The secret of effective time management at work is summed up by the simple equation:
ET/VT = 1
Which is to say that the amount of time which has passed (Elapsed Time or ET) divided by the value derived from the time spent (Value Time of VT) should always equal, or come close to being equal to 1.
PUTTING A COST ON YOUR TIME
One way of deciding whether or not you should be doing a particular task is to calculate it’s monetary cost. You can do this by completing the calculation below:
Annual salary = £
Regular bonus or commissions received = £
Add 20% of net salary to cover contributions = £
Add 100% of basic salary to cover overheads (office space, light, heat, phone, travel, secretarial, administrative assistance, etc. = £
Total annual cost to company = £
Now divide that total by 230 (the average number of days worked per year) = £
Finally divide the result by the average number of hours you work each day.
The result shows the hourly cost to your company of each activity you undertake.
Total hourly cost = £
Actually, this is almost certainly an underestimate since nobody can be fully productive for every minute of every working day. Putting numbers to the calculation enables you to decide whether any task is economically viable (there may of course be other reasons for wanting or needing to spend time on certain activities).
Another way of looking at the equation, which applies in many service industries, is to take not what you are paid but what clients will be billed for your services. This can make a startling difference to the equation!
Knowing what your time is worth – and most managers underestimate this cost – puts a price tag on activities, such as attending meetings, driving across town to solve a client’s problems, socialising over the phone, chatting with colleagues around the coffee machine, answering letters and so on. Such knowledge enables you to be more time efficient by becoming more cost efficient. For example through discovering new ways of completing a task more rapidly.
For a typical working week, keep a brief written note of all your activities, using the Time Tracker Sheets below. Photocopy these to provide sufficient records for a typical working week. When making your notes follow these guidelines:
#1 Record each attention shift, no matter how brief. For example, when interrupted by:
Switching from a high to a lower priority task, whether out of boredom, a desire for variety or because you are obliged to do so.
Attending a meeting.
Being given work that you regard as less important than the job on which you were currently engaged.
#2 Keep track of these shifts of attention as they occur. Some people mistakenly believe they will remember them accurately enough to do their Time Tracking at the end of the day. However research shows that memory is a poor guide to how time was spent, which means that this approach never produces sufficiently accurate information.
#3 Complete only the first three columns on the chart: Time; Activity; Time Taken.
#4 Keep your records brief by using abbreviations:
(T) = Telephone calls. Use an arrow pointing towards or away from the (T) to indicate incoming and outgoing calls.(R) = Reading reports and other documents. (W) = Writing letters, memos etc. (D) = Dictating. (V) = Visitors. Tick if by appointment and use an X to show an unscheduled visit.
You will find it easy enough to invent other abbreviations for frequent tasks and interruptions. But be sure to note these down on the top of the sheets, to avoid wasting time trying to decipher out what they stand for!
#5 Start Time Tracking from the moment you start work and complete it when you finally stop for the day. If you take work home include the time spent on this as well.
An example of a completed record sheet is shown below:
ASSESSING YOUR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
For effective time management you need a high level of proficiency in the following ten skills:
- Identifying key areas for results
- Setting goals
- Controlling interruptions
- Planning and prioritising
- Avoiding procrastination
- Effective meetings
- Focusing and concentration
- Organised work methods
Score yourself on each of these skills using the chart opposite. I suggest that you photocopy this page so that you can reassess your time management skills in a month’s time, once you have put into practice the techniques described on this course.
The higher your score the greater your ability with that aspect of time management. By joining up these points you can create a profile of your current time management strengths and weaknesses. Finally, total your score and write it in the first box.
Next look at those skills where you scored the lowest points and consider how much improvement you can reasonably bring about over the next four weeks. Improving time management means making changes in your present attitudes and working methods. All change is difficult and, at least initially, often stressful. Be realistic in your setting of these goals. It is far better to improve gradually than risk failure by over reaching yourself. Keep in mind the saying: “What is hard by the yard is a cinch by the inch”. Finally total your new score and write this Target total in the second box. Return to the chart after using the procedures taught in this programme for four weeks. Notice where improvements have been made and further changes are needed.
Use the information gained from these exercises to review your current attitudes towards and methods for managing time. In particular:
- Notice which activities are determined more by habit than efficiency.
- Experiment with ways of rearranging your schedule.
- Notice where stress is caused by having to work with people whose time profiles are very different to your own. Try and understand their viewpoint and keep calm if their approach to planning, deadlines and organising schedules is very different from your own.
- Concentrate your efforts on those procedures designed to enhance performance in any of the ten key skill areas where your score was below five.