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Last Updated on April 21, 2020

When Does Time Management Matter Most?

When Does Time Management Matter Most?

In every part of life, time management is a valuable skill, but it’s far more important in some situations than others.

Even when you’re kicking back with a book, you can’t forget about the clock entirely. At some point that afternoon, you’ll need to start on dinner. If you want to make it through a certain number of chapters before then, you have to think through the amount of time you can afford to spend on each.

It’s not the end of the world if you struggle with time management while reading. However, once you understand why time management matters, you’ll start to spot situations where it’s critical to get it right.

Why Is Time Management Important?

Time management isn’t a hard concept

, but it is hard to practice well. Psychologists define it[1] as “the ability to plan and control how [one] spends the hours in a day to effectively accomplish their goals.”

People who manage their time well are planners. They look at their goals, and they decide how much time to devote to each in a given hour, day, week, or month.

That might sound easy, but all too often, life gets in the way. A client calls while you’re in the middle of deep work. In the middle of your reading hour, your son or daughter spills food all over the floor. Despite having set aside the time for something else, you get up and deal with the distraction.

In most contexts, it won’t do much harm to take a detour from the task at hand. However, if you do it in the wrong circumstances, you might come to regret it.

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What Are the Consequences of Poor Time Management?

Poor time management can come back to bite you. If you can’t seem to get a grip on how you spend your time, you may struggle with:

Tardiness

One sign that you aren’t good at time management is that you’re always late to your appointments. If you’re late to one appointment, chances are good that you’ll have to push later ones back by a few minutes as well.

Consistently being late has all sorts of side effects. It can hamper your ability to work on a team, cause you to rush through your own work, and upset others who rely on you.

Poor Performance at Work or School

When you do not budget your time well, your time management issues may show up as poor performance at work or school.

If you spend too much time writing the perfect email, you may not have time to tackle that budget analysis your boss asked you to do. If you can’t tear yourself away from the television to study for a test, you probably won’t do very well on the exam itself.

Procrastination

Procrastinators — such as the student who can’t bring herself to study — know where they should be spending their time. The root of their time management issues is simply that they don’t follow through on their plans.

In some ways, procrastination is worse than not budgeting your time at all. Procrastinators make commitments they struggle to honor. When that happens repeatedly, the procrastinator’s relationships tend to suffer.

If you want to learn about the types of procrastination and how to fix them, this article may help: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

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Damaged Relationships

Your boss might get upset if you struggle to turn projects in on time, but the effects of poor time management on your relationships go deeper than that.

People want to know that they can count on you to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If that is not the case, family members may hesitate to ask you for help, and friends might think twice before inviting you out.

When Time Management Matters Most

You might not face those consequences if you manage your reading time poorly, but you will if you let bad time management bleed into other areas of your life. At home and at work, there are a few situations when time management is critical:

When Others Are Counting on You 

Time management is something you should want for yourself. Managing your time well can make you more productive and keep your stress levels low. With that said, it’s particularly important when you’re on a team.

Say you’re a sales development representative. Your job is to nurture sales through the sales pipeline, allowing the senior salespeople on your team to focus on closing deals.

If you spend too much time on certain leads, you may have a high close rate but a low volume. If you give lots of leads little attention, your volume might grow — but the leads you pass on probably won’t close. Good time management means giving just the right amount of time to each lead on your list.

Even when you aren’t at work, you still have to work on teams. If you’re making a meal with your family, you could throw the whole timetable off if the veggies you agreed to chop aren’t ready to cook alongside the roast.

In the end, coming through for others builds personal connections.

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When Your Schedule Is Full

The reason time management matters during crunches is obvious: When you’re busy, you’ll struggle to get it all done if you don’t manage your time effectively.

People who manage their time well know exactly how much they can get done in a given timeframe. They use both structure and technique to accomplish as much as possible.

Structurally speaking, they do things like book appointments back to back. They carve out time on their calendar for deep work. If an interruption happens, they either ignore it or gently explain when they’ll be able to address it.

What time management techniques can you use to make more of your time? We recommend the Pomodoro Technique. Named after the timer used by the system’s inventor, pomodoros are cycles of rest and work. A pomodoro might consist of a 30-minute sprint followed by a 10-minute rest, repeated until the person is ready for a longer rest.

Other techniques, such as time blocking [2], are also effective. Time blocking involves segmenting one’s schedule into 15-minute chunks and assigning something specific to each of them. Every minute of the day is accounted for, so there’s no question of what task the time-blocker should be working on.

When You’re Learning Something New

Learning new things takes time, so it requires time management. If you want to master a foreign language, for example, you’ll need a long-term plan. Language learning experts suggest it takes up to 44 weeks [3] of practice just to reach intermediate proficiency.

Few, if any, valuable skills can be learned in a day. Developing them means setting aside a small amount of time each day to practice, realizing that the fruit of your labor will not be ripe for months into the future.

The solution is to set milestones. You might plan, for example, to know how to conjugate present-tense verbs after your first week. But it might not be until the fourth week when you learn past-perfect conjugations.

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To stay on track, give yourself small rewards. If you’re learning Spanish, you might go out to a Mexican restaurant once you’ve learned common words associated with cooking and eating. Once you’ve mastered the past, present, and future tenses, you could reward yourself with a trip to Spain.

When You’re Stressed

Stress has a way of making problems seem bigger than they truly are. If you’re stressed out about a task, get serious about time management. The best way to calm yourself is to put together a plan.

Say you’re worried about whether the first conversation with a new client will go well. You know that preparation is essential to a positive client experience.

What does that mean in terms of time management? Go ahead and block off time to research the account. Schedule a meeting to talk to the account’s salesperson. Give yourself a half-hour or more to sketch out a strategy.

Occupational psychologist Cary Cooper suggests[4] stress often stems from situations you can’t control. Before you get to that point, be proactive. Think about how time management can help you avoid a bad outcome, and adjust your schedule to help you get there.

When the Chances of Failure are High

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you’re likely to fail, you might have heard the maxim, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”

Doing your best is really a euphemism for effective time management. If you craft a plan of action and stick tightly to it, you can forget the rest. Failure happens, and some things are simply out of your control.

With that said, it’s also important to manage time well in the face of failure. Set aside time to do a post-mortem: What did you do well? Where did you let time get away from you? If you find yourself in a similar situation again, what would you do differently?

Time management is like water conservation: Water may seem plentiful, but you know better than to waste it. Practice being a good steward of your time. When crunch time comes, you’ll be glad you did.

More Tips on Handling Time

Featured photo credit: Andrea Natali via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

    More Productivity Tips

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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