10 Effective Time Management Skills For Managers

Most managers are charged with so many responsibilities that they struggle to keep track of the minutes as they go flying by, yet keeping a close eye on the clock is often a crucial part of attaining success in any industry. Despite the frustration and distress that can be associated with closely managing your calendar, it’s imperative that managers and business leaders understand the importance of good time management skills if they want to remain effective leaders for long.

How can managers go about bolstering their time management skills, anyway? Here are the 10 effective time management skills which you can’t afford to neglect if you want to be a stellar leader.

  1. Handling time realistically

Perhaps the most important time management skill any manager can learn is the ability to handle their time realistically. This means that the timeframes you orient yourself around and deadlines you hold yourself accountable to must be strict, as failing to set realistic and achievable guidelines is the same thing as setting no guidelines for yourself at all. Setting realistic timeframes isn’t always easy, however, especially if you have senior company leaders who expect quick results constantly breathing down your neck.

Understand that you can’t set wildly unrealistic expectations for yourself or others when it comes to their time, and you’ll be a better manager sooner rather than later. This means being realistic when scheduling shifts, being considerate when it comes to holidays and other off periods, and generally remaining flexible with the understanding that your previously established timeframe could suddenly be changed when new circumstances arise.

  1. Learn to separate the important from the urgent

Another crucial time management skill for managers is the ability to separate the important from the urgent. Often, managers and other leaders focus most of their attention on tasks with pressing deadlines. Pressing deadlines can be intimidating, and nobody wants to turn in a tardy report, but it’s a simple matter of fact that not every deadline-driven task is as important as some others which may have no time constraints but are nevertheless of the upmost importance.

Improving the skill set of your workforce, for instance, is something that’s exceptionally difficult to achieve in a narrow timeframe. As more of a long-term goal, training your employees could fall by the wayside when compared to more pressing issues like hiring a new recruit to fill a sudden vacancy. At the end of the day, however, your employee training is still essential towards long-term success, so ignoring it completely in order to focus on “timelier” tasks could seriously backfire.

Scour the Harvard Business Review’s guide on how to divide and conquer when it comes to the important versus the urgent, and you’ll be a much better manager.

  1. Soothing wayward employees

You can never be an effective manager if you’re not constantly asking yourself how you can go about helping the rank and file employees you’re supposed to be overseeing. That’s why it’s so essential to learn about soothing wayward employees, as workers who have missed an important deadline or feel as if they have too much on their plate at once will need some excellent guidance if they’re to achieve their ambitions while helping the company. Good managers understand that everyone misses a deadline sooner or later, and that forgiveness and retraining are a better answer to the slovenly handling of time than harshness and rebukes.

Rather than turning your ire upon the employees who miss deadlines, try to determine what caused them to stray from their original timeline in the first place. Isolate the reasons that your workers are struggling to manage their time properly, and you’ll be able to deal with them one at a time. Don’t forget that your time management skills as a senior company leader are only useful if you can leverage them to help your everyday workers optimize their performance.

  1. Be wary of multitasking

Everybody is different, and a strategy which works excellent for one manager may produce disastrous results for another. Nevertheless, it’s important for everyone, everywhere to be wary of multitasking, even and especially if it’s your preferred method of dealing with conflicting tasks all at once. Even those who are excellent multitaskers must understand that it’s easy to lose track of time when juggling multiple objectives. Careful preparation and a wholesome discipline must be embraced from the get-go if you want to multitask as a manager without letting important responsibilities fall by the wayside.

One of the reasons that many managers fail when it comes to multitasking and time management is information overload. An “always-on” work environment has driven modern professionals to their wits’ end, and those who don’t understand how to grapple with information overload will inevitably waste too much of their time going over data they’ve already been exposed to. If you’re a manager who enjoys multitasking, take extra steps to ensure you’re keeping good track of your responsibilities and have enough time to see to them all.

  1. Know why time is essential

Knowing why time is essential and how it’s come to be may sound strange, but it’s an essential part of being a great manager. The political value of time is a complex and intimidating concept to wrap one’s head around, but managers who fail to appreciate just how modern society became so dependent upon scientifically measured durational time won’t ever truly grasp the importance or meaning of rigorous scheduling and time management technologies. Familiarizing yourself with the politics of time is thus a crucial step for a budding manager who wants to become a well-recognized professional in their field.

Time is often important for legitimacy and formality; if your company holds meetings every day at 10 in the morning but most employees fail to show up on time, it’s a sign that your company lacks legitimacy and formality. By recognizing the importance of time as it pertains to organizational legitimacy and coherence, managers will be equipping themselves with the skills and knowledge needed to explain rigorous scheduling and time management procedures to the workers under their care.

  1. Consider using a personal system

Having already established why formal time management skills are needed, it’s now worthwhile to explore the usage of personal time-keeping systems. You can establish a personal system of time management for yourself by jotting down your most important goals at the beginning of the year. In a list form, detail the tasks which are of the most pressing importance to you in the forthcoming months. After you’ve identified your priorities in the form of a list, utilize it as a checklist to keep track of your current achievements.

Don’t be afraid to give yourself deadlines but understand that personal time management systems differ greatly based on which professional we’re analyzing. Holding yourself accountable is necessary if you want to achieve results, so don’t rely on this strategy if you’re not confident in your own abilities to meet your deadlines.

Using a personal system necessitates that you explain it to your workforce, too, so be prepared to illustrate to others who you go about keeping track of your responsibilities. Finally, remember that managers who use personal systems which can’t be neatly described to others are failing in their responsibility to keep their teams up to date and moving in the same direction

  1. Make time an organizational priority

If relying on a personal system of time management isn’t your style, you’ll likely need to make time an organizational priority rather than something personally handled by managers. Ensuring that your business takes time seriously is easier said than done, however, and many businesses have tried and failed when it comes to elevating timely concerns over other, non-temporal matters.

Experts at McKinsey have laid out helpful rules to follow when it comes to making time an organizational priority that every aspiring manager should familiarize themselves with. They note that an important part of making time an organizational priority is getting past the idea that time is an infinite resource. Compared to tangible assets like capital in the bank, for instance, many business leaders view time as a trivial asset not worth managing closely. In reality, however, a company can never meet its deadlines and ensure organizational efficacy unless it understands that it must manager its time as closely as it would any other precious asset.

Don’t be afraid to review your company’s priorities and mission statement to determine if you’re wasting time in essential areas. A lackluster department which fails to closely monitor how its employees are spending their time could be remodeled to more closely resemble a different, more efficient department in the company. Managers who fail to understand that managing time is often an organizational priority will seldom be able to meet deadlines and inspire workers to diligently manage their hours.

  1. Establish a time-audit process

Managers may be convinced that keeping close track of your time is important, but few of them know how to go about actually doing it. If you’re interested in more closely tracking how your workers spend their time, consider establishing a time-audit process. It’s imperative to understand that any auditing must also apply to managers and senior company leaders as well. Rather than viewing a time-audit as an intimidating process that will dish out punishments to those who aren’t making good use of their working hours, you should instead view this process as a way of identifying underperforming areas and reorienting them to be more productive.

Managers who host meetings should be asking themselves if those meetings were productive and worthwhile in their immediate aftermath. If need be, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your workers for their feedback in this regard, as collecting anonymous feedback on how you’re spending time can greatly inform managers. If you’re regularly holding meetings which your employees view as a waste of time, you can reschedule your operations to be more efficient.

Projects which are producing lackluster results should be hastily dropped and replaced with more efficient operations that are likelier to meet your pressing deadlines. The most important aspect of a time-audit process is ensuring you’re using it to make better use of your time, as managers who use time-audits to merely bully and micromanage their workers are sorely missing the point.

  1. Understand the power of a routine

Managers who are struggling to achieve consistent results when it comes to ensuring timeliness probably don’t appreciate the power behind a daily routine. Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s immensely easy to establish a strict schedule in our brains that we follow whether we’re aware of it or not. Managers who aren’t tapping into our natural affinity for routines of private schools are failing to achieve maximum efficiency while leaving their workers to deal with hectic, irregular schedules which can be exhausting to work around for long.

Ask yourself what routines you’ve already established as a manager, how you can go about optimizing them, and which new routines may be necessary to prioritize timeliness in your organization going forward. This is a good time to introduce a new time-audit process if you haven’t done so already; auditing your time management in a routine fashion will ensure that you’re constantly on your toes and spending your minutes wisely.

When managers understand how routine action and thought are the structure of life itself, they’ll be able to more efficiently organize employees while strictly keeping to deadlines.

  1. Know when to delegate

The final time management skill that every manager should be familiar with is knowing how to delegate work to others when you’re overworked yourself. A crucial mistake that far too many business leaders make is believing that they’re capable of single-handedly forming a business empire. Sometimes, you must be ready and willing to turn to others for help and say that you can’t do it all – and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Be on the lookout for opportunities to delegate authority or minor responsibilities to up and coming workers who have demonstrated a capacity for growth. By delegating projects to rising stars within your ranks, you’ll be freeing up your own schedule to focus on the mots pressing of issues while enabling your minor employees to hone their skills and gain much needed experience. Knowing how and when to delegate is doubtlessly one of the most effective weapons in any manager’s arsenal.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.