How to manage time as a shared resource

How to manage time as a shared resource
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When we talk about time management, we usually think about personal productivity. Where am I spending my time? Is it efficient? But how an organization spends its time is just as important to think about, measure, and manage carefully.

In this post we will:

  • Offer a short introduction to organizational time management
  • Go over some of the benefits of improving your organizational time management
  • Explain why time is a shared resource
  • Offer tips on how to manage time effectively as an organization
  • Suggest a few organizational time management tools to try today

Let’s get started!

What is organizational time management? 

Organizational Time Management just means looking at time as a scarce, shared resource. Most organizations carefully track where their money goes. But are they spending as much time, money, and energy tracking where their time goes? 

Organizations should be as careful with their time as they are with their money, and invest it just as effectively and efficiently. They should bring the same discipline to setting and maintaining time budgets as they do to capital budgets. 

Organizational time management could mean tracking:

  • How much time workers spend on various projects and tasks
  • Who workers spend most of their time with
  • How many meetings workers attend in a given month
  • How necessary and effective those meetings are 

So that’s what organizational time management is. In the next section we’ll go over some of the many benefits better managing time can offer organizations. 

What’s the impact of time management on organization performance?

According to Bain & Company, organizational time management can help organizations in many ways. 

Some of these include helping:

  • Identify low-value activities and spend less time on them
  • Identify unnecessary, unproductive meetings and spend less time in them
  • Reduce time-wasting behaviors like parallel processing and double booking 
  • Reduce unnecessary headcount
  • Free up executives’ time for value creation 
  • Better deploy talent 

All this leads to less time pressure on executives, lower costs, and greater productivity. 

Why is time a shared resource? 

If you’re working on a team, your time isn’t yours alone. We all understand that teams share resources, whether they be monetary, technological, and physical. But they also share time. If team members misallocate some of the team’s money, we understand intuitively that there’s less money to go around and the team suffers. The same is true of their time. If a team member spends their time unwisely, there’s less of their time to put toward shared goals. 

Time is at least as valuable and finite as monetary, technological, and physical shared resources. As such, we recommend thinking about, measuring, and being accountable for a team’s time like you would any other finite, valuable shared resource. 

How do you manage time as a shared resource? 

You manage time as a shared resource much like you manage any other shared, valuable resource. There are essentially four steps:

1. Prioritize

2. Measure

3. Calculate ROI

4. Continually refine

Let’s dig deeper into each step.

1. How to prioritize your organization’s needs

The first step to better organizational time management is to get clear on your priorities as an organization. Trying to do everything is a surefire way to accomplish very little. 

McKinsey recommends beginning by choosing up to five priorities, max, for the year. If you’re running an organization, these are the organization’s top-five priorities. If you’re running a team, it’s for your team. If you’re looking at your own priorities, then these are your top-five personal priorities. 

There are many ways to prioritize your initiatives. One way is to consider each goal’s urgency and the importance. A tool like the Eisenhower matrix can help here. 

Time management and productivity expert Brian Tracy recommends reviewing your to-do list and asking, “If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which ONE activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?” Answering this question requires you to zero in on what’s going to move the needle. Tracy recommends repeating this two more times until you’ve identified your top three priorities for the day. But there’s no reason you can’t do this four more times for your five yearly priorities. 

Once you’ve got your priorities set, you want to make sure the organization, team, and you are spending around 95% of your time on those priorities. From McKinsey: “Why five things? Why 95 percent of your time? Because getting things done is all about focus. If instead of spending 95 percent of your time on your top five, you spend 80 percent of your time on your top ten, you lose focus and things start falling through the cracks.”

So that’s how you can set your priorities. Next up, you’ll want to measure how much of your time is currently going towards your priorities. 

2. How to measure organizational time management

There are lots of ways to measure time management. Some are very manual and time-consuming, like spreadsheets. Others, like software and apps, are more automated. Since there’s no real advantage to manual tracking, and it takes more time and introduces more opportunities for error, we recommend automating it as much as possible. We also recommend you incorporate shared time management into your organizational culture. 

We’ll go over some time management apps you can use in the next section, after this list. 

3. How to calculate the ROI of your time allocation

You want to calculate the return-on-investment (ROI) of how you manage shared resources when it comes to time. ROI is just the expected and/or actual benefit you get from an expenditure of resources. 

To begin, realize you measure the ROI of time spent in much the same way as you measure ROI on any other spending. When you justify your department’s budget you generally look at what your department spent and what it brought in in terms of revenue, growth, value, or some other measurable benefit. You’ll do the same with your time as you would with other shared resources in project management. Look at where your time went, and what the results were.

Let’s say your team, for example, worked on two projects last year (we know, you wish). They spent 30% of their hours on project A and 70% on project B. How much revenue did each project generate? How did each project measurably benefit the business? Knowing the ROI of your time allocation enables you to improve how you spend your time going forward. 

Another way to measure the ROI of your time investments is to get very granular with your time measurement. When calculating how much time people are spending on each project, incorporate the time they’re spending talking about the project in Slack, attending meetings about the project, updating project management software, etc. 

Another thing to watch out for is time-wasting activities. For instance, according to one survey, employees at companies with 10,000+ employees spend an average of 38 minutes searching  their own computers or their organization’s networks, databases or intranet for one document. How much time is being wasted on low-ROI activities?

4. How to continually refine your organization’s time management

The last part of this process is to continually refine your time allocation based on priorities and ROI. On a regular basis, ensure the majority of your organization’s time is going towards your top priorities. Make sure that time is paying off by ensuring that you’re getting a good ROI on your time investments. Continually make adjustments over time and measure how those adjustments impact ROI. 

What are some organizational time management tools to try?

As stated above, it’s a great idea to automate time tracking for each individual and for the organization as a whole. Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and iCal have some built-in tools to help you track resource availability, resource utilization, resource allocation, team bandwidth, where people are spending their time, which meetings they’re attending, and more. 

There are also lots of personal time tracking tools that make it easy for individuals to track how much time they’re spending on various tasks, priorities, and projects. Some focus apps also offer reporting on time allocation. 

We recommend Clockwise to help with measuring and managing your time on an individual and organizational level via time orchestration. Clockwise offers analytics on team and individual bandwidth, time spent in meetings, and Focus Time

In sum

Organizational time management is just treating time as the scarce, valuable, shared resources that it is. Improving your organization’s time management offers many benefits, including greater productivity. In an organization, everyone’s time is a shared resource. You can improve your organization’s time management by narrowing down your biggest priorities, measuring how your org currently spends time, calculating the ROI of your time investments, and continually refining your time allocation to ensure high ROI. 

About the author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is the former Head of Content at Clockwise. She has covered business software for six years and has been published in Newsweek, Forbes, the Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications.

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