Time Management (Encyclopedia of Business and Finance)
Time is probably the most valuable asset available to people and organizations. Understanding how to manage one's time can contribute mightily to the success of personal and professional lives. However, as with any other asset, it may be wasted if it's not valued.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to waste time. It is true that some people naturally have good time-management skills, having developed good techniques for managing themselves and their time. But others have developed poor habits related to time. Needless to say, most people do not like to proclaim or admit these kinds of weaknesses.
Wasted time cannot be replaced. With increasing demands both in the workplace and at home, a great need exists for time to become more respected, valued, and balanced.
DEFINITION OF TIME MANAGEMENT
Time management may be defined as the discovery and application of the most efficient method(s) of completing assignments of any length in the optimum time and with the highest quality.
This definition of time management has widespread applications:
- It applies to the entire spectrum of activities ranging from (1) simple "do-it-this-morning tasks" assigned by individuals to themselves or to others (e.g., prepare several short letters) to(2) large projects developed for a large organization by many people with completion contemplated to take a long period of time (e.g., write a book or open a new branch office).
- It denotes the "best" time, which is usually but not always the shortest time.
- It pertains either to (1) continuing and repetitious activities (e.g., daily logging-in of shipments received) or to (2) occasional activities(e.g., selection of new CEO).
- It includes production of anything, such as manufacture of a tangible product, provision of a service, preparation of a written document, development of a procedure, or arrival at a decision.
- It may include a progress-point assignment (e.g., development of plans for the preliminary testing of a new product) or an end-goal assignment (e.g., a final marketing plan for a new product).
- Development of plans for time management must necessarily presume the existence and application of such desirable personal and work qualities as motivation, discipline, consideration for others, and the desire to succeed.
BENEFITS OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT
Many valuable rewards potentially await those willing to develop good time-management practices. In individual careers, increased job performance and promotions may result. In personal lives, individuals may achieve successful marriages, more family time, less debt, and less stress. In addition, all types of organizationsbusiness, civic, school, political, and religiousmay receive productive, competitive, and financial benefits from observance of good time-management practices.
ACHIEVEMENT OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT
Business firms and other organizations often find it profitable to take tangible steps to learn the best possible time-management strategies. Some or all of the following approaches may be considered:
- Call in an outside person or organization that specializes in time-management consulting and have a detailed evaluative study conducted of the practices being followed.
- Develop task forces within the firm or organization to undertake time-management studies with the goals of finding, analyzing, and "curing" areas experiencing wasteful time procedures.
- Have individuals within the firm or organization engage in educational and research activities related to time management, such as enrolling in college courses, checking the Internet, participating in correspondence courses, and/or attending seminars.
- Check into the possibility of visiting and studying other firms noted for their efficient time-management practices.
ACHIEVING AND APPLYING GOOD TIME-MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES
In most organizational and personal activities, three areas of endeavor play prominent roles in achieving and applying good time-management principles: (1) development of suitable personal qualities, (2) development of short- and long-range goals, and (3) effective use of computers.
Development of Suitable Personal Qualities Good time management requires the utmost in organizational ability. Answers to questions such as the following must be found: Does the worker have all the necessary tools located conveniently? Can necessary tools be found without wasting time? Is provision made for replacement of items that routinely get used up? Are necessary lists placed in a handy location? Are lighting, temperature, and noise at proper levels? If reference materials are needed to perform the job, are they placed in accessible locations? Where direct contact with other persons is necessary to obtain information, can these persons be quickly contacted? Have procedures been worked out to reduce clutter and confusion? Is complete cleanup of workstations required daily or at other appropriate time intervals? Have job duties been arranged in order of priority?
Planning is necessary to achieve success in time management. Companies find that production moves more efficiently when procedures have been carefully worked out in detail.
Self-discipline and motivation play key roles in this process. Once a commitment is made to improve, an urge to proceed efficiently tends to follow, and it is necessary to apply this urge to the tasks at hand. Motivation grows as workers begin seeing the results of improved production.
Special efforts need to be paid to procrastination, one of the deadliest enemies of good time management. People who suffer from procrastination wait until the last possible moment to do almost anything. Some find it almost impossible to take the first step in any project. It can seriously affect work quality and heighten personal stress. It may create uninvited feelings of panic and chaos.
Perhaps the best cure for procrastination is imposition of strict time limits either upon one's self or upon others in the chain of command.
Development of good time-management practices may require inauguration of a program of self-evaluation. Personal habits may need to be studied carefully to see if any are faulty and need to be improved.
Development of Short- and Long-Range Goals Establishing short- and long-range goals is essential to successful time management in both one's personal life and one's work life.
When establishing goals, it is necessary to determine and specify standards that must be achieved within stated dates and/or times. This involves identifying a series of specific steps designed to bring one closer and closer to a stated goal. A good plan must include amounts of time per day or hour (or other time measurement) that will be devoted to work geared to achievement of the goal. It should include estimated time costs that might result from barriers or obstacles encountered along the way.
Prioritizinghat is, ranking goals in order of importances necessary in situations where the most important of the possible goals may not be easily determined. For example, in designing a new refrigerator, there is often a clash between the engineers, who wish it designed to operate at the highest efficiency level, and the marketing people, who wish it to be given a price tag that will maximize its salability. Which is given the highest priorityuality or pricing? A time-management plan may very well be involved in determining the answer.
Effective Use of Computers Computers can provide essential assistance in helping people to manage their time wisely by tracking details, coordinating schedules, facilitating communication, and securing and organizing data.
Computers greatly assist those who work with others at a considerable geographic distance. Written messages can be transmitted instantly through e-mail. Data can be researched comparatively quickly through the Internet.
In and of themselves, however, computers do not provide an automatic solution for time-management problems. They are most helpful to people who are already both knowledgeable and organizednd therefore best able to apply the benefits of computers to time management.
In addition to computers, other technology exists that can contribute to the quality of time-management plans:
- Faxing is the instantaneous transmission of communications from one fax (facsimile) machine to another anywhere in the world.
- Priority mail and overnight-delivery service are offered by the U.S. Post Office.
- Telephones, which once provided only voice-transmission service, now offer voice-mail recording, beepers, cellular service, and other services.
TIME MANAGEMENT AND LARGE PROJECTS
Complications inevitably arise with a large project that involves management and coordination of several organizations and people who are all contributing to its completion. A classic example is a construction project involving a building, dam, bridge, or road.
Suppose, for example, a building is being constructed for XYZ business firm. Often, in cases like this, the role of time is very critical. It may be that XYZ firm has found it necessary to get heavily involved in activities such as selling or leasing its existing location, making the myriad of moving arrangements for its employees and their equipment, and working out contacts with its customers.
XYZ firm very much desires the building under construction to be completed at the agreed-upon time. If not, XYZ firm could encounter large expenses in having to put up with temporary locations and increase the time spent in making large numbers of alternative arrangements. In fact, time in such situations is so critical that contracts often require builders to forfeit fees if the construction is not completed on schedule.
In cases such as this (and in many other applications), extensive use may be made of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, usually called PERT. Developed in the 1950s, PERT groups various activities graphically. Activities in the construction of a large building, for example, might include excavations, various foundation workings, windows, air conditioning, heating, painting, and so on. Each activity requires not only estimates of time but also the costs of labor, material, and money. Some of the activities are sequentialhe first activity must be completed before the second can begin. Other activities are concurrentore than one activity can be worked on at a time. Many valuable rewards await people and organizations who are willing to develop good time management practices.
Fitzwater, Ivan W. (1997). Finding Time for Success and Happiness Through Time Management. Austin, TX: MESA Publications.
Lapin, Lawrence L. (1994). "Project Planning with PERT." Quantitative Methods for Business Decisions, 6th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Dryden Press.
Mackenzie, Alec. (1997). The Time Trap, 3d ed. New York: AMACOM.
Mayer, Jeffrey J. (1995). Time Management for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books.
Reynolds, Helen, and Tramel, Mary E. (1979). Executive Time Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Time Management (Encyclopedia of Management)
Many business people struggle with time management and would like to accomplish more tasks in a day, or have more time for non-work activities. There are a number of tips and suggestions for improving time management in a person's workplace and home, and different approaches work for different people.
Many of us attempt to accomplish tasks that can be easily assigned to or contracted out to someone else. By delegating a task, you can have more time to accomplish other important tasks. When can a task be delegated and when should you attempt it yourself? Some guidelines are as follows. A primary concern is that you should only delegate if there is a person who is skilled enough to do the task at hand. You can delegate to employees you supervise, those who are your colleagues, and even those above you. When you delegate a task to your subordinateownward delegationou have the authority to make sure that the task is done correctly, but assigning a task to an employee who lacks the skill to do it will often require more time than if you did the task yourself. Delegating to a peer, or a colleague, works well if you and the other person have complementary skills. You can trade responsibilities if you each have skills that are stronger than the other person's. Although most employees do not consider it, you can also delegate to employees above you in the organizational hierarchypward delegation. If you have been assigned a task that should not be yours or a task that is beyond your abilities, you can ask a superior for guidance or clarification. Your feedback may indicate to your supervisor that the task is better done by him or herself.
Another consideration when delegating is the type of task that can be delegated. There are three types of tasks that are best suited to being assigned to someone else: (1) tasks for which you do not have adequate skill or expertise, (2) tasks that you do not want to do but that others might, and (3) tasks that are easy to accomplish but detract from your value to the organization.
First, if someone else can do something more effectively than you can, you will spend too much time attempting to do it yourself. For instance, if you are planning a retirement party for a colleague, you could purchase, prepare, and arrange the food and beverages yourself. However, if you are not very good at preparing food or creating a buffet, it would be to use your time to hire a caterer for this task. In addition to saving the time it takes to purchase and prepare food and drinks, by hiring a reputable caterer, you would spend considerably less energy managing the task and thinking about it.
A second circumstance that benefits from delegation is if there is a task that another person might enjoy more than you. Again, consider the example of organizing a retirement party. Perhaps you do not enjoy party planning, but your colleague does. You can delegate this task to your colleague, perhaps taking on one of his tasks in return, creating a situation in which both of you feel satisfied with the work you are assigned.
A final situation in which you should delegate is if there is an easy task that takes little skill to accomplish. For instance, if you are sending a mass mailing, it is poor time management for you to stuff the envelopes yourself. A lower-level employee, like an assistant or secretary, might better do this. By allowing this other person to do a task that is easy to complete, you are freed to complete other tasks that require more skill and attention. Since the person to whom you have delegated this task is likely to complete it just as effectively as you would have, then there is no drawback to assigning the task to another.
When should you not delegate? First, you should accomplish your major job tasks. For instance, it may be appropriate for your secretary to stuff envelopes with a letter soliciting business from former clients, but it is not appropriate for this secretary to write the entirety of this letter without your help or final approval. If you consistently have others complete tasks that are supposed to be yours, then you may find yourself replaced by another employee. Second, you should not delegate tasks in which the outcome is critical. If you have tasks that, if not completed, can lose the company a client or money, you must be responsible for this task. If you are accountable for an important outcome, you should use caution when delegating. Finally, there are some tasks for which delegation is too expensive. While hiring a caterer for a party does not represent a large cost, there are other times in which hiring others to complete tasks (e.g., offer training or develop a web site) can be cost prohibitive to some organizations.
Procrastination, or putting off a task that must be completed, is common to many people, even in business environments. Procrastination occurs for many reasons: you may not know where to start on a task, you may not understand a task, you may dislike the task, or you may worry that you cannot complete a task successfully. Often a person's anxiety about a task leads them to avoid it. Therefore, to accomplish more in a workday, it is best to tackle the most difficult or worrisome task first. This is a beneficial because it allows you to devote the time and mental energy that is necessary for a difficult or unpleasant task when you are most able to. Furthermore, by reducing the anxiety associated with this task in tackling it early, you will find that work becomes easier. When the unpleasant task is finished, it no longer creates anxiety and worry, which can save time.
If a person leaves unpleasant or difficult tasks until shortly before their deadlines or until the end of the workday, he or she will have less energy to complete this task. Additionally, the anxiety and dread associated with the completion of the task that has been procrastinated may affect a person's ability to complete other tasks throughout the day. The negative emotions associated with the anticipation an unpleasant task is likely to distract a person from the other tasks that they are trying to complete. This can make even easy tasks more time consuming to complete.
Goals can be very effective ways to meet work-place demands in a timely manner. Goals are measurable, short-term objectives. Simply by setting an appropriate goal, you can better organize your day or week. Decades of research have supported the effectiveness of goal setting on performance in a variety of tasks. However, for a goal to be effective, it must be designed properly by being specific and difficult. Specific goals are much more effective than non-specific goals, because your progress can be assessed. For instance, setting a goal of reading 20 pages of a report is a good goal because you can determine whether or not it was accomplished. If your goal was to "read a lot of the report" then you might determine 5 pages into it, that you had accomplished that goal, when in reality, you had not read enough. Goals should also be difficult, but not too challenging. A goal that is too easy, such as "respond to one e-mail today" are not motivating because they present no challenge at all. Overly difficult goals (e.g., "improve my sales by 50 percent in one month") are also not motivational; they are so challenging that a person may give up too soon, realizing they will never reach the goal. In addition to being appropriately specific and difficult, you are more likely to reach goals to which you are committed. A lack of interest or commitment in reaching the goal makes the goal-setting process futile.
One of the advantages of setting goals to improve time management is that, over time, you gain a more realistic understanding of what can be accomplished in a workday. People who do not often set goals may not be aware of what their capabilities are; however, those who have set goals more consistently have a good idea of which goals they have been able to meet and which were set too high or too low.
MEET DEADLINES EARLY
Some people thrive when working under deadlines. Newspaper reporters operate each day with a set of firm deadlines. However, many other people find deadlines to be daunting and stressful. Deadlines are set to help us manage time. By always meeting deadlines, or even by meeting them early, you can appropriately manage time. If you complete deadline work early, you reduce the stress associated with your schedule, and you have more self-confidence about completing work tasks. Additionally, a person's work is likely to be higher quality if deadlines are met; attention to detail can suffer when a person is hurrying to finish a project. To meet your deadlines early, you can break larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritize them. In addition, setting interim deadlines before a final deadline can help you to set goals and to make a large and seemingly unmanageable project seem easier to complete. Finally, tackling more difficult tasks first, as described previously, may increase your ability to meet deadlines.
Organization and time management go hand in hand. Many people waste time looking for documents, messages, or other information necessary to complete tasks in a timely manner. There are a number of steps that can help you stay organized. First, arrange your workspace in a way that promotes organization. That is, have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. If you do not have a specific location for telephone messages, it is not surprising that you might spend time looking for a telephone message or even misplace one. Additionally, put the items that are most used closest to you. If you use a reference book (such as a dictionary or a computer programming language reference book) frequently, putting that book across the room wastes time. You want to minimize the amount of time you spend getting up from your desk retrieving or looking for items.
A second suggestion for staying organized is to spend a little time each day organizing your work-space. Discard paper and electronic documents that are no longer needed, file documents that will be needed at a later time, and write a to do list for tasks that must be accomplished that day or the next day. Some time management experts suggest that you only touch each piece of paper in your office once. That is, if you receive a memo, you should read it when you receive it and take action based on it only once, rather than reading the memo, putting it down, and having to reread it several times before acting on it.
A third suggestion it to use a calendar or day planner to stay organized; this will help you to remember important dates and deadlines. Without a calendar in which such dates are noted, some tasks or meetings may be forgotten; instead of planning the time you need to do certain tasks, you may have to drop everything to accomplish a task that must be done for a meeting that you forgot was later that day. For a calendar to be effective for time management, however, you must be sure to note important dates. An incomplete or inaccurate calendar is useless. This suggestion fits nicely with the recommendation to spend a little time each day organizing your workspace. If part of your organization effort includes documenting any important dates and times and reviewing events on a calendar scheduled fro the following days, this can aid time management.
FIND YOUR PRODUCTIVE TIME
Each person has a time of the day in which they are better able to concentrate or to do certain types of work. And, most people have a time of the day in which they have difficulty staying focused and getting things done. Some people are very productive in the mornings, but less able to concentrate in the afternoons. Others cannot tackle difficult tasks in the morning and prefer to wait until later in the day to do work that requires attention to detail. By determining when you are best able to do certain types of tasks, you can schedule them throughout your day so that you are most productive. For instance, if you are able to read and evaluate best in the morning, schedule those tasks for when you first arrive at work. If you find yourself getting sleepy in the afternoons, then reading quietly is not the best task for this time of day. Instead, you may choose to do tasks that involve a little bit of physical activity or that do not require as much mental concentration. Perhaps returning telephone calls or meeting with co-workers is better for afternoon tasks.
By scheduling tasks during the times of day when you are best able to do them, you are likely to be able to complete your work in a more time effective manner. Many people waste time trying to concentrate or solve difficult problems by doing so at a time that is ineffective for them. Re-reading a memo three times because you lack concentration in the late afternoon is a poor choice when you could read the memo once in the morning.
Stress is a major barrier to effective time management. Stress created by the workplace or by personal concerns can create anxiety and worry that are distracting from work. Even ineffective time management can lead to stress, since anxiety over completing tasks in a timely manner can hinder their accomplishment. To manage stress, it is important to first recognize what is creating the stress. Is it worry over a particular task, a work situation, or an issue at home? Once the stressor is recognized, it can be better managed. If the source of stress is unidentified, then it cannot be managed.
Once the source of stress is identified, you must determine which parts of the situation can be controlled and which cannot. For instance, if the source of stress is a looming deadline for a project, tackling some elements of that project or scheduling some of the tasks may relieve stress. However, there may be parts of the project that are causing stress that cannot be managed. For instance, if part of the successful completion of the project depends on the work of another person, this may create stress that cannot be controlled unless you have some ability to monitor the work of the other person. For stressors that are out of your control, you must either find ways to exert more control or to ignore the issue and focus on those tasks that you can control.
Even when stressors have been identified and controlled to some extent, you may still experience stress. To reduce stress physically, you can get an appropriate amount of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat properly. Many Americans are sleep deprived, and skipping even a couple of hours of sleep each night can have noticeable consequences in the workplace. Some sleep experts liken working while sleep deprived to working while drunk. Although many people think that they will get more done by working more hours and sleeping less, getting appropriate amounts of sleep can instead make a person more productive during their working hours, requiring less time on the job. There are many suggestions for improving sleep, as detailed in Exhibit 1.
Physical exercise can also reduce stress. Sports and other fitness activities can reduce a person's resting heart rate and blood pressure, which can help to alleviate the negative effects of stress. Many people forgo physical activity, believing that time invested in exercise will detract from a person's ability to complete other tasks. However, much like getting proper sleep, even minimal physical activity can make a person more effective during working hours due to decreased stress and anxiety.
LEARN TO SAY NO
Many people who struggle with time management do so because they have too many obligations. People agree to take on tasks or responsibilities, knowing that their time is limited, but feeling that they cannot say no. However, people agree to take on tasks that they have little time for because they want to help others, they feel guilty for saying no, feel obligated by a superior, or misjudge the time they have available. Saying yes to people who make requests can feel good, but not having time to accomplish tasks can be a letdown to the person and the organization. So, often times, saying no to a request is a better option than taking on a task for which there is not adequate time. Therefore, knowing the right time to decline a request is important.
How does a person know when to say yes or no to a request? First, you must consider what the actual commitment is; that is, how much time, effort, and energy it will take. If you do not fully explore the possible commitments required by a certain request, you may be agreeing to do something that takes much longer than you originally anticipated. Second, you must decide if agreeing to the request is a good use of your time. If you compare the proposed commitment to your normal duties, which is more important? Those tasks that have very meaningful outcomes may be worth agreeing to do even when time is limited.
Even when a person knows that they do not have the time available to say yes to a new commitment, saying no can be difficult. To decline a request more effectively, you should do four things. First, offer the person a reason for your answer of no. If you do not provide a good reason to decline the request, then others may assume that you are lazy or selfish. Second, be tactful when you turn someone down because the denial may make him or her angry or hurt. Third, suggest an alternative that takes less time. By giving the requester another option, such as a different employee who might do the task or another time when you can help, you show that you want to cooperate, while still protecting your time. Finally, tell the person "no" as soon as possible. By asking for time to think over a decision when you know that you will decline their request, you may cause more problems or even find yourself obligated to say yes.
REDUCE THE INTRUSION OF TECHNOLOGY
The availability of communication technology, such as e-mail and cellular telephones has done much to improve the ability of Americans to get work done. However, communication technology can also hinder your ability to get work done. Employees now have many interruptions while trying to get work done. If you find that the arrival of a new email message or the ringing of the telephone is interrupting your work, you may choose to ignore them. If you are able to postpone speaking with people or responding to email messages, it may be helpful to set aside a time period that is communication free. For instance, you might decide that from 1 p.m. each day, you must concentrate on getting specific tasks done, and during that time, you will not take calls or read e-mails. It is important, however, after this period of no communication to respond to work-related messages received during this time period.
ORGANIZATIONAL APPROACHES TO IMPROVING TIME MANAGEMENT
Because time management can have an effect on employees' productivity in the workplace, some employers are now offering information and assistance for employees who want to better manage their time. Some organizations now offer time management workshops that teach skills such as those listed above. Additionally, seminars may be developed around particular models of time management, such as those presented in Steven Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Another approach employers can use to assist employees in time management skills is through wellness programs. Wellness programs are opportunities offered or subsidized by the organization to promote physical and emotional health and well-being, thereby reducing stress. They are intended as preventative measures and aim to reduce health risks and/or emotional stress. One of the outcomes that may be associated with a wellness plan is the ability to better manage timef people are more physically well, many of the stress-related barriers to time management are reduced. Wellness plans may involve free or reduced-cost health club memberships, on-site health clubs, relaxation courses, stress-reduction courses, smoking cessation courses, and even time management courses. Some organizations even take the step of reducing health insurance premiums for those employees who participate in a wellness plan.
Finally, many organizations now offer benefits and services intended to help employees manage non-work activities. Flexible work hours, on-site day care, leave banks, and even valet services are now being offered in some organizations. These types of services, while often improving employee recruitment and retention, may also help to reduce distractions at work, to reduce employee stress, and to assist employees in being more productive during working hours.
Time management is a challenge for many people, and there are a number of tips that can help employees to make better use of their time. By learning delegating skills, prioritizing tasks appropriately, setting goals, meeting deadlines early, staying organized, finding the most productive time of the day, minimizing stress, saying "no" to some requests, and reducing the intrusion of technology, employees may be able to improve their time management. Additionally, many organizations now offer programs to teach employees time-management skills in order to reduce stress and improve overall well-being, and to assist them in managing their non-work lives.
Covey, Steven R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1989.
Mancini, Marc. Time Management. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003.
Tracy, Brian. Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible. New York: AMACON Books, 2004.
Time Management (Encyclopedia of Business)
"Time management" refers to making the most productive use of a set period of timee it days, hours, weeks, or months. In business the principle of time management is to use the time available to complete a project wisely and to work "smarter, not harder" in order to get more accomplished within that fixed period.
For centuries people used the general measurement of sunrise to sunset to gauge time, but with the development of the clock attention began to focus on the hours within a day as well. By the 17th century the clock had been perfected and become so well-established in society that the French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes (1596 1650) used the clock as a model for humanity in his writings.
But it was during the Industrial Revolution that the clock really came of age. Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915), an American engineer, undertook the first time and motion studies. Taylor subjected each aspect of the work process to a stopwatch measurement, then studied the results to look for ways to reduce the number of steps needed to accomplish a particular task or job. This concept of time management as something that managers did for line workers held sway until the 1930s, when managers began to find their own tasks so overwhelming that they too sought ways to manage time more efficiently.
In the 1930s Ivy Lee, a management consultant, initiated a simple "6-Step" process that became the standard for measuring the productivity of managers. The Ivy Lee plan was simple. Managers needed only to list the six most important things to be done that day, in order of importance, the most important being first. Then, the manager was to work on those tasks in order, not proceeding from one task to the next until the preceding task had been accomplished.
In the last half of the 20th century time came to be described as a "commodity, a resource to be used, hoarded, traded, and exploited." Despite changes in the way that businesses view time, time management for managers remains, in large measure, a matter of simplifying and compartmentalizing tasks to avoid diffuseness of effort. Making schedules and lists of the type recommended by Lee is still the most common method employed by managers wishing to improve their time management. Other simple and commonsense techniques, such as keeping meetings to a minimum and keeping them as short as possible, are all that is required in many cases to free a manager's time for more productive activities.
After World War II, studies of management began to broaden to look at time management in all aspects of business and life. Use of time became a focal area of management seminars in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967 Peter Drucker proposed a chronological record-keeping method for managers, which was refined by Alec Mackenzie into an executive time directory in 1972. The following year saw the release of Alan Lakein's book, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, which reflected recognition by business educators of public concern with time management. Some of the best-known resources on time management include The One Minute Manager by Dr. Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, and its sequel by Blanchard and Robert Lorber, Putting the One Minute Manager to Work. In the late 1990s, businesses began looking at the development of new partnerships and alliances, streamlining of corporate procedures and processes, and increased use of consultants, as means to more effective time management.
Critical path accountability, a new time management technique for managers, emerged in the mid-to-late 1990s. Managers making use of critical path accountability involve all members of a business transaction, including manufacturers, distributors, customers, and their employees in the production and delivery process. Keeping all parties to a transaction informed as to its progress leads to mutual accountability and the establishment of a system of checks and balances within the production process.
The essentials of time management involve recognition of goals and organization of one's efforts so that all steps taken follow a path toward achieving that goal and are not wasted or diverted from that purpose. Many of the barriers to efficient time management are flaws of human naturehe desire to procrastinate, to pursue pleasure rather than purpose, perfectionism that will not accept a job as complete, and insecurity that does not allow a person to delegate tasks to others. As such, a time management strategy often begins with an assessment of one's personal habits, including the ability to "just say no" to certain requests for demands upon your time that will not contribute to achievement of your basic goals. Mackenzie, in The Time Trap, said that time management is not just about the use of an abstract commodityime. Mackenzie posited that time management is about what we can accomplish with time.
Good time management also reaches into other areas of management, including planning and goal setting, communication with others in order to effectively delegate, and assessment skills to determine if the goals were reached and how work can be done better in the future.
Many experts feel that current attitudes toward time management will evolve significantly in the near future. According to Diana Scharf-Hunt and Pam Hart, just as the clock mechanical tool in a mechanical ageed industry to respond to needs for time management in a mechanistic way with time and motion and lists and plans for steps to reach goals, the computer information age has broadened our understanding of time and created different needs to which management must respond.
Scharf-Hunt, a respected management consultant and specialist in time management, put forth the idea that as the 20th century draws to a close, the seconds and minutes of a clock are no longer the final arbiters of time. The computer calculates in nanosecondshe blink of an eye. Scharf-Hunt and Hart found "Just as the clock tolled hours, minutes and seconds for the Industrial age, now the computer measures intervals in fleeting blips of time so infinitesimal that we cannot experience, let alone absorb them. As the clock once revolutionized work and society, the computer is revolutionizing how we work and live with time."
Scharf-Hunt and Hart formulated a time management style for the 21st century that involves a more thorough understanding of who we are, a more holistic approach to time that blends an outlook on work and life and the need to balance personal choices of all typesot just career choicesnd philosophy with work. While appointments and meetings need to be viewed as relevant to the work goal, one needs also to consider their relevancy to total purpose. The broader basis for control is the belief that the mind is the ultimate control or site of management activity and the whole mind must be considered. On the other hand Charles Fine, in his 1997 book, The Quick and the Dead, makes the more traditional point that industries (in this case, the U.S. automobile industry) must respond to the faster pace of business in the computer age by increasing their flexibility and ability to respond to new markets, industrial procedures, and products.
Modern electronics are also revolutionizing personal time management. Many companies have begun allowing employees to make use of "just in-time" electronic communications to discharge their personal duties while on the job, a move that in the long run allows employees to spend more time at work and less time attending to personal matters. Other organizations have turned to their employees' internal state-of-mind as a time management device, setting up meditation and other consciousness raising programs to help employees deal with the limitations of time. Despite such novel methods, common sense prevails in employee as well as managerial time management. Designing offices to minimize lines of sight to personal workspaces, for instance, can reduce talking among employees and increase productivity.
But while the foundation of time management may shift and go beyond the business setting to life as a whole, the premise remains that time management in business seeks to use time and structure it to enable managers to reach the goals of efficiency and effectiveness.
SEE ALSO: Critical Path Method
updated by Grant Eldridge]
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