An essential part of working in any business, correctly allocating time and effort can make the difference between projects being successfully completed or increased cost and resource to get it over the line.
So, what is time management and what are some of the best options available to get the most out
What is time management?
Simply put, time management means estimating the time required for a task and completing it within an allocated period.
As much of a learned skill as an art, effective time management can help reduce burnout, ensure that projects are cleared, and help ensure that clients are kept content.
However, given the nature of modern work, it can be all too easy to find deadlines zipping by, estimates proven incorrect, and the need for ‘crunch’ to ensure that commitments are kept – producing poor quality work and the eventual loss of quality staff or embodied knowledge that can be
hard to replace.
What challenges are faced?
Modern working practice may make it easier than ever to estimate time, but estimating it correctly is incredibly difficult.
The aim of any good time management technique allows the users to break a task down into components and provide a validated estimate on the work, and track progress.
However, the true test of its effectiveness is when humans get their hands on it.
Employees may not have the wherewithal to self-police their own estimates. Some projects may be unique and require over-budgeting, or – as is common in software fields – unpredictable issues may occur that need to be accounted for.
More than anything, a good time management tool should be quick and clean to deploy. Anything that does not immediately ‘click’ with your current practice will inevitably produce friction. A solid tool should allow for a degree of ownership, high level reporting, but also ensure that users are not overly policed.
Bearing this in mind, it’s important to look at some quick wins that can help improve the quality of the time management that takes place on a daily basis.
What tricks work?
While there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ there are a number of options available that can help your teams when they need it most.
Finding the right techniques that work for your teams can involve a significant amount of trial-and-error and commitment from your teams. However, taking the time to properly plan and use some basic tricks can quickly allow you to make improvements. For example…
Or ‘to do’ lists. This involves taking a look through your schedule at the start and end of the day, letting you prioritise your tasks in terms of importance. This can be as simple as a five-minute check to confirm what needs to be done or a detailed daily meeting to track priorities.
Allows individuals to become more familiar with their tasks and role within company.
Can be a struggle when multiple individuals and interconnected roles are involved.
The next step up from triage, once team members are familiar with breaking down tasks, it becomes important to prioritise the most important ones. Also known as ‘eating the frog’ this requires a degree of autonomy from team members, allowing them to stay reactive to change.
Helps teams stay responsive to change and builds autonomy and responsibility.
This is built upon a degree of competency in timekeeping. Changing an allocated schedule requires a scale of judgement that may clash with high-level business priorities.
Project Management Tools
The next logical step on from lists, choosing a digital project management tool allows supervisors to view live progress and allocate tasks to team members. This makes remote communication simple and allows team members to self-report, taking the burden of supervision off
managers. However, many out of the box solutions can fail to be fit-for-purpose and costly, often proving a burden or a vestigial practice before long.
Helps give an at-a-glance overview of work being carried out. Also allows for digital reporting for long-term feedback and insight.
Can be difficult to ‘onboard’ and a lack of ability to communicate with other office platforms can result in human error or inaccurate reporting on projects.
At the end of the day, everyone is human. And that means it’s important to take regular scheduled breaks and not ‘over commit’ to a project. While it may be tempting to work extra hours on a project, any additional time spent can significantly increase overtime. The most common is the
pomodoro technique, which has employees working for 25 minute increments and taking short breaks- preventing mental fatigue.
Keeps work fair and equitable and increases quality of output. Also enforces periods of ‘focus’ and encourages employees to cultivate ‘flow’.
Requires accurate project estimation and can be difficult to enforce with certain personality types.
Choosing the right dashboard solution can allow your teams to work together and collaborate more effectively. This is supported by a customisable integrated platform and should – at a minimum – allow you to track effort, commitments, and enable you to segment projects into individual tasks. This should allow for a period of onboarding and testing, enabling team members to tailor and configure the system so that they can help with the training of others.
Produces a ‘unified front’ that allows for light-touch planning that all can see.
Some systems can produce a barrier for entry or may not be fit-for-purpose.
If you or your teams are struggling to accurately budget your time, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to deploy the software solution you need to solve your bespoke issues.
You can view our full list of services and packages from here.
Or if you have specific requests or needs, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let our team know exactly how we can help drive efficiency throughout your organisation.