Being an effective manager means being able to juggle a lot of issues, opportunities and risks all at once. Sometimes that involves equipping yourself with the right project management tools, but sometimes it just requires a concerted effort to improve time management. This helps you better prioritize your tasks and helps you complete those tasks at a higher level of quality. Time management techniques will also reduce the stress you naturally feel from procrastination because you will have more time to complete tasks.
Managers tend to feel the need to check their phones every few minutes, becoming heavily distracted by their own actions. I can honestly say I am guilty of that too, but since I have prioritized improving my time management skills, I feel more productive than ever. Below I’ll share with you eight of the best ways I’ve found to manage my time, so I could focus on being the best manager I could be.
1. Manage Goals, Not Individuals
A great manager focuses not only on goals, but on the moments in between the milestones as well. Every team member needs feedback on their performance, even when they tell you they do not require it (sometimes especially then!). But what will you give them feedback on? Have you set clearly defined goals for them?
One of the greatest approaches a manager takes when managing teams is not only setting goals for the end of a project, but also for during the journey. Start by crafting daily and weekly goals for each team member, along with project completion goals and expectations. By setting clear expectations from the beginning, a successful manager can save themselves and everyone else a lot of time in the long run.
Further out, you should have an idea of where you see this team member in a year and have clearly communicated it to them. You will save your future-self a lot of time if they understand what your expectation of their contribution level should be and by when.
2. Evaluate Your Environment
Do you have a busy office? Are you sitting too close to the most social people? Is this a task you have been avoiding for some time? You won’t be productive if you are always being interrupted or distracted.
Find a place in or outside of the office for those thought-intensive tasks. This does not mean you should upset your physical location permanently. Simply by understanding the environment you are in will help you make better choices when up against a daunting or unwelcome task.
Taking time throughout the day for a walk also can be extremely helpful for your productivity. Try to take 1:1 meeting over a walk as well. Walking can free your mind in a much more productive way than sitting in front of a computer toiling over your to-do list.
3. Know Your Hours of Impact
Throughout the day, every single person is their most effective at different times. I used to work with some developers that were amazing from the hours of 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., but at any other time their impact was dramatically reduced.
A successful manager is one who knows when they will be the most efficient. Pick a week and chart at which times of the day you are most effective. From that, schedule your “working time” during those hours and leave the rest for meetings, check-ins and phone calls. Personally, I’ve found that meetings before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. are the most effective.
Keep in mind the time it takes to switch between tasks. This ramp-up and ramp-down time can be a productivity killer. Take stock of how long it usually takes you to ramp-up on a task. When do you get to the office, how long does it take for you to grab coffee and open that spreadsheet you have been chipping away at? Account for that time as part of your regular routine. Those minutes add up to hours!
4. Stay Present
I will not be the first or last to remind you how distracting our mobile devices can be. While the dopamine reward from checking a notification on social media may be enticing, the longer-term impact on our attention can create a funnel we can rarely escape.
That notification you checked just added something to your to-do list. The list you worked so hard at crafting and are systematically attacking is now regulated to the back seat. Even if you feel engaged a quick glance at your phone should be harmless, right? Wrong. A distracted manager is not a present manager.
Notifications are like to-do list trolls that pop up on your home screen as if to say “Hey! Got something new and exciting here! Don’t miss out!” which sets our minds adrift. No longer are we present in the moment, and we aren’t fully focused on the new information either.
This attention drift splits our attention and sets us on what I like to call the “Island of In-between”. On this island we have two different bridges that will allow us to escape. However, every time we look back and forth between exits, each time they seem a shorter and more pleasing route. If I take this route, I’ll get satisfaction sooner. A quick check over my shoulder I see the other boasting now an even shorter and easier route.
5. Think or Do?
Do you need time to think or do you need time to do? Too many times I have seen managers that combine these two activities. By deliberately separating these two activities I have dramatically increased my productivity.
First, I schedule time to think about a concept while limiting myself to simple note-taking, mind-mapping or whiteboarding my thoughts, so I can be completely focused on outlining the problem or opportunity.
Next I’ll block off time to focus on drafting the solution to formalize the deliverable, whether it be as simple as an important email, proposal or something more complex such as a product roadmap or project plan. Instead of saying “I’ll attack this project plan tomorrow,” start by blocking off an hour today to sketch the outline of your plan. Then the next day, refer to your outline as a jumping-off-point to stay focused as you knock out your plan.
By practicing separating the two important tasks of thinking and doing, I allow myself to be fully present as I discover and design the solutions needed to solve the problem at hand.
6. Satisfy Your Future-Self
Ask yourself, “Will I be happy if I walk into the office tomorrow with ______ accomplished?” While the traditional to-do list is great for helping a manager stay ahead, an engaged and successful manager will parse it through a filter of emotional intelligence. Sure, you may check off every box, but did it make you or your team feel more fulfilled? Did you actually make an impact?
Does your calendar look like a game of Tetris exploded? Take a moment and look a month out. Not so bad in the future is it? This is the time to start planning for your future self. Unless you are in a new position, you should have a feeling for the cadence of your team and projects. Blocking off time a few weeks out to plan for the work you have not seen but know is coming will allow you to start owning your scheduling instead of having it dictated to you.
7. Manage Downtime
Everyone needs a break on occasion. We all plan vacations but why not our breaks? Scheduling breaks throughout the day or week in advance helps to hold you accountable to to your future well-being. Knowing you have an upcoming scheduled break will allow you to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
But what does it mean to take a break in your environment? Can you truly get away from it all? If your office is not conducive to providing private or quiet areas, then schedule some time in a conference room and leave your phone at your desk.
Maybe take a book with you to escape if only for a bit. Listen to some music or a podcast that can take you away from the day for a short while. These mini recharge moments go a long way to improving your productivity every single day.
8. Don’t Stress About Being Productive
Even at our best, we are sometimes not as impactful as we would like to be. Do not let this get you down. We all are trying to be as productive as possible.
Reading books, adopting frameworks and even reading this article is a welcome break; remember to allow yourself some planned, non-productive time. Put down your bullet journal and spend time getting to know yourself. When you do this, you can begin to understand why you’re frantically trying to stay organized and productive.
Another great way for managers to stay productive is by using the right tool. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that delivers real-time data to your dashboard, so you know the progress of your project as it’s happening, not after the fact. With features that help manage every project phase, managers and their teams love our software. See why by taking this free 30-day trial.