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March 16, 2022

15 principles, 5 styles, and 5 books to get your head around time management

Project Management
BigPicture Team

Time turns empires into dust. There is never enough time to finish your assignment on time. No wonder so many books and conferences revolve around the idea of proper and effective time management. What should you remember about time management if you want to spend your workday in the most effective way? Let’s find out.

Time management principles

These are the core rules for everyone who wants to manage their time properly :

  • Plan your work

The foundation for every productive workplace is planning. Thinking ahead makes work easier for you and your teammates. There are many different ways to plan your schedules such as Covey Time Management Matrix or Planning Poker, so the best thing to do is to try different strategies and see which one suits you best.

  • Stick to the plan

Planning is half the success. The second half is sticking to it. However, in a truly Agile approach, sticking to your plans is not synonymous with executing them without hesitation. Commitment isn’t about blindly following the points, but about keeping things under control and supervision, so you know when and how to change your plans.

  • Keep your work organized

One of the most tricky elements within the principles of time management is grouping the tasks and initiatives into more urgent and less important. Again, a proper method to diagnose the importance of these tasks is brainstorming, maybe with a little gamification twist.

  • Stick to your daily schedule

Often considered as the ugly word, routinely serves as a framework for your daily activities. By splitting tasks within specific moments of the day, you can work more effectively and without distraction. Naturally, you don’t stick to your routine with too much reverence. Give yourself a space to improvise each day, as circumstances around programs and projects may vary.

  • Prioritize

Diagnose, pinpoint, and execute the most important and beneficial tasks first. But how can you know which elements should be done first? Well, as mentioned before, brainstorming and communicating with other team members brings much-needed clarification on tasks’ importance.

  • 80/20, or the Pareto Rule

Also known as the Pareto Principle, the rule specifies that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes, asserting an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. This principle serves as a general reminder that the relationship between inputs and outputs is not balanced. This rule applies to planning, by selecting tasks and items that contribute the most to the business value of your program. Hence, you can delegate work better and more efficiently.

  • Focus on one thing at a time

Never Half-ass Two Things, Whole-ass One Thing – states Ron Swans from cult TV series Parks and Recreation. Concentrate on one crucial item, and delegate the other smaller tasks. It’s a great way to hasten the workflow and concentrate only on one thing at a time.

  • Stay focused

Speaking of concentration, avoiding distractions allows us to fully concentrate and focus on upcoming tasks. Don’t know how to achieve it? Well, try deep work – a state of work-only time with leisure intervals. We even prepared a guide to help you achieve this state of mind.

  • Delegate your tasks

Micromanaging is the kryptonite of a modern workplace. Not only does it annoys the employees, as a constant reminder of distrust and a paternalistic approach, but also it wastes your time as a manager. Don’t be afraid to delegate the tasks to other teammates, as this will show them you believe in their abilities and you can work together. It’s one of the key principles of time management.

  • Don’t be too tight with your schedule

Agile is an art of constant change. Pivoting, expanding, and dropping ideas and goals are the foundation of these ideas. Flexibility, in that case, means proper answering for constantly changing circumstances. Instead of pushing your team into meaningless tasks, just because they were planned, drop them and move on to the more promising elements.

  • Remember about staying healthy

Work-life balance becomes more and more important. The best example is a four-day workday that gained more buzz over the last few years. Experts emphasize the importance of not checking the company’s emails during off-hours, spending quality time with family and friends, and taking regular breaks during work time. Productivity is not about working tirelessly, but more efficiently.

  • Be assertive

Being assertive is an art. It’s really hard to deny people’s ideas or kill their initiatives, but as a manager, you must learn that not every idea is worth executing. Saying “no” is essential to keep the workflow steady, and people tend to understand it in the form of digestible communication. Assertive communication does not exclude politeness.

  • The environment reflects your state of mind

People’s approach to the workplace differs. One prefers a squeaky-clean desk with only a laptop and maybe a notebook, whereas others thrive in a chaotic environment, having old receipts, notes, or even cups in the reach of their palms. Different things work for different people and their attention spans. It’s important to check and see how an organized environment benefits us the most.

  • Don’t oversell and overpromise

Being overly optimistic with deadlines is a curse. Tight schedules usually lead to crunch or worse, death march. Haste makes waste and pleasing stakeholders with short release dates is a myopic tactic. Give yourself and your team time to work with tasks and goals.

  • Know your limits and don’t be ashamed of them

Taking too much on your plate is a tempting idea. We all want to be perceived as ambitious people, that aren’t afraid of challenging tasks. Unfortunately, pride often precedes the fall. We can easily fall prey to our own ambition and end up with many open, unfinished projects or be forced to crunch to meet the deadlines (which rarely happens). Knowing the capacity of the team’s workflow, the man-hours, and efficiency can help you set reasonable goals, that will be both achievable and pleasing for stakeholders.

Time management styles

  • The Early Bird – adopted by people who don’t want to wait until the deadline. They identify tasks and problems early on and tackle them almost immediately. They prefer a more methodic, slower pace and are vulnerable to sudden changes and pivots.
  • Cliffhanger – the polar opposite of The Early Bird. The Cliffhanger works best with a figurative noose tightening on their neck. Tends to procrastinate and is immune to the pressure. Somehow they still keep up with the deadlines but very often create a low-quality effect.
  • Big Picture – this style emphasizes the importance of a long-term strategy, overall goals, and wider vision. This approach allows to spread the planning over months or even years, but also tends to omit details and more ‘dull’, day-to-day work.
  • Impulsive – Another polar opposite, the impulsive approach is more about hunch, reacting to changing circumstances, and dealing with problems as they come. Impulsive style brings much-needed energy to the team but fails with anything that requires planning, roadmapping, or long-term perspective.
  • Hyperfocus – directly linked with deep work. This management style requires focusing purely on one task, finishing it, and moving on to another one. Although effective, hyperfocus requires an insane amount of self-discipline and proper planning, so the team member doesn’t waste time on unnecessary tasks.

Time management techniques book

Need extra readings about time management? Try with these books: