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Opinions of Friday, 28 August 2020

Columnist: Charles Manu

Time management and productivity

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Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of the time spent on specific activities especially, to increase effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. (Wikipedia).

Good time management enables us to work “smarter” – not “harder” at our respective places of work – so that we get more done in less time, even when time is tight, pressures are high and schedules keep increasing. It is not enough to do your best.

First and foremost, you must know what to do and then do your best. Generally speaking, time management is really self-management and the key to efficient working. The objective is not to become super-efficient or super-productive but to use time prudently to achieve one’s objective most efficiently and cost-effective manner.

Productivity, on the other hand, is the quantity and quality of work performance with resource utilization considered – people, materials, equipment and capital. It is the quantitative measure of the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into outputs.

Many stumbling blocks exist in gaining control of time. Invariably a supervisor’s/manager’s job prescribes the tasks or goals as “needs” to be performed or achieved, while those that the subordinate decides to perform or achieve become his “wants” and are often imposed by his own value system.

The value of time management lies in the fact that people have too many tasks they “need” to perform but not enough time for the things they “want” to do. Time management therefore helps identify “needs” and “wants” in terms of their importance and matches them with time and other resources.

Although time is a valuable resource, some people take a haphazard approach to managing it. They may take a piecemeal approach, trying a new time management technique or gimmick each week. This approach does not work – at least not very well. Changing time habits is a difficult process. A systematic, not a piecemeal method is required. While the steps to better time management look simple on the surface, they are difficult in practice and require replacing bad time management practice with good ones. Making this change demands self-governance attributes like effort, patience, dedication, commitment, leadership and a willingness to change.

Everyone has traits of bad time habits. Some are so ingrained that they are difficult to recognize, but these habits must be identified before corrective action can take place. Although some habits are unique, others are quite common among supervisors and operatives.

Supervisors often fall into this trap as a result of not planning the execution of their tasks, because to them planning is too time-consuming. Actually, the time spent on planning will save time.

Planning is one of the most basic yet essential supervisory functions. Without planning, a supervisor may not have a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish or how he wants to go about it. For example, a supervisor may discover in the middle of a project that the resources to do the job are lacking. Prior planning might have averted this problem. Lack of planning leads to crash programs, overtime, idle employees, duplication of efforts, and schedules not being met.

Supervisors frequently make themselves available whenever anyone wants to see them. While an open-door policy can help foster better communication such a policy when carried to an extreme can also reduce a supervisor’s ability to control his time.

If a supervisor is always available to others, he is at their mercy and interruptions will occur at the worst possible times. The answer here is to practice a modified open-door policy and limit its use to specific times. On reflection, some quite time should exist each day. This time can be used to think, plan and to prioritise the execution of projects – which will contribute to higher accomplishment.

Supervisors sometimes willingly accept tasks and responsibilities that belong to others. Knowing that someone respects one’s ability may be gratifying but actually doing the job may not be the best use of one’s time. Some subordinates are especially skilled in getting their supervisors to do part of their job for them. Supervisors need to resist these employees’ efforts at upward-delegation. A supervisor has an obligation to coach or train subordinates but not to their job for them.

Some supervisors suffer from the tyranny of the urgent. When faced with crisis, they over-react and drop whatever they are doing to deal with the demands of the moment. They forget that an urgent task may not be the most important thing that they should be doing. The answer is often to separate the “urgent” from the “important”.

A tendency exists to keep too many of papers on a desk. Papers pile up, and needed ones cannot be found without shuffling and sorting, a process that gives the impression of disorganization and time wasting. In addition, stacks of papers distract attention from working on but one thing at a time. The solution is simpler to than to actually do; but a supervisor should try to keep a clean, uncluttered desk. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the universal principle practiced by good time management supervisors. They gain an added benefit – their desk is no longer an unsightly mess, and they are better organized.

Overcoming bad habits takes time. A supervisor has to invest time in order to save time. While many of the remedies suggested are simply common sense, uncommon sense is required to combine them into a personalized time management strategy that works. Because time management principles do not apply equally to everyone, the challenge is to implement the rules and principles that best fit a specific situation.

Steps, and there could a host of others, to better time management are gaining time-awareness, identifying time robbers, setting goals, and listing priorities, formulating action plans, developing a time budget, concentrating on priorities, tackling tough jobs first, setting realistic deadlines, consolidating similar tasks and monitoring progress.

In conclusion it can be said that it may take a while for someone to learn good time management. But, the investment made in learning and applying the steps to better time management are worth the effort. Good time management can reduce job stress, provide greater job satisfaction and accomplishment and enhance productivity.