What is time management?
Time management is the process of planning ahead and organizing your time so that you can complete multiple tasks and projects. With effective time management, you’ll get more done in less time.
What makes effective time management so difficult?
When you’re working on several projects at once, it can be a pain to navigate shifting deadlines and priorities. The day goes by quickly, emails and messages come in continually, and it’s easy to waste time on context switching.
Imagine a busy developer named Fred. Fred may be working on a very important mobile app, only to have his colleague come over to consult him on some code. Fred offers to help out, because he’s nice like that. He may get back to the app, only to realize he has a stand-up meeting scheduled.
During the meeting his team lead might tell him that his priorities have changed and an urgent fix is needed on another project. Fred’s work on the mobile app is put aside and suddenly he’s working on something completely different.
This chaotic kind of worklife can wreak havoc on our productivity. Studies have shown that it takes up to 23 minutes to get back to a task after an interruption. Trying to multi-task doesn’t help, either. Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitaskers are less productive than those who do one thing at a time.
The answer is to plan ahead and master effective time management. It can help all of us to deal with the tsunami of tasks that overwhelm us at work every day. It’s not an easy thing to do, but that said, it’s worth the effort, because once you master time management, you’ll see plenty of benefits.
Related article: 3 reasons time management can be difficult to master
What are the benefits of time management in the workplace?
Once you learn how to organize and plan your time in a way that works for you, you’ll see a big difference in how you work. Here are some of the benefits of learning to manage your time:
You’ll achieve more
The most obvious benefit is increased productivity. Instead of bouncing from one thing to another all the time, you will have strategies in place to finish tasks without losing focus. The result is that you’ll produce more work with greater efficiency.
You’ll produce higher-quality work
Time management helps you focus on important projects by shutting out distractions and prioritizing. The result is that more time goes into the work that matters, and the quality of more important projects visibly increases.
You’ll feel less stress
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there’s too much work on your plate. With time management, you’ll get a handle on what has to be done within what timeline. With a better sense of what’s possible, you won’t overcommit and have to suffer through excessive overtime.
You’ll start making deadlines
Maybe you tend to overshoot when setting deadlines with your manager. Maybe you overestimate your velocity on projects. Or maybe you simply take on too much. With practice, you will have a better sense of which deadlines need to be prioritized and the time limits you set for yourself will be more achievable.
You’ll get organized
Imposing order on your workload makes it more manageable. One of the benefits of time management is that it helps professionals get and stay organized.
Related article: 5 Tips to Stay Organized (Beyond Project Management Tools)
Wouldn’t your manager be happy if you could get all those benefits? The answer for most people is yes. So what’s the secret to becoming better at time management?
Tips to become a master of time management
There are lots of techniques for more effective time management, but it’s worth starting with the basics.
When it comes to time management, one of the most destructive habits you can have is procrastination. There are a few ways to overcome procrastination, such as starting work for short spurts of time or envisioning your future self finishing the task. Check out more pointers for beating procrastination in the article below.
Related article: Break the Procrastination Habit with Time Tracking Software for Jira
Be smart about how you plan
It’s not an easy thing to accurately estimate how long a project will take to finish - just about everyone underestimates how much time is needed to complete them! One trick is to add some extra padding to your estimations. That way, you’ll give yourself a chance to manage your time properly and make deadlines.
Related article: Why We're So Bad at Estimating Time - and How to Solve it in Jira
Work to change your bad habits
We all have bad habits at work that can derail us from reaching our goals, whether it’s chatting too long with co-workers, focusing on low-priority tasks, or getting distracted with social media. Identify and address those habits to manage your time more effectively.
Related article: 7 Tips for Optimal Time Management
Give time for much-needed breaks
It’s impossible to work for eight hours straight on any given day. You may have a 40-hour workweek, but you still need breaks. Effective time management empowers you to take breaks sporadically so you can recharge and supercharge your productivity. So don’t feel bad if you take some time to chat with colleagues, grab a snack, or message a friend.
Related article: You Should Take More Breaks (and Use Jira Time Tracking Apps)
The #1 tip to manage your time more effectively
There’s one tip that’s especially powerful. Invest in this practice, and you’ll instantly see the difference. It is:
Use seamless technology to track your time
The smartest trick is to use technology to help you master effective time management, ideally technology that lives within the same platform you work in. By using software to account for how you spend your hours at work, you become conscious of how much time you’re losing on unimportant tasks. And it’s probably a lot!
Oftentimes, you will find you have an hour or more unaccounted for each day (time that wasn’t spent on restful breaks). That time has been lost to context switching, responding to messages and emails, and other bureaucratic tasks. This kind of lost time is inevitable, but with practice you can minimize it.
Time tracking software will help you become better at time management by encouraging you to account for how you spend your hours and track any improvements. You’ll learn how long, on average, different tasks and projects take.
It’s not just about tracking time, either. Most importantly, you’ll learn to plan ahead every day and keep on top of how you’re spending your time.
To reiterate, planning ahead is key
In some cases, time tracking software will allow you to plan your tasks ahead of time, so you won’t need to buy separate softwares. If you work in Jira, the Tempo Timesheets app offers a helpful function to allow you to plan your own time directly in your timesheet.
If you have a project due in three weeks, for example, you can automatically divide the required hours up between your chosen working days. You can plan time that you want to spend on projects, in meetings, or on vacation. Each morning, your calendar view (which is called My Work) is there to show how much time you’ve planned for yourself on different projects.
These twin practices of using software to track time and plan ahead are invaluable to time management. Having the right technology can support you as you become better at managing your time.
Choosing the right technology
There are lots of options for time tracking and planning software on the market. If you work in Jira, it certainly helps to have a solution directly embedded in the software. You’ll be able to see how much time you’ve spent on different issues and work in the same place.
Tempo Timesheets syncs directly with Jira, allows you to plan your own time, and has sophisticated reporting so you can get all the data you need about how your time management and prioritization are going.
If you’re curious to learn more about tracking time with Tempo, check out our beginner's guide to Tempo Timesheets.