These days it's a harsh reality that for many workers there just aren't enough hours in the day. In many cases, this sadly ends up in resentment as work time drifts into leisure time and the work-life balance of individuals becomes less of a balance, and more a case of hanging on for dear life trying not to completely let go of one or the other.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO for Facebook, said: “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.” – Not a great sign if even one of the most successful business professionals in the world finds it a challenge to maintain a positive balance is it?
As disheartening as the above quote may sound, Sandberg actually inadvertently accelerated the launch for flexi-work programmes the world over (or perhaps that was her plan all along!). It turns out it was a good job too, in 2015, the Workplace Flexibility Study found that over two-thirds of employers believe their workers have a healthy work-life balance, a statement that 45% of workers completely disagreed with.
The disconnect between managers and workers is telling and highlights the need for greater employee education on the benefits of better time management in the workplace. Each of us only has 24 in a day and its a case of finding the right balance in using that time.
A few things I have found to work really well over the past few years have been:
1. Stay positive.
It may sound silly, and maybe doesn't count as a practical method of time management, but it all starts with positive thinking. If an individual – whether a manager or lower-down employee – starts their day thinking, “I’ll never get all this done”, then the likelihood is they won’t. Managers should allocate work that can be completed, even if it looks hard, and ensure all employees know that it is achievable within a normal working day. Being positive will also help to make the time spent at work a little more bearable.
2. Plan like your life depends on it.
If you want to be productive, be organised; plan what it is that needs doing, when it needs doing by and how long a specific task will take to help structure the day and lay out the basis for a productive eight or so hours at work – leaving you a relaxing 16 more to do what you want! Calendars, daily planners and checklists are all time-management life savers. Kanban boards have become popular in recent years too, the key is finding what works for you and to stick with it.
3. Avoid unnecessary busyness.
When someone has a really busy work day ahead of them, it can be easy to get bogged down in negative thinking (see above) and also get distracted easily. Try to start work within five minutes of arrival and try not to fritter the time away with unnecessary busyness of things that are unimportant or that can wait. It is important though to remember to take breaks, concentration levels decrease dramatically without breaks so it can be a huge benefit to schedule regular breaks into your days to do list.
4. Just say no.
It’s vitally important that you value your time and learn when its necessary to turn down work, if given the option. This goes for employees being asked to do favours by colleagues but should also be kept in mind by managers; trust that if a worker says they can’t send that email/make that call/read that report they have a legitimate reason for doing so, and they will be more likely to work harder when they do have the time.
5. Be aware of the time.
Lastly, always be positioned near a timepiece of some form – you'll find it’s quite hard to effectively time manage without one!
Ultimately, time management is inextricably linked to life management. With 2015 ushering in a potential new era for business, where employee welfare really comes to the fore, and 2016 building on this further. It is becoming more and more important for those high-up in a company to not only take the matter seriously, but invest in time-management training for their employees too.
It may be that a busy quarter is coming up, the holiday season has sparked more interest or that a new project will bring with it higher workloads – whatever the reason for change in workloads, managers need to help their employees achieve the balance they supposedly lack. After all, a good balance between work and life can improve the mental health of employees, nurture their relationships and aid productivity in the workplace. Surely that's a win win for everyone?