to be that kind of manager. Use our list of time management tips and pick a couple of points that speak to you the most. Then, work on implementing them in the next couple of weeks. You’re likely to see a real difference soon. Good luck!