Insights | March 05, 2020

How do Time Management Activities Boost Productivity?

Impact time administration is a panacea to authoritative adequacy and not a fake treatment.

This is how the research of Faisal Khalil-Ur-Rehman - titled “The Effect of Time Management To Career As A Key Of Success” - begins. Through his research, the author tries to elaborate on the role of time across organizational activities, starting from staff efficiency, managements’ organizational skills and more.

The author coins look at time as a high-demand resource that is available at the same rate for everyone. Those who invest time more in rewarding tasks - (just as those who invest money in the stock market - will eventually reap higher returns. A good combination of activities for an entrepreneur is the same as a good portfolio for an investor. The goal is to utilize resources across efficient tasks to obtain a positive outcome.

But, how do I decide which tasks are more important than others?

There are certain activities that entrepreneurs can engage with to determine the effectiveness of the tasks they are doing. To demonstrate, we have tapped into two very different industries - construction and physicians - to illustrate how time management activities can help one focus on work that matters the most.

Activities to Manage Time in Large Scale Projects: Construction

The reason why we picked construction as an industry is due to the scale of its projects. Most construction projects are massive undertakings that require almost perfect time management to execute. 

In the book “Construction Project Management”, the authors dedicate an entire chapter to the relevance of time management in construction. And rightfully so, scheduling - which is nothing but an alternative word for time management - plays a central role in the management of construction projects. A construction schedule presents a powerful tool that dictates what tasks are important, how much resources should one dedicate to each task and what costs would the project incur if the requirements of the schedule are not met. 

However, scheduling is broad as a term and we wanted to dive into more specifics to see how time is managed across large scale projects. As a result, we came across another study that studied important activities that could potentially lead to the successful implementation of construction projects. The paper refers to time management activities as “time management techniques/methods”. In their research, the authors observed several techniques or methods that are most commonly associated with effective time management. Hereafter, we present the list that anyone can follow to develop time-efficient projects of their own.

Gantt Chart

gantt-charts-time-management-activity

If you've ever taken a management class - be that in university or as part of an online course - then you may have heard of Gant charts. But, if this activity or technique sounds new to you then hear us out.

Gantt charts are simple and easy constructs that are used to time a project based on its tasks. Each task has a milestone that it needs to hit within a period of time that is determined before the project starts. Once one task is completed, the next one starts and the process repeats itself until the very end of the project. 

Note: In large scale projects - i.e. construction - Gantt charts are permanent and one cant change them without incurring some financial or material costs. 

Critical Path Method

Critical-path-method-time-management

The critical path method (CPM) is a similar activity/tool that project managers use to plan and improve the workflow of projects. In simple terms, the CPM has two major impacts on the project. First, it tries to determine the activities which are critical to the overall outcome of the project; And second, it establishes the path that the project should take in order to meet a target deadline at minimum cost. CPM is a widely used methodology across larger-scale projects, including:

  • Construction projects (highways and buildings)

  • Launch of new products

  • Manufacturing of large machinery (generators, engines) and more.

Different from the Gantt Chart, project managers employing CPM create a network of activities based on flexibility, sequence, rigidity, and constraints. Each activity, known as a deliverable, has a certain time constraint that the project manager must meet. The deliverables along the critical path follow a sequence that must be followed, otherwise, the project won't be complete. 

For example, a home construction project can’t start raising walls without setting the foundation, right?

There is a lot of value in following an accredited project management methodology. To learn more about CPM, we highly suggest reading the Harvard Business Review article titled “The ABCs of the Critical Path Method”.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

performance-evaluation-activity

The program evaluation and review technique, just like CPM, is a network model that acts as a roadmap for large-scale projects. As Harold Kerzner puts forward in his book, PERT allows for randomness in activity completion during the first part of the project because planning starts from the end date - allowing for front-end flexibility. 

In all three of the methodologies highlighted so far, there is a common element, namely time is an attribute that is essential to the successful management of a project. PERT is no different, in fact, it requires project managers to predict the time needed to complete projects that do not have accurately predefined resources. For example, research and development projects looking at innovative solutions are usually uncertain in terms of duration, and project managers - if they were to employ PERT - would base their time estimations on previous experiences and add float to account for the uncertainty.

The sequence of activities leading from one event of the diagram to the other is called a path and depending on the importance the project manager determines which paths are critical to the success of the project.

PERT and CPM are differentiated in the way they analyze a particular timeline. The first bases its analysis on how the events are interconnected by the critical path, while the second looks at individual activities along the critical path and their cost implications. Furthermore, where PERT allows for uncertainty (R&D projects), CPM is more rigid and assumes that the project has predefined targets in terms of costs and resource allocation.

The point of our analysis is not to determine which time management activity is better than the other. On the contrary, the goal is to help you understand the choices that you have available to plan for a large-scale project.

Activities to Manage Time in Small Scale Projects: Physicians

The methodology of managing time across projects of different scale is the same. The only thing that changes is the approach that managers and/or business owners must take. Large scale projects demand an organizational level analysis, while small scale projects can be approached from an individual or single team’s perspective.

To illustrate, we came across a study looking at the activities that physicians use to manage their time. 

According to Gord and Borkan, recent changes in physician reimbursement and decreases in funding to support scholarly and patient-centered endeavors explain the increase in pressure on physicians.

This pressure is translated into a growing number of complex patients and increasing administrative paperwork that physicians have to take care of. As a result, meeting deadlines and other related time demands have become a major challenge. And physicians are not the only ones who struggle with time management. Entrepreneurs and high-school teachers have reported changing trends to be the main cause of their inability to manage time. Simply put, the market is demanding certain professions to work harder than ever, and the increasing pressures are having a negative effect on the ability of those individuals to manage their time.

As such, the study of Gord and Borkan seeks to identify a number of individual/team level activities that are designed to help prioritize tasks and manage time more effectively.

Covey’s Time Management Matrix

coveys-time-management-activity

Popularized by Stephen R. Covey, through his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the time management matrix differentiates work based on its urgency and importance.  Abbreviated as TMMT, the matrix helps professionals determine what their responsibilities are and how many of those responsibilities they can delegate to other relevant individuals. 

Let’s look at a practical example, assume that a physician determines that a grant application that is due in two days is important but also urgent (Quadrant 1). At the same time, there are routine responsibilities that are urgent but less important (Quadrant 3). In such circumstances, professionals are often time puzzled and only those with amazing time management skills can get passed without getting scratched.

After all, what should you do first? 

The solution is delegation. Delegate tasks that require minimal attention although they are urgent. Do not try to wear too many hats, otherwise, nothing good will come off those efforts. As a physician, it may be challenging to delegate patient-related tasks to a subsidiary. Similarly, as an entrepreneur, it may be difficult to trust a sub-level manager to complete some of your urgent/less important tasks while you take care of urgent and important meetings.

Guilt-free delegation requires the realization that the task being delegated in many cases provides experience and career growth to the recipient - Recapturing time: a practical approach to time management for physicians

Time Blocking

time-blocking-time-activity

Time blocking is an effective methodology that helps one think in terms of time blocks. Each time block represents a single task, like a meeting, lunch, commuting and more.

Both Bill Gates and Elon Musk make use of time blocking to schedule their days, weeks and even months. To help professionals get started, we have prepared a free time blocking template that you can download today. And if you are interested in learning more about time blocking, then read our article dedicated to this popular time management activity.

Whether managing large or small projects, always bear in mind that time management is essential. Use time management activities to guide your actions through a project and notice the changes in productivity and well-being.


atto-logo

Atto is the simplest timesheet app for small and medium-sized businesses. It’s intuitive interface and carefully designed features, including time tracking, location tracking, team insights and automated timesheets help employees and managers focus on real work.

Learn More