As a team leader, you have the opportunity to inspire and teach your team members to manage their time well. According to authors and academics Brad Aeon and Herman Aguinis offer some advice on how to do this in their paper, It’s About Time: New Perspectives and Insights on Time Management.
“Overall, nonexperimental and experimental findings suggest that time management can improve people’s quality of life, lower stress, boost job satisfaction, and enhance other facets of well-being,” Aeon and Aguinis write.
Use these 11 time management techniques to improve workflow, overcome procrastination, and improve your team’s efficiency.
1. Accurately measure time management
Aeon and Aguinis point out that many organizations rate employees based on time at the office/on-call rather than output, which ends up punishing workers for being particularly good at managing their time.
Since it’s hard to improve what you’re measuring incorrectly, the first step is to be sure you’re not measuring your team’s time management based on misleading indicators like time spent online or at the office. Part of the reason we know these are misleading indicators is that working from home (WFH) during COVID doesn’t negatively impact productivity. By some measures, average productivity rose during WFH, even accounting for a global pandemic and lack of child care and elder care.
Deloitte Senior Partner and future of work thought leader Jeff Schwartz writes about how in the near future, successful companies’ leadership will “continue the shift from managing through control and direct supervision to managing with increased coaching, design, influence, and inspiration.”
As much as possible, leaders should move toward encouraging and facilitating efficient time management and measuring actual output and how it impacts the bottom line rather than measuring and dictating long working hours.
2. Understand how differently individuals approach time management
Aeon and Aguinis also found that each team member will have their own individual preferences, beliefs, and attitudes about time management, which will naturally impact their time management behaviors.
For example, research shows that people vary greatly in terms of temporal self-efficacy, or the extent to which they believe they’re in control of their time. Temporal self-efficacy is associated with better time management and productivity.
Some people like to single-task while others prefer to multi-task. Surprisingly, the former are more upset by schedule changes and engage in more planning, while the latter are better able to roll with schedule changes and more easily integrate different activities. Another difference is between “segmenters” and “integrators.” The former prefer strict boundaries between work and family time while the latter don’t mind blending the two.
Other research shows that how stable someone’s family is growing up can influence their time management strategies. “Similarly, some people simply are less likely to benefit from time management training than others,” the two write.
3. Be deliberate about your time management norms
Knowing that different people approach time differently, think about your team’s explicit and implicit “time norms” and whether they’re working for everyone’s unique needs.
Norms aren’t only your team’s habits around time management, but also people’s expectations and feelings toward the team’s actions. For example, how do people on your team feel about teammates being late to a meeting or leaving work early? How about missed deadlines? Work/life balance?
Research shows that norms like “Productive use of time is a key value” and “Making time to plan the day’s work is encouraged” help teammates use their time better. Conversely, workers on teams with less “time management-friendly” norms reported higher levels of stress and were more likely to say they intended to switch jobs.
4. Invest in time management training
Aeon and Aguinis point to compelling evidence in favor of workplace time management training programs which teach helpful time management strategies. For example, one study showed teammates who had completed training on things like how to manage their time and handle interruptions had less “job-related somatic tensions and increased perceived control of time” compared to their colleagues who hadn’t had the training.
Aeon and Aguinis emphasize that people who value time more highly are better at managing it than those who value it less. Not only is this somewhat intuitive, but it’s also validated by the studies. Researchers call this trait “temporal awareness.”
One tip for turning your team into more effective time managers is to increase your team’s collective temporal awareness. You want everyone to think of their available time as finite and nonrenewable. Time spent cannot be returned.
Even reading about time management can be helpful. One study looked at the impact reading a time management manual had on time management. Individuals who read the manual ended up spending more time on high-priority tasks than their peers who didn’t. These findings can be easily applied to a project manager or any other role.
5. Adopt time management apps for teams
While there may not be a team time management app per se, there are plenty of apps which can help with team time management. There are desktop apps as well as iOS and Android apps aimed at time management which can be used by teams. Many of them even offer a free plan.
For example, Focus Keeper offers automatic time tracking software through its desktop and mobile app. Other team time management apps include tracking apps like the Smarter Time time tracker, which tells you which project and task is taking up most of your team’s time.
Clockwise helps you keep an eye on your team member’s bandwidth and know how much Focus Time they have. This way you can decide who to reach out to when asking for help on a new project. It also enables teams to schedule meetings that maximize Focus Time for everyone involved.
These apps, along with a high-quality task manager will give you real-time analytics to help your whole team stay focused and use your time efficiently.
6. Streamline your workflow with a project management app
Speaking of apps, a project management app is a must-have for any team that wants to use time more effectively. A project management app works by breaking projects down into manageable tasks and subtasks and allowing you to track the project from start to finish. This can help save time that would otherwise be spent sending group emails or Slack messages and improve the team’s efficiency.
Asana is a great option for teams working on projects collaboratively as it allows you to “assign” it to certain individuals. Within the Asana workspace, you can create subtasks and move projects from one “section” to another. You can seamlessly integrate Asana with Clockwise so you can schedule time to work on specific projects.
For example, you may be working on a client’s social media content for the month of May. In this case, the project could start under the heading of “ideation,” where you are deciding on what type of content to post — Will there be a giveaway? What quotes do you want to create designs around? Are there any influencers the brand is working with?
Once all of these decisions are made, you can move it to the next section, “design.” In this step of the project, the design team will edit photos and create graphics your client can post throughout the month.
From there, it gets pushed to “schedule.” In this step of the process, someone is responsible for writing the copy that will be posted and inputting it in the scheduler. Once all of this is completed, they can move the project to the “ready for review” section on your Asana board, and ping the project manager to look over it and make any final edits before sending it off to the client.
There are plenty of other great project management tools that can help your team stay on track and increase the team’s productivity. Find the one that works best for you!
7. Spend less time in meetings
According to Doodle, 71% of professionals feel they waste time every week as a result of unnecessary or canceled meetings. Professionals spend an average of two hours every week in unnecessary meetings. That’s eight hours (or an entire workday!) of wasted time per month.
Take stock of what meetings you are regularly in. Conduct a meeting audit where you look at the meetings from the past week or two in your calendar and think about how important each of them was (or how important it was for you to attend them). See if any of them could be replaced with an email, video, or questionnaire.
Before scheduling a meeting, write a meeting agenda and include a time estimate for each point on the agenda. This will equip your team members to come prepared with any questions and concerns they may have on the topic, and it’ll help you steer clear of poor time management during the meeting.
Consider having a No Meeting Day. When team members have an entire day with zero meetings, they can tackle their work with less context switching. Clockwise can help you implement (and automatically protect) your No Meeting Day.
8. Use teamwork to help prevent burnout
Here at Clockwise, we embrace the belief that rest is productive. When a member of your team goes out of office, are they really able to turn off “work” mode? To support team members during their off-time, train at least one other person to take over their most important tasks.
Be sure to encourage your team members to turn on “do not disturb” mode whenever they’re out of office. That could mean integrating Slack with Clockwise so it automatically turns off notifications when you’re out of the office, setting up an auto-response in Gmail, and adding out-of-office events to the Clockwise team calendar so that teammates know when you’re on vacation and don’t reach out to you. Take advantage of the many tools and features that allow us to take a mental break from work. Remember it’s healthy and beneficial to enjoy time away from the desk.
This will help prevent burnout as people will truly be able to rest and recover during their vacation time rather than having part of their mind still on work.
According to the Harvard Business Review, this is a common problem that teams face. Someone is always available “just in case.” Team leaders need to model unplugging in order for employees to feel comfortable and confident taking time away from work.
9. Communicate about communication
Not every question needs an answer in the next five minutes. If team members pause their work to check every notification, it may derail their workflow.
To improve your team’s productivity, establish a system that guides people during their interactions.
- Answer emails within 24 hours
- Answer other notifications (like Slack and Google Workspace) within 3-4 work hours
- Reserve text messages and phone calls for urgent matters, and try to respond immediately
As a team leader, model using this method. When a question comes to mind, take a moment to stop and think about how urgent it really is. Then use the appropriate form of communication to reach your team member.
This will improve team efficiency as it allows people to batch email communication and not get distracted while they are focusing on an important project. It will also decrease the likelihood of a message falling through the cracks as it empowers more timid team members to send a “just wanted to follow up on this with you” note to anyone who has gone past the agreed upon timeframe.
10. Try the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique is a time management tool. You set a 25 minute timer, work on a single task for that amount of time, and then take a five minute break before starting another 25 minute focus time block.
This encourages good time management because you know that you’ll get a break soon — and you may be surprised by how much you can get done in 25 minutes.
There are lots of apps out there, but here is a roundup of our three favorite Pomodoro apps to try out.
11. Improve both personal and professional time management
When helping someone improve their time management skills, help them realize that this will have a positive effect on both their own time and their time at work.
In his book, The Purposeful Planning Method, Matt East helps people spend more time on the things that matter most to them.
Take a page out of his book (pun intended). Then sit down with your team members and discuss their highest priorities. Use these 10 questions from East’s book to guide your conversation:
- If I could achieve one thing today, what would it be?
- What would be the second most important thing?
- What would be the third most important thing?
- What remains to be done after those three things?
- Which tasks can I delegate to others?
- What are some other tasks that others are working on and need my attention?
- What action today will get me closer to my goals?
- What is the one thing that I could complete that would make me feel productive and happy at the end of the day?
- How will I reduce my stress levels today?
- Which relationships in my life need the most of my energy today? (work relationship, family, friends, romantic partner, etc)
According to East, these 10 questions will help you understand how people think about and work on prioritizing their tasks. This can be more challenging now as team leaders navigate leading hybrid teams that have a combination of commuting and work-from-home team members.
Time management Q&A
As a hypothetical idea, good time management sounds great. But how can team leaders help their teams build good time management skills and how does good time management benefit people both in and out of the workplace?
Why is good time management beneficial for teams?
When leaders help their team members manage time well, it can increase productivity and reduce stress. Finding ways to improve time management at work not only helps work go smoothly, but it also helps people unplug from work once the day is over — which can help them come back to the office better rested and ready to be productive.
How can team leaders inspire good time management?
Team leaders should model good time management. This means having a healthy work-life balance, running productive meetings, communicating with team members in ways that don't derail their focus, and providing their team members with time management training.
Building good time management practices within your team can be a challenge — but it’s definitely worth it. Help your team understand that implementing good time management habits in the workplace will benefit their personal life as well.
There’s a lot more to discover about time management, but these tips are a great place to improve your team’s time management skills.
Team members becoming more intentional with how they spend work time and learning to prioritize the most important tasks first, are habits that will naturally overflow into their personal lives. When team members understand that better time management is not only about higher company productivity, they will be more likely to try various time management strategies and grow in this area.