Time Bandits: Overcoming Time Management Challenges

Time Bandits: Overcoming Time Management Challenges

Overcoming time management challenges in the workplace is serious business. Research by Zippia shows organizations in the United States suffer losses of approximately $588 billion due to distractions at work. Research also reveals that 82% of employees lack an effective way to manage their time. This situation leads to 51% of the workday being spent on less valuable tasks.

Learning time management skills can help those who struggle to balance their responsibilities. When employees use time management techniques, they can improve their project management, task completion, and goal setting. Not to mention the increase in productivity resulting in an improved ROI rather than money lost.

What is Time Management?

Time management is a process of determining what exactly needs to be completed. Then, dividing time among tasks to get them accomplished by the specified time. Time management is a soft skill that may not come naturally to some employees. The good news is it can be taught!

What Are the Biggest Time Bandits?

According to a onepoll survey, 60% of U.S. adults say there’s not enough time in a day to get all their work, chores, and errands accomplished. The survey also found that the average person would need an extra four hours in a day to get everything done.

Overcoming common time management challenges is a professional productivity training topic that can help employees in their professional and personal lives. One of the best ways to increase quality time with family, get enough sleep, reduce stress, and achieve a better work-life balance is to improve time management skills.

It’s doubtful employees will say they have too much time on their hands. As soon as one task is complete, there are always others on the to-do list. Requests from co-workers, clients, vendors, friends, and family members seem to be never-ending!

It’s important to identify the most common time management problems and how to overcome them. In surveys about desired workforce skills, overcoming time management challenges is often cited as a top priority.

The biggest time bandits are the things that aren’t on the to-do list. They aren’t on the calendar. These time bandits get in the way of making progress on the most important projects, daily activities, and even quality time with family.

Here are several of the biggest time bandit challenges and tips on overcoming them:

#1. Procrastination: Everyone is familiar with this one, putting off important tasks until the last minute. According to the American Psychological Association, 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. Zippia’s research says the average employee spends an average of 2 hours and 11 minutes procrastinating daily! Sometimes employees put off a small task because it’s too boring or monotonous. Procrastinators may look busy all the time because they keep ticking off low-priority tasks or starting new projects instead of focusing on the more important or urgent things. Many procrastinators claim they do their best work under pressure and wait until the last minute to finish. Unfortunately, this time bandit can lead to a lack of attention to detail as employees rush to meet a deadline. Not to mention the added stress put on the rest of the team as they sit and wait.

One reason employees procrastinate is that the work is overwhelming. Suggest they break the work into smaller tasks so it’s more manageable. Have employees create a timeline for smaller tasks. Having a deadline can be motivating and help them stop procrastinating.

#2. Precrastination: This is the phenomenon of rushing to accomplish a task as soon as possible before the deadline so it can be checked off the to-do list. Sounds great, however, there is a downside. Precrastinators are so focused on getting something done that they may not give a task the attention, planning, and organization it requires. They may get a high volume of items done without always turning in the highest quality work. Or they may focus on smaller, simpler tasks while delaying the higher-priority work.

To avoid precrastination, encourage employees to take the time to plan and evaluate their work. Recommend prioritizing the tasks so they understand which are of the highest urgency and importance level and do those first. Stress to consider the tasks that involve other team members. What tasks are contingent on other tasks? What work can be done concurrently?

#3: Multitasking: Many employees take pride in their ability to multitask. However, science shows that multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The human brain is not programmed to bounce between multiple tasks at once. Trying to multitask reduces the ability to focus, diminishes productivity, and increases the chance of making mistakes.

Suggest employees try to single-task. This method allows the brain the opportunity to focus successfully on one task. Single tasking may sound foreign in the age of scrolling through Instagram while watching Netflix and eating dinner. It’s surprising how the brain can focus on the task at hand in total silence, with all notifications turned off and all browser windows closed.

#4: Distractions: The dependence on smartphones created an environment where interruptions are expected and tolerated. These distractions create more time management struggles. Ask employees to keep track of the times they’ve checked their email or phone during a town hall meeting. Distractions can be simply dings each time a text message comes through. Or team members spending too much time chatting near an employee who is trying to work. Listening to a podcast while working can also be a distraction.

Encourage employees to do their best to eliminate or minimize avoidable distractions. These distractions include anything that may prevent them from focusing on their work. Examples include silencing phones, remote workers turning off their TVs, and using the full computer screen mode to help from being distracted. Some may have challenges dealing with family members interrupting their daily tasks and work schedule. Employees working from home can face these distractions daily. Be sure to address personal life distractions like caring for aging parents. A mutual solution, such as flexible work hours, can be agreed upon.

#5. Energy Levels: Many factors can affect employees’ energy levels throughout the day: lack of sleep, low blood sugar, the timing of the sunrise or sunset, Circadian rhythms, frequency of exercise, stress levels, etc.

When employees pay attention to their energy levels throughout the day, they’ll understand the effects of this time bandit. Encourage employees to prioritize and organize their tasks in alignment with their peak productivity times. For instance, if employees are more alert in the morning, they should do their challenging work before lunch. If employees start to fade by mid-afternoon, they should switch to small tasks that are easier. For some employees, the end of the day may be a good time to schedule meetings, take care of administrative tasks, or read industry articles. HSI’s training lesson, Managing Time vs. Energy discusses this technique.

#6: Organization: If employees lack a system to manage their files, tasks, and projects, they’ll quickly lose time trying to keep up with the workload. It’s a delicate balancing act between attending meetings, checking emails and chat tools, and doing work.

Collaboration tools and file-sharing apps can make things easier, but employees still need to organize their file hierarchy to find what they need. Employees must remember where documents are saved, especially with many available filing options. It’s just as important for employees to find their system of organization to manage random requests that come through chat tools like Teams or Slack or via email. After a team meeting, employees have several new projects and action items. A project management software program like monday.com may be helpful.

The “one touch rule” method can also help. When receiving an email, immediately decide where it will live. That might simply be a file folder labeled “To Do”. This method encourages employees to create a natural organizational system that works for them. Some take this process a step further and complete the task immediately. This solution won’t work for everyone, especially for those with tight schedules, but it’s an option that can help with focus and productivity.

#7. Mental Health: Mental wellness and resilience are common themes in the news and HR discussions. Employees are experiencing post-pandemic fatigue and may be adjusting to a new career or remote work. Add to this the other stressors in their personal lives around finances, relationships, and physical health. All of these can affect the ability to be productive at work.

It becomes more challenging to complete tasks, stay focused, and persevere when employees experience burn out. Share mental wellness tips on the company’s social media platform. Encourage employees to take vacation days to reset. Offer a day of wellness to relax, take a break from social media, and get some relief from information overload. If employees are dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges, let them know about the company’s EAP program.

Benefits of Practicing Time Management

The average corporate employee spends 51% of every workday on low- to no-value tasks, according to Zippia’s research. For employees, time management can be the difference between a productive day and a day of distractions.

The primary benefit of time management is not getting everything done but rather getting the most important things done. Other benefits include:

Without time management, employees will likely struggle with staying organized, completing projects by the deadline, and experiencing unnecessary stress.

Time Management Strategies

There are numerous strategies to manage time, especially in the digital age, but most methods have been around for years. Each method varies in its exact process, but they all require employees to determine their goals and then rank them by some level of importance. When choosing how to manage time, the method doesn’t matter as much as the habit. Keep in mind employees may need different tools and approaches.

To improve time management skills, here are several strategies:

This strategy requires defining goals along with specific deadlines. Even if employees create a “false” deadline, they can set themselves up for success. They know their goals are achievable. Once an employee has created SMART goals, they can use them to build a to-do list. This detailed list gives employees a process to follow and reduces the time spent figuring out what to do next.

HSI and HSI Blue Ocean Brain Can Help

Professional training will not only help improve employees’ time management skills but also increase the organization’s overall employee productivity levels. After employees refine this skill, organizations will see employees use time management techniques, improving their project management, task completion, and goal setting.

Our microlearning video-based lessons that help with common time management challenges include:

Working with us gives organizations access to a full library of business skills. HR departments can easily curate a curriculum for employees who need help with time management. As an alternative, many of HSI’s clients open their HSI video-based training library to their employees for self-directed learning. Employees can choose off-the-shelf training video courses best suited to their unique needs.

HSI and HSI Blue Ocean Brain offer ground-breaking microlearning solutions to help companies of all sizes deliver award-winning content through flexible integration options to build high-performing learning cultures. Request a free trial of our HSI LMS.

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