Jason Borrevik’s Guide to Time Management

Effectively managing time is a key driver of productivity for both individuals and businesses. While other resources can be boosted or replenished, time is finite and unyielding, marching relentlessly forward and bringing deadlines ever closer. Regardless of how hard you work, you can never make up lost time.

Companies and employees who wisely manage their time can limit stress and enhance their focus, which in turn improves the quality of their work. They are also better able to adapt to unexpected challenges or setbacks, which could negatively impact a time-starved operation, resulting in lost business and revenue.

Jason Borrevik, principal at management consulting firm Compensia, says that distractions alone cost U.S companies more than $650 billion annually in lost productivity. And limiting distractions is just one of several important components of time management.

Before delving into how time management practices can be improved, let’s first look at some of the main causes that underlie poor time management.

Biggest Causes of Poor Time Management

Procrastination – Too many distractions, an inability to remain focused, or a lack of motivation for the task at hand are a few of the leading causes of procrastination, which is one of the most glaring examples of wasted time.

Poor Performance – An employee not being well suited to a task or having to multitask extensively can lead to poor performance, which results not only in substandard work, but also in work that takes longer to complete than it otherwise should.

Perfectionism – Some of us can take the rightful goal of producing high quality work too far, becoming paralyzed by an inability to be satisfied with what we’ve done. This leads to endless revisions, second-guessing, and wasted time, often with marginal or unnecessary improvements in the quality of work to show for it.

Improperly Prioritized Tasks – Many companies that struggle to manage large projects fail to properly prioritize their tasks and define their goals, which can limit the resources available to employees and hamper their ability to get work done in a timely manner.

Too Many Useless Meetings – Business meetings can account for as much as 15% of an organization’s collective time and are often unproductive, costing companies $37 billion each year. Jason Borrevik states that meetings are often fraught with late arrivals and delays, lack focus, and run longer than necessary for the sake of fitting into prescribed timeframes.

Now that we’ve examined a few of the most common reasons for poor time management, let’s run through some ways to improve the time management skills of companies and employees so they take their productivity to the next level.

Personal Time Management Strategies

The Importance of Sleep – Before employees have even checked into the office for the day, their productivity for the day ahead will already be heavily influenced by just one factor: the amount of sleep they got the night before. While getting less sleep may seem like one of the few ways to cheat time and get more of it, sleep-deprived workers are less productive, which can wipe out any benefits of the added time. They’re also more susceptible to illness and missed workdays, which can severely impact a company’s ability to meet deadlines.

Maximizing “Prime Time” – Every employee has a biological “prime time” each day during which their motivation, energy, and focus are at peak levels. Productivity trackers and honest self-assessment can help employees discover their individual peak performance times. With that knowledge in tow, companies can better utilize their employees, ensuring they’re using those peak times on the most important tasks.

Limiting Multitasking – The ability to multitask is often held up as a virtue, yet the reality is that we may struggle at it. Switching our focus to another task requires a mental shift that we may not be consciously aware of, but which saps our mental energy which can make us far less productive. Not staying focused on a single task may also limit creativity by not giving us enough time to think deeply on any given topic.

Taking Opportune Breaks – As counterintuitive as it may seem to time management, don’t discount the necessity of taking short breaks and their beneficial effect on productivity. Breaks help us retain information, maintain our focus over longer periods of time, and reboot our performance, which tends to suffer the longer we work for uninterrupted stretches. The Pomodoro technique of 25-minute chunks of work followed by 5-minute breaks can be an effective strategy.

Business Time Management Strategies

Delegating Tasks – Managing a team effectively requires proper delegation and prioritization of tasks to best utilize the skills and workload of each employee. The first step, according to Jason Borrevik, is to start with the most important and urgent tasks, assigning them to the most suitable employees. From there, urgent but unimportant tasks should be assigned to any remaining team members not working on urgent projects of their own. Important but non-urgent tasks should be set aside for the most suitable team members once they don’t have anything urgent to work on.

Setting Time Limits on Tasks – It’s important to institute firm but reasonable time limits on tasks so that workflow for the entire project doesn’t become disrupted. The importance of the task should factor into the allotted time for its completion, so long as that deadline fits within the greater workflow and won’t drag on other tasks.

Limiting Distractions in the Workplace – Distractions are a huge drag on productivity, and modern workplaces are rife with them. Most of the most prominent distractions are smartphone and internet-related, be it from texting, checking email, or scouring social media. Companies may consider clear policies in place that confine these activities to defined periods within prescribed limits.  

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