Time Management Worksheets and Templates

Working effectively is all about getting things done, but it is also about planning for the future. It is very easy to fall into the trap of doing things right, at the expense of doing the right things. Effective time management involves learning to focus on the right things whilst letting go of some of the less important tasks. Whilst time management forwards many proven techniques, you will need to develop a strategy that suits your own needs.

Whilst addressing your own personal time management strategy is important, it is equally important to consider changing aspects of the organizations culture to maximize the benefits of time management. This is because the organizational structures within which we work can lead to significant time loss.

Individuals and departments may jealously guard tasks for which they are poorly qualified whilst more capable teams and individuals carry on with mundane and routine activities. This fails to stretch the personnel involved and may also lead to de-motivation, sickness and high staff turnover.

It is important to identify problem areas within these structures, so that wherever necessary change can be brought about.

The way in which work is divided into tasks and how these tasks are allocated is one of the defining characteristics of any organization. At this highest level, time wasting factors may be built into the system. For example, the distribution of tasks may be uneven or unfair, with important tasks having far too little attention and resources attributed to them.

Task management may also be adversely affected by poor communication between individuals and the chain of command may be obscure or non-existent. Some tasks may interfere with the execution of others, some may be carried out in the wrong order or may duplicate or overlap with each other. These factors can contribute to a huge time wasting overhead, and represent the sort of fundamental efficiency problem that can threaten the very existence of the organization. These organizational problems are compounded if the individuals within the organization have no mechanism by which they can make suggestions for improving efficiency and effectiveness. Together these factors can lead to substantial time-loss, frustration and stress.

Managing time is all about choosing which tasks to do and in which order. You may not have the luxury of choosing what work you will do, and the majority of tasks may be allocated to you from higher up in the organization. However, you still have to make decisions about what to do and when. You will have colleagues and subordinates who are there to assist, and you will have to make decisions about how best to use these resources.

Here are some common misconceptions about time management:

  1. Efficiency and effectiveness are the same
    Being efficient means doing things quickly and properly, but efficiency in itself is not good time management. To get results, you have to be effective, which means knowing what your priorities are and doing the right things at the right time to achieve your objectives. Efficiency is doing things right, Effectiveness is doing the right things and good time management will enable you to do the right things – right.
  2. To do a job properly, do it yourself
    The ability and willingness to delegate is central to good time management. Conversely, inability or unwillingness to delegate is one of the primary causes of poor performance in business. If you spend time doing tasks that are not central to your objectives, you cannot focus on the things that will make a difference to your results.
  3. There’s only one right way to do a job
    It is always worth spending some time thinking about how a particularly time-consuming task could be done more efficiently. Don’t allow yourself to get into a rut. Ask yourself questions like: What is the required outcome of doing this task?
  4. Time management is a waste of time
    A good time manager spends some time each day thinking and planning. These activities are vital to long-term success in business, and whilst doing them does not make you look busy, it will pay big dividends in your effectiveness. Once you have properly planned and scheduled your tasks for the day, you will be far less troubled by the pressure of time.
  5. A good time manager lacks creativity
    Good time management techniques are there to be used when and how you choose. They are designed to remove unwanted crisis management and last minute panic from your working day and to allow more time for creativity.

Setting Realistic Goals

If you are going to make a consistent and sustained effort to manage your time more effectively, you need to see that your own efforts are rewarded. Before trying to change your behavior, you need to set realistic goals that, when achieved, make you feel that the effort has been worthwhile. Having clear objectives is vitally important, this could be stated as: “I will manage this aspect of my time to achieve that result.”

You will need:
1. A clear understanding of the tactics you intend to use.
2. The determination to apply them consistently.
3. A clear measure of the effectiveness of each tactic.

It is not enough to achieve some results from your time management effort. You must be able to recognize in detail what these results are and to obtain some tangible reward for the effort involved. If you don’t, you are unlikely to be able to keep up your good intentions for any length of time.

For most people the most effective approach to time management is to begin with a limited range of time management tactics, to apply these and to gain positive results, before extending this into an overall strategy.

The 80-20 Rule

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that within any system the tendency is for some elements to yield much higher returns than others. Usually, around 20% of the elements will be high yielders and the remaining 80% will be low yielders. What is even more interesting is that the 20% of high yielders tend to produce around 80% of the yield and the 80% of low yielders produce the remaining 20%.

Whilst Pareto’s research was concerned with economics and found, for example, that 20% of an organizations customers are responsible for 80% of its profits, the 80/20 principle has been found to apply to a wide variety of areas.

In terms of time management and productivity it implies that 20% of the time that you spend on something will produce 80% of your final output, while the remaining 80% of your time will only produce 20% of it.

Obviously, there is nothing fixed about this 80/20 ratio, it is only a guide to what tends to happen if we don’t take any action to work more effectively.

Perfectionism Can be Too Expensive

Perfectionism is a common aspiration in the lives of many professional people, but its cost can be prohibitively high. The search for perfection can result in more time being spent in analysis, criticism and editing than was ever spent in producing the work originally. Perfectionism may lead people to resist taking on tasks that in reality are quite straightforward. Their own inability to address a task, without continually reassessing it against a perfect ideal may make even simple activities too daunting to take on.

Once you are aware of the Pareto principle you can use it as a guide to help you become more realistic about how much time is needed for a particular task. If you are guilty of extreme perfectionism or procrastination then you may find that less than 20% of your time produces 80% of the final output.

Ask yourself: “Is the extra hour you were going to spend editing your report likely to result in only one or two marginal improvements, and couldn’t this time be spent more productively on something else?”

Most people already show many of the attributes needed for effective time management. These include: determination, objectivity, decisiveness and clarity of thinking. It is also important to consider aspects of the organizations culture in order to maximize the benefits of time management.

The most effective approach to time management is to begin with a limited range of time management tactics, and to apply these and to gain positive results, before extending this into an overall strategy.

If you are serious about improving your time management skills then download these free time management worksheets, templates, and eBooks for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Goal Setting eBook
This eBook explains how to use the theory of goal setting to set practical targets for you and your team members.

Successful Delegation eBook
This eBook explains the ten rules of successful delegation that will motivate and empower your team.

Managing Interruptions eBook
This eBook explains how to protect yourself from interruptions and still maintain a good relationship with your colleagues.

Overcoming Procrastination eBook
This eBook explains how to overcome the obstacles that prevent you from starting difficult high-priority tasks.

Negotiating Workload Limits eBook
This eBook explains how to negotiate your workload to a manageable level and avoid becoming snowed under.

Productivity Tools eBook
This eBook explains how to choose the best productivity tools and describes how to use them to get more work done.

Key Points

  • Time should be seen as the most valuable of all resources.
  • Beware of doing things right at the expense of doing the right things.
  • You will need to develop a strategy that suits your own needs.
  • The organizational culture can be as important as your personal strategy.
  • Existing organizational structures can lead to significant time losses.
  • Organizations are characterized by how they define and allocate tasks.
  • Inefficient task management can lead to huge time losses.
  • Staff should be able to make suggestions for improving efficiency and effectiveness.
  • To persevere with time management, you will need to see your efforts rewarded.
  • Within any system some elements will yield much higher returns than others.
  • 20% of your effort is likely to produce 80% of your final output.
  • The cost of seeking perfection can be prohibitively high.
  • Perfectionism may lead people to resist taking on even simple tasks.
  • Use the 80/20 rule to ensure that you maximize your effectiveness.

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