As a small business owner, you already keep close track of your company’s resources, including capital, employees and facilities. But what about employees’ time? Time is difficult to quantify and track, and as such, many small business owners mistakenly treat time as if it were a limitless resource. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A recent study by McKinsey found that only 9% of executives were “very satisfied” with how employees’ time was currently allocated. In addition, almost half of executives said that their current time allocation didn’t align with the company’s objectives. And the average office worker can tell you that far too much company time is spent on trivial tasks, such as responding to emails and attending non-essential meetings.
Effective time management is critical to the productivity and profitability of your business. So, how can businesses improve time management? It isn’t as easy as just telling employees to use their time more effectively. Instead, the leadership team needs to build a corporate culture that actively supports effective time management across the whole organization.
A Culture That Supports Effectively Managing Time
Multitasking is a major buzzword in the business world. Employees are expected to be able to effectively juggle multiple tasks at once. So managers fill their work hours with various projects, meetings and corporate activities.
However, studies are increasingly proving that multitasking is ineffective. In fact, Stanford researchers proved that multitaskers have poor organizational skills, are easily distracted and often lack focus.
If multitasking isn’t the key to effective time management, then what is?
The answer is flow. As defined by author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow occurs when you enter a state of intense and effortless concentration on the task at hand. It is often referred to as “being in the zone,” and employees are far more productive while in this state than at any other time.
To improve productivity, employers should do everything they can to keep employees in flow mode. This means fostering a corporate environment of silence and privacy. Whenever possible, managers should avoid burdening their employees with multiple tasks or distracting them with unnecessary emails and phone calls.
Many employees also benefit from having private offices, rather than working in noisy cubicle farms.
Fewer, More Effective Meetings
One of the biggest scourges to effective time management is the corporate meeting. The average meeting takes up valuable time and interrupts the employee flow-mode, while generating very little in the way of meaningful results.
According to a Microsoft survey, ineffective meetings are among the top time wasters in the average work week. Additionally, employees spend almost six hours each week in meetings, and 69% of employees feel like these meetings are unproductive.
To better manage company time, executives should only schedule meetings that are absolutely necessary. Meetings should have a specific purpose: To make a decision or solve a problem. There should be a detailed agenda of issues to be discussed and in what order, and the amount of time allotted to each.
If a meeting is only designed to impart information, consider sending out an email instead. Many meetings can also be made optional, so if an employee is in that critical flow mode, he or she can opt out of the interruption.
Every executive knows that in order for a company to move forward, there needs to be a clearly defined set of objectives and goals for the future. However, just laying out these objectives isn’t enough. Too often, executives and their employees become mired in day-to-day tasks and never find the time to advance long-term goals. This is where integrated, electronic time tracking comes in.
Effective electronic time tracking systems should capture costs as well as the time spent for each individual employee and project, and then integrate this information into a comprehensive view of company time allocation. In this way, you can determine whether your company’s current time allocation aligns with your company objectives. As with any resource, correctly allocating time will reduce waste and facilitate company growth.
Peter Druckers, the legendary management consultant, once said:
Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.
In the business world, time is precious. It is in every employer’s best interest to promote a corporate culture that measures, manages and values it.
Unproductive Meeting Photo via Shutterstock
I definitely agree that jobs should be outlined clearly. Though it comes off as micromanaging to some people, it really is the best way to ensure that what you need done is completed and correct. When you give employees a set of goals for the day rather than for certain times or however you organize it; they may just get distracted all day and then complete everything in the last hour. Not only are you then paying for them to mess around all day, but the actual work is rushed and not as good as it could be.
Thank you for the post.
Lets get every single employee to send the daily report and with this the managers can know what their subordinate have done today and the employees will come to know have they justified the day!
http://www.statuspath.com/ has a status report automation solution that fits with what you’re describing, Simon. I haven’t tried it myself, but I met the founder, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on it.
Thanks for introducing StatusPath to the conversation, Curt. Status reports, when tethered to measurable performance objectives and business goals, prove valuable at applying focus on what matters most. That focus increases employee productivity and improves how leaders manage a team to desired outcomes (per Simon’s comment). We promote this philosophy – the Business Success Cycle – throughout our website and within our product.
Excellent advice, Curt – Especially the multi-tasking part. Somehow business has come to believe it is a good thing, when years or research demonstrates that jumping from device to device (called “screen suck” or task to task can add up to 20% to the time needed to complete the task. And a lower IQ – one study found that being always tethered to e-devices results in a drop of about 10 IQ points. Great – 2 mch txtg mks u stpd.
Something else to consider is that with the technology that is available today, people should consider automation and remove those non-productive repeatable tasks. I don’t have any stats, but I know that when faced with tasks that are difficult or time consuming, I would avoid the task.
I agree that status reports are the best way to track productivity, the key is the reporting program. It needs to be efficient so employees and management aren’t bogged down with internal reporting prep. and review when time would be better spent and focused on serving the customer.
Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed. so tracking time is most important part in individual life or in the company.