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time management

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Time management is the coordination of tasks and activities to maximize the effectiveness of an individual's efforts. Essentially, the purpose of time management is enabling people to get more and better work done in less time.

Elements include organization, planning and scheduling to best take advantage of the time available to the individual, while also taking into account that individual's particular situation and relevant characteristics.

The benefits of effective time management apply equally to both the business and its employees. When employees' working hours are managed to best effect, they tend to be happier, more creative and less prone to burnout. For the business, that translates to lower absenteeism and turnover rates and more productivity, innovation and employee advocacy -- which in turn provide more benefits, such as an enhanced corporate reputation and employee recruitment.

Dr. Mallary Tytel, president of Healthy Workplaces in Bolton, Connecticut categorizes barriers to effective time management as either internal or external factors. Internal barriers include factors like discipline and procrastination; external barriers include factors like workload, job and workplace constraints and available corporate resources.

A few tips on time management:

  • Keep a journal of activities for a week to identify the times of day when you are likely to be most productive. Use that information to guide scheduling tasks.
  • Take time at the start of each day to make a plan for what you want to achieve and how you intend to do it. 
  • Schedule tasks according to priority and include unscheduled time in your day. 
  • Manage your communication availability. Open your email and instant messaging applications at scheduled times rather than leaving them open all day. 
  • Follow other email management best practices such as processing your email in batches and organizing messages to be dealt with at a later time.
  • Assume that you will nevertheless be interrupted periodically and add time to tasks to allow for that inevitability.
  • Manage your workload: Don't agree to more work than you can comfortably do and discuss unreasonable demands with management.

See also: work-life balance, 70 percent rule

See Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch's lecture on time management:

This was last updated in January 2015

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