A recent survey of 850+ knowledge workers from around the world found that 92% of people regularly work on evenings and weekends. That’s a terrifying statistic. And while it’s easy to lay the blame on ballooning priorities and overwhelmed teammates, those are only a small part of a bigger problem.
Our days have become cluttered with busywork, non-stop 日本女子相扑communication, and unclear priorities. We rarely have more than half an hour to focus on any one task at a time and so we end up taking our most important work home with us to make progress.
So how can you help your team take back control of their time, make meaningful progress on important work, and still punch out at the end of the day? It comes down to a combination of using the right data and adopting effective time management strategies.
In this article, we will cover:
- Time management strategies and how to prioritize your time with Process Street
- Team time management: The perfect storm of busy work and bias that eats up your team’s time
- How to improve personal productivity and track where your time goes
- 5 time management techniques: Ways to give your team more time each day
Team time management differs from personal time management. Team time management looks at work-done within a team. It focuses on organizational rhythm centering on groups of people working together as opposed to working as individuals.
Ask most people how long they work each day and they’ll most likely tell you somewhere between 8 and 10 hours. Yet, despite the 8-hour day being the norm for over a century, no one does 8 hours of work a day.
According to research, in an 8-hour workday, only 2 hours and 48 minutes is productive.
This isn’t to say that those other 5+ hours are completely wasted, but that we rarely use them as efficiently as we’d like to (or plan to).
So where does the time go?
There are two main culprits you need to understand: Busy work and 日本女子相扑cognitive biases.
We all follow several cognitive biases. These are mental shortcuts our brains have developed over time, influencing our thinking. While some biases can be helpful, others eat away at our productive time. Below are a few of the worst offenders:
- 日本女子相扑The Planning Fallacy日本女子相扑: We tend to be overconfident in what we can accomplish in a day even if we’ve done those tasks in the past. This means we overcommit and load our already full days with too much work than is humanly possible. The Planning Fallacy explains why you’re planning for 8 hours of solid, focused work, even though you’re likely to complete 50% of that planned work.
- 日本女子相扑Cognitive tunneling日本女子相扑: Research has found that one of the most motivating things you can do is make meaningful progress on important work. Yet thanks to cognitive tunneling, when we become overwhelmed with busywork (as we saw) we end up focusing on the most immediate (and often low-value) tasks. This not only keeps us feeling like we need to catch up, but also kills our motivation.
- 日本女子相扑Context switching日本女子相扑: Finally, with many competing tasks and obligations, it’s tempting to try and multitask. However, research has shown that even switching between two tasks – such as an open inbox and another project – can kill 20–80% of your productive time a day! As you try to make up for this lost time, you’re actively killing the productive time you have.
All this leads to a grim conclusion of over-working and stress.
If you want to be more productive and efficient with your time, you track how you spend your time.
A time tracking tool like RescueTime gives you the data and insights you need to uncover the invisible distractions and habits that eat up your day.
(You can also run through these exercises using a more basic system: paper and pencil. Ask your team to take a week where they run a time audit and track what they’re working on in 5-10-minute blocks. After a week, you’ll have a good amount of data to work with.)
RescueTime works in the background of all your devices to automatically track how you spend your time. Once you start using it, you’ll quickly get a baseline of your productivity and see the tools and apps that are taking up your time.
You can dig into individual categories of apps and sites, compare your productive vs distracted time, or look at larger trends in your workday.
Start by looking at your 日本女子相扑total distracting time report日本女子相扑. This will show you the sites and apps that are pulling at your attention as well as how much time you spent on them today – considering a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly time-scale.
Next, check this report by the time of day. This will show you exactly when during the day you’re checking in on these distractions.
In my case, I have a bad tendency to start my day with distractions (*cough* Twitter *cough*) and then fall victim to it again during the afternoon slump.
You can do this same exercise with your productive time to see when you’re doing your best work. The data can sometimes be hard to see, but it’s the insight you need to start fixing your habits and fight against bias and busywork.
The busywork that takes over people’s working day often comes in the form of chat apps like Slack or video calls on Zoom. With lots of ongoing communication, it can feel like you have little time for anything else.
“During a rapid-fire burst of communication, team members can get input necessary for their work and develop ideas. Conversely, during long periods of silence, everyone is presumably hard at work acting upon the ideas that were exchanged in the communication burst.” – Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, Adam Grant, Collaborative Overload
However, communicating in bursts only works if everyone on your team (yourself included) follows the rule. This means setting clear expectations around availability (which we’ll get into below) as well as leading by example.
In a recent survey on how people communicate, 61% of people said they regularly reply to work emails outside of work hours. The more you massage your team, the more they’ll feel compelled to check in, context switch, and kill their focus.
Office hours, batched communication time, and themed days work to protect you from internal team emails and calls. But what about requests from users or other teams?
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to triage incoming communication so your team can focus.
To do this, you can create a couple of documents that will help stem the flow of nonstop messages and help your team set reasonable expectations.
First is a communication plan. This is a formal document that tells other teams, coworkers, or stakeholders when to expect updates as well as who to reach out to if they have issues or questions.
The next is a runbook. This is a living document that tells your team how to deal with common communication scenarios. Think of it as a deceptively simple answer to the complex question of Do I need to answer this right now?
“Ultimately, your runbook boils down to this: Hey valuable team member, I realize you are going to be subject to more messages and notifications than it is humanly possible to deal with. I’m always going to do my best to stem the tide, but here are the reasonable expectations we have set up for the team to respond to it all.” – Henry Poydar