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Looking at this time management tools and techniques, you would understand that applying best practices in time management can make you to effectively complete tasks and meet set goals without procrastination and distraction. We want to look at basic time management techniques that do more than manage time. They also help your organizational skills and boost your productivity.

We are starting by looking at the importance of time with respect to business. The content of this article can be applied to individuals as well as businesses.

Nothing can be done to reduce or increase time. It is one of those things that cannot be influenced in any way. You can only arrange things to work with time because it’s impartial. If we have any issue with time, it is because limited resources, demands, expectations and aspirations has placed on us the need to meet with deadlines. The issue is not directly with time but with the demands placed on us to meet a deadline.

Time management for any size of business is critical because productivity or waste is invariably tied to time. Working to time i.e. producing an expected result within a time-frame is the holy grail of business. Let us look at some of the basic tools that can help us meet with deadlines, thereby making us to manage time in the most effective manner.

Tool #1 – Goal Setting

Goal setting becomes a tool of time management when it is used to enforce a deadline. Goal setting as a time management tool can only become effective when the goal has a time limit. There are times when people set goals without a time limit. Some argue that a goal without a time limit or defined period of expected fulfillment is just an aspiration.

Fortunately, anytime goals and objectives are set in a business environment where they usually have a time limit. They become tools of time management because it has an expected time of fulfillment. So, effective use of time results in fulfillment of goals before the deadline.

Importance Of Time To Businesses

Time is tied to failure and success in a business environment. The goal that has a deadline can be met at anytime, but if it is met after the deadline, it is regarded as a failure (businesses can postpone whatever they want to do with the project, but in most cases, it is cancelled once the deadline has passed and could lead to people losing their jobs).

Operating within time-frames is the hallmark of the business environment. In a world filled with competition, timing is very important. A product’s success may be hinged on the time it is launched. It may just have to be launched during the holidays, before school resumes or in the early days of a season to have the required impact, and failure to do so may just mess everything up.

Therefore, goal setting is a powerful time management tool because it connects that goal to the required time of execution or fulfillment. In fact, once a person writes down a goal, it becomes second nature to ascribe a time-frame to that goal.

Tool #2 – Segmentation

The next thing that comes after goal setting is, the breaking down of the goal into smaller bits that would make up tasks. These are tasks that act as the building blocks to the goal. This is an important area of time management. Segmentation allows you turn a big project and problem into smaller projects. These are smaller tasks that can be better managed.

Segmentation may take a degree of expertise because you have got to understand the project, for you to know how to break them up into smaller bits. This is a time management tool because breaking the project down does not just make it more manageable, but reduces the time it will take you to tackle each.

    • It reduces the size of the problem
    • It makes it easier to deal with each area
    • You get to observe these areas a bit more and probably see things you would not have seen if you had lumped it as a whole.
    • Complex issues become simplified when they are broken down into smaller pieces
    • This makes it easier and probably faster to resolve.

we have just started on the basic tools of time management. The concluding part will attempt to cover other tools and see how they relate to time management.

Don’t forget we are looking at some of the basic tools of time management with the aim of not only reducing the time you take to handle projects, but maximizing productivity and profit using this same time management techniques.

Tool #3 – Prioritization

Once you have set your goal and you have broken it down into smaller bits, prioritization is the next thing to implement. Prioritization is about looking at the bits and pieces and listing them according to their order of importance. You will tackle them according to that order.

Prioritization still works on the premise that you still have limited resources with respect to time, which is finite, and you can only allocate time to the most needful thing to do at any given moment. How you allocate time will be the big question and it may depend on a lot of factors.

If you are within an organizational framework, every aspect of your time management strategy might be developed by a team. It will also be under the watchful eyes of senior management. That is, the project would have been given by the organization, meaning that the goals would have been set by them. The same supervisory watchdog would have vetted the breakdown into smaller tasks so the same body would have set the logical process of prioritization, since they will be setting them within the limitation of the scarce resources that is available to the organization.

You must also note here that the strategy will consider other factors aside from time constraints and would lean towards that which they consider to be the most needful. Some of the factors that would influence how they approach the project and goal setting may include:

Time constraints

Budget constraints

Industry constraints (competition comes to mind)

Regulation constraints

In real life situations, all of these and more will come into play in one way or the other, although there might be one or two that would be the
major “influencers.” The thing here is that, whatever the major influencers will be, the issue of time management in getting the job done must come into play because once there is an objective and a target/goal, then time management and the influence of time will suddenly materialize.

Outside an organizational setup, i.e. if this is about a personal project, the issues above are still relevant although they will be adapted to what you are doing and may not be called the same name. The influence of time still comes to bear on whatever you set your mind to do.

Prioritization presents a table that lists the order of importance of the sub-projects or tasks you have to accomplish in order to get the whole job done within a specified time limit. In an organizational structure, they may be the one to decide which should come first or how you go about addressing each issue, but one thing you should realize in organizational structures is that, they may have the ability to do simultaneous multi-tasking which is another technique of time management that we will have to look at.

Tool #4 – Planning

In case you are not aware, we have been trying to arrange these techniques in a sequential order. We have mentioned goal setting, which should naturally be the first and instigator of every other technique or strategy. We then moved to segmentation or the breaking down of that one project into smaller bits that can be handled in a quicker manner. We can also say that the breaking down follows a logical sequence.

Afterwards, we introduced the idea of prioritization, saying that, the broken bits have to be placed in a list that depicts their order of importance, so that, you could allocate this finite resource known as time to the most important. Now we have placed planning, which is basically developing a methodology of approach to tackle the project and particularly the sub-projects on the prioritization list.

There is however a strong alternative argument that planning cannot be placed at this point if you are looking at the sequential order of executing a project. The argument would go on to categorically state that, it should be the first thing or at least the second, after the idea of a project was muted, since that would determine the goals that will be set in terms of the objectives and targets of the said project.

I want to say I agree completely. Planning by its natural definition will not start at the middle or when the project is already under way but at the very beginning before anything has been done. However, we are talking of time management. The issue is about making productive use of time to do the most at any given period, especially with respect to executing a project. How does this justify placing planning at this point and still say we are following a sequential order?

The first thing is that, you do not have to  lift a finger or take any physical action as such up to this point. That is, up to this point on the project, everything is still under the planning stage. Stating goals, breaking the project down into sub-projects, and prioritization are still part of the larger planning process, i.e. things that are done before a “groundbreaking” ceremony takes place.

These are still things that can be tweaked and they are the product of research, countless man-hours of meetings, and decision making at the
highest levels. Hence in an organizational structure, so many things would have been done up to this point, but “nothing” would have been done in terms of actual execution. Planning comes before execution, which is another technique of time management.

Time management is a big issue that can determine the success or failure of your projects whether at a personal or organizational level. We are taking what some might call a comprehensive look at tools of time management that can be used by individuals and organizations alike to effective manage the execution of projects and meeting of goals.

Planning As A Means Of Time Management

We are now at the planning stage, having defended why we placed planning after goal setting, segmentation and prioritization. We will look at planning as a means of time management in two ways.

The first is that, at this stage, planning is all about looking at how each sub-task on the prioritization list will be tackled, to maximize the use of time and other resources. The main thing here is the use of time, since we are focusing on time management. It is at this stage of planning that the organization might decide to deploy simultaneous multi-tasking, if that methodology would suit the project in question.

SEE ALSO: Time Management In Uncontrolled Environment

This may depend on the resources they have allocated for the project in terms of number of people as well as capital resources. For instance, building a space rocket will require simultaneous multi-tasking, if they want to complete the project within a feasible time limit. And each segment or section of the overall job do not have to clash with the other, as the people handling the engine will be different from the team doing the interior layout and design, those handling communication and so on and so forth.

The second way to view planning is that, we step further back to take in the viewpoint of those who might still be looking at this from the embedded angle of handling a project and still cannot get their heads around the idea of “placing planning” at this sequential point in time. That is, planning is the place where the strategy provider and decision makers sit down to do a complete layout of the whole project, before lifting a finger. They will plan how to work within the time limit from this point before hiring or transferring a single worker to the said

If you look at this critically, you may rightfully conclude that we are saying the same thing as “planning is still planning,” because nothing as it were has been done up this point. Nevertheless, the point that is underscored here is that planning is a tool of time management, because it is the best stage to look at policies, strategies, and methodologies to adopt, that will best serve the time factor.

It is at the stage of planning that every adjustment needed to be made, should be made, because it will be less expensive to make such adjustments. From this moment forward, every other technique we will mention will cost the organization a lot, if they want to revise it in one form or the other.

Tool #5 – Delegation

We said that, there is still another technique that is relevant before the execution stage and it is called delegation. Delegation, just as goal setting, segmentation, and prioritization are still part of the planning stage.

Delegation on its own is a great way of managing your time productively. It involves the identifying  capable hands that will be given the responsibility of handling an aspect your project, so that, you can handle other aspects. This saves you time.

Delegation is also relevant when placed in the sequential order of things, in line with how we have been presenting this concept of time management, that is embedded in the execution of a project. As planning has to do with looking at the best ways of executing the sub-tasks on the prioritization list, delegation is a probable solution in any organizational framework.

The fact is, projects are usually handled by teams and delegation is an integral part of teamwork. It is at the planning stage that the team members will be given sub-tasks to handle. This is the stage where it would be decided- what and who will be allocated to what?  Once the assignations are complete, the next stage will be the execution of the project although they would have been briefed and possibly trained on how to go about their tasks.

Delegation saves time. The nuances of delegation demands that the right people must be given the right task or the purpose of saving time would fail in the most miserable and colorful of ways.

Time management can save you a lot of money as an individual, effective time management can save companies billions of dollars in man-hours and other resources. The whole concept of project management is built on the foundation of time management because there is no project without a time frame. Once there is a stated objective or goal the issue of time frame crops up. This is why this series on basic tools of time management focuses on showing how traditional project management themes are actually tools of time management.

Tool #6 – Execution

Execution is the beginning. Managing time during execution is dependent on three factors.

Following The Established Plan

The established plan has already looked at all the possible ways of going about the execution and picked the best that will serve to have the
project completed within the expected constraints of time. The agreed plan would have of course factored in other elements that are aside from time but like we had said previously, these will all still serve the benefit of time.

Following the established plan is the single most important aspect of saving on time and using it in the most productive manner possible, because the plan has been thoroughly scrutinized before it was initiated. If it is a personal project, there might be a temptation to derail from the established plan without any external influence to do so because following a given plan is a challenge on its own right.

SEE ALSO: The Impact Of Prioritizing In Workplace For Effective Time Management

This may not be the case in an organizational setup because of the myriads of structures that have been put in place and what has already been invested. Organizations hardly fail to follow through because it has been systematized. Beyond this, managing time during the execution is wholly dependent on how well the organization or individual keeps to the original plan.

Evolving And Tweaking The Established Plan To Milk Out More Time

Another factor that may affect effective time management during execution is in the area of tweaking. There are points of execution that you will come to find that it could be done faster and in a more productive manner, if you tweak or fine-tune the agreed process. This could be done without due consultation in an individual project but due process will have to be followed when it is in an organizational framework.

The beauty of tweaking is that it makes for better results in the area of productivity and time management. More importantly, the process of execution does not have to grind to a halt for the tweaking to be discussed and executed. That is, the original process will still continue while the aspect of due process is being implemented.

As for the aspect of due process, tweaking is something that the benefit of it will in most occasions be clearly visible to all. That is, you may not necessarily be swimming against the tide to get the tweaking approved. Tweaking is a good place to be because, it can only add value to the process and cut the expected or estimated time of completion.

Meeting With Unforeseen Glitches

Glitches are bad. They may bring the whole process or an aspect of the process to a standstill. One can say such glitches should have been planned for, and the fact that the execution has been broken up into smaller sub-tasks serves this purpose. That is, since the likelihood of a glitch is high, breaking it up will make it affect only part of the project as a whole.

However, a glitch in one aspect or area can affect other areas and can bring the whole project to a standstill. Another thing is that such glitches are called so because they were not seen, in spite of the fact that every contingency plan they thought possible has been put in place to answer to possible problems that might arise during the execution stage.

A glitch can be so out-of-the-way that the organization would be left at loss, since it had nothing to do with them directly but affected them indirectly. For instance, the facilitating bank might come under scrutiny by regulators for an unrelated transaction or event that could lead to a suspension of all banking activities, which would at worst grind the project to halt and at best delay the project. Any such delay will affect the issue of time.

SEE ALSO: How Effective Time Management Distinguishes Urgent And Critical

It could be what is popularly known as “an act of God” that brings the project to a halt. Anything beyond the control of the organization can happen and the only probable way of preparing for such is to work within a premise that such would happen, and set a deadline that would leave ample room for postponement.

We have been looking at how time can be managed in an effective manner. Individuals and organizations alike work to meet deadlines and time is such an integral part of our psyche, even though we may not be conscious of the role it plays in our everyday actions. Working to be productive or simply functional is tied to time.

This time around, we want to look at tools that can add incremental value to time management. These tools are still consistent with the sequential tools we have been looking at throughout this series. What happens when you have set your goals? Broken it down into achievable tasks? Planned on the best route to adopt that will manage time effectively? Delegated the said tasks and started the project? The next logical step will be monitoring and benchmarking, and we will be combining them

Tool #7 – Monitoring

Monitoring allows you to make sure there is consistency in the execution of the given the plan. In an organizational setup that has teams working on various tasks and aspects of the project, monitoring is a critical  tool. An effective monitoring system would have already been devised as the planning stage.

Monitoring may not save time as such but it does a great deal in making sure the sub-projects keep to time. It also gives a bigger picture of how the whole sub-projects are going and coming together with respect to the project as a whole.

    • Projects can derail without effective monitoring
    • Each team needs to be monitored to keep them in line

An effective monitoring system will also include a self-reporting system that allows each team to file in the stage they are and what they are up to at every given stage. This creates a channel that can be used to quickly address issues that come up as the project is being executed. However, it is also important that a means of report verification is  put in place to make sure that everything is fully balanced.

Tool #8 – Benchmarking

While monitoring plays a key supervisory role that makes sure deadlines are met, benchmarking serves to create measurable milestones along the process of project execution. It is a tool that allows for assessment of the project as a whole to see if it is lagging behind on schedule, or ahead of schedule. Benchmarking cannot be effective without monitoring and both serve similar purpose with respect to time management.

SEE ALSO: The Importance Of Monitoring And Benchmarking For Managers

However, benchmarking allows for assessment that could instigate measures to quicken the project, slow it down or keep it at the level of development. It allows for actions to be deployed while monitoring serves to provide a means for benchmarking to take place.

Each aspect or tool we have looked at can be initiated in a sequential manner and they each serve to work as tool of time management, even as they are used in their traditional sense to successfully manage a project from its point of conception to its completion and deployment.
The only other tool we did not look at with respect to its quality as a tool of time management is post-deployment review or assessment, where the project will be looked at to see if it’s working as planned.

This is because it is something that is done after the project must have been completed and deployed. Now it would take a degree of discipline to use them as tools of time management at a personal level, but nothing more than that will be required when executing a personal project.

However, a manager or a business organization should be able to use them as tools and follow through on each stage of the development of the project because of the checks and balances that they have structured into the execution of the project.

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