This is about categorizing tasks into their urgency and importance. Something that is important and urgent should be tackled directly. A task that is also urgent, but not as important, can be done later or delegated.
When deciding prioritization, I always ask myself this question: How would this task help me achieve the product’s goals? If the task is speaking with a customer, for example, this is much more critical than some administrative task because speaking with the customer helps me develop the product’s success.
When talking about time management skills, we also should talk about communication skills. After all, in certain situations you can’t avoid delegating certain tasks. What are your skills and tips here?
Deligation is very significant for any job, honestly. Naturally, no one can do anything on their own. So for a successful delegation, the communication skill would be here: setting clear expectations. You should take enough time to really explain the task to the new assignee. And communication what the end goal and the expectations are, is crucial so that you don’t end up wasting time for a good deal of feedback. Another great time management skill to plan the time for delegation with some buffer. You should give your counterpart enough time to ask questions about the project. Every minute you invest at this point will save you significant time over the course of the project. Everything should be exactly clarified before starting a task.
Another time management skill is planning. How do you plan your day? Do you have a traditional to-do list to check off?
Actually, I have this classic check off list on paper. I just love the feeling of being able to check things off my list. I tend to plan my whole week on Sunday evening or Monday morning. So, I won’t waste my time for time management during the week. Of course, things change, especially in an agile organization, and you have to keep yourself open for important and unplanned things to come.
After many years of work: Do you sometimes still struggle with approaching deadlines?
Definitely. If I’m leading a team and as a team, we have to reach a deadline there is always a certain risk involved. As more people are engaged in a project, you should be more careful with the time planning up to the deadline. Not everyone has the same urgency as you have and understands deadlines as you do. To make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction, good communication skills are needed again: make sure everyone knows what is on the agenda and by when the entire job should be completed.
Stress always occurs when we have taken on more work than we can actually do. What are your tips for dealing with stress?
Sometimes, only ice cream helps … But I think a significant part of good time management is pause management. Everyone requires enough breaks to refill their energy tank. I love walks in the countryside, also in the morning, take the dog for a walk. Find your routine and keep it to start the day with less stress.
What would you say are the most common pitfalls of time management?
Underestimating how much time a project/task needs
Having too high expectations as you’re working as a team
Not tracking the spent working time correctly
What is your take when it comes to a team’s time management? Do you have any strategy for getting the best results?
I recommend having a discussion with the team on what they expect: Ask them how much time they think they require. This is always better than estimate the time by yourself, since they might have other tasks they’re working on. When you’re talking to your team, you can always help them to prioritize all the tasks.
One significant element of learning how to improve time management is getting comfortable with saying “no” to certain things. What is your opinion here? In which situations is it okay to day no?
My approach is to weight the options. If I’m fully booked for the next weeks and my manager comes with some very urgent tasks, I would not directly say “no”, I’d say, I’m fully booked, but if we reprioritize the tasks, I can do them right away. However, it is important not to take on every task directly and to communicate workload transparently.
What are your tips to improve the personal time management skills?
Focus. Don’t start many tasks at the same time
Give the task the time it needs
Set time limits for the tasks and take short breaks after finishing one
As mentioned before, plan your week ahead
Prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency, like in the matrix
Keep your workspace tidy to not distract yourself
Delegate if you have to, but do it transparently
Find a safe space where you can concentrate – for me, remote work did the trick