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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

3 Biggest Time-Management Myths to Stop Believing

3 Biggest Time-Management Myths to Stop Believing

Time management has become something of a cultural obsession, and like any cultural phenomenon, it’s surrounded by some myths — including around the term’s true meaning.

What we really mean by time management is our ability to plan and control the time we have in order to efficiently accomplish our goals. It’s about balancing our tasks with the amount of time we have to get them done.

The last thing time management means is productivity for the sake of productivity. Unfortunately, the endless number of apps that promise to boost our productivity only reinforce that notion.

However, that only scratches the surface of time management myths. If you buy into them, you could develop habits that actually decrease your productivity. To overcome some of these misleading ideas, it’s important to understand why everyone — not just business professionals — needs to manage their time well.

Time Management Goes Beyond Business

We tend to think about time management in terms of how office workers balance their day-to-day tasks, such as answering emails, attending meetings, and contributing to team projects. However, time management is also important for getting the most out of our home life and hobbies.

Effectively managing your time brings you a host of benefits. It can boost your confidence by giving you a sense of accomplishment, reduce your stress levels, and allow you to spend more time on things like self-care.

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The trouble is, the way we think about time management has not kept pace with technological change. Time management is not taught in school, despite being one of the key skills of adult life. Many time management experts still teach the “ABC” method[1], despite the fact that modern life cannot be broken down into a neat little list of three priorities per day.

In fact, even many productivity experts misunderstand the realities of time management. They, as well as many students, professionals, and everyday people, believe three key myths about time management.

3 Common Time Management Myths

Spend enough time thinking or reading about time management, and you might start to believe the following myths.

1. If you could just get your schedule right, you’d be more productive.

One of the more dangerous time management myths is the idea that scheduling tasks better is all that it takes to manage your time. It can make you feel like you need to redo your whole schedule in order to be more productive.

The same goes for to-do lists. Well-meaning advisors can make you believe that writing out your tasks is a cure-all for your time management issues. In reality, these methods are likely to leave you feeling discouraged when you can’t seem to accomplish what you set out to do.

Harvard Business Review notes that these kinds of tasks fall under the time management category of “Arrangement.” However, there are two other domains of time management[2] that matter just as much, if not more, than the arrangement of tasks:

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  • Awareness: This refers to having a realistic view of the time you have. For example, knowing that you shouldn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment in the middle of a busy workday shows time awareness.
  • Adaptation: This refers to being able to adjust to unexpected interruptions or changes while performing tasks. If your doctor’s only available appointment is in the middle of that workday, adaptation means that you’re able to move things around to make it all fit.

These two skills are more difficult to develop than arrangement, which explains why we are so drawn to changing our schedules or making new plans. Arrangement is a good skill to have, but it cannot substitute for awareness or adaptation.

2. Time management tactics are one-size-fits-all.

Another consequence of the endless information about time management is that the tips and suggestions are often presented in a one-size-fits-all manner. In clothing and in time management — and frankly, in just about every area of life — there’s no such thing as something that works for everybody.

For example, some people prefer to start their day by doing their most difficult task first, a tactic known as “eating the frog”[3]. Morning people might find that the system works well, but for those who are most productive in the afternoon or evening, it doesn’t make sense to tackle the toughest task in the morning.

If you fall into the latter group, it might be better to start with smaller tasks to get your brain moving in the morning. After a couple hours of work, then you can tackle the big-picture task.

This is also true of non-workflow factors, such as waking up earlier, and tools like apps. Instead of assuming that what works for others will work for you, try out different methods until you find what actually does.

3. Time management is about getting as much done as quickly as possible.

When you believe that effective time management is about the quantity of the tasks you complete, you’ll inevitably sacrifice quality of work for quantity of work. What’s more, you will also be drawn to inconsequential tasks as opposed to your higher-order concerns.

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Our media environment encourages multitasking, and that’s what makes the myth so tempting. However, the best way to see multitasking is actually as rapid context switching, which can reduce your productivity by as much as 80%.[4]

Rather than doing a bunch of multitasking, I tend to advise people to find tools that will help scale personalization. Get those in place and then move on to another important task. For example, Hubspot’s free email marketing tools are something I use for some of my startups to scale personalizing email. Find a tool that allows you to scale, then focus on it so you can set things up for success and move on to another important task.

Time Management That Works for You

Although there’s no one time management tactic that makes sense for everyone, there are some things you can do to find what works for you:

Think About Time Management on Your Own Terms

The first step to becoming a better time manager is to stop feeling guilty if a certain approach doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t mean you’re a poor time manager or that you’ll never be able to accomplish your goals.

Time management should lead to less anxiety and more productivity. If a certain tactic isn’t accomplishing those things for you, then feel free to scrap it.

Practice Time Awareness

Time has a way of passing without you noticing it, especially when you feel busy all the time. But it doesn’t have to work that way.

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Leadership speakers[5] are starting to incorporate the concept of multiplying time into their talks: track your time, create moments of waiting and anticipation, and let yourself be comfortable with boredom. You might also reminisce about past experiences and accept feelings of awe and fear.

As you might notice, most techniques for time awareness are rooted in mindfulness. More importantly, they will allow you to enjoy your personal and social experiences without feeling rushed through them.

Say “No” to Some Tasks

One of the best strategies for time management is simply to reduce the number of tasks on your docket. Don’t think of it as letting others down; think of it as filling your own cup first. If your glass is empty, you won’t be able to give sips to others.

The key to saying “no” is being honest about why. If you have a time conflict — or even if you’re short on self-care time — most people will respect that. Saying “no” gives you a sense of agency and control over your life because declining a task that isn’t important to you is actually about saying “yes” to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Time management is tough, so there’s no need to feel like you have to be great at it right away. But until you get those time management myths out of your head, you’ll struggle to do what actually works for you. Stop believing in myths and start believing in yourself.

More Tips on Time Management

Featured photo credit: Rachael Crowe 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.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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