Time management
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Best Practices for Successful Time Management  

Time is a precious commodity, and you want to make the most of it, both in your personal and professional life.   

During a recent virtual networking discussion with our Communities of Practice New Supervisors in Government group, experts Ray McCollum, DACS Policy Chief, National Science Foundation, and Kate Vendemio, Workplace Feedback Guru, Trainer, Speaker and Instructional Designer/Consultant for Small Businesses & Associations, shared advice for being as productive as possible in order to tackle your to-do list. 

What does time management mean to you? 

Ray: For me, it’s using the time you’ve allotted to work on a project or assignment wisely to finish it. As a supervisor, sometimes your day can be all over the place and in my experience, government loves meetings. But hopefully, by the end of the week, it means I’ve completed the tasks I wanted to and start on some for the future. 

Kate: It means focusing on making sure your priorities are completed, and I think priorities are different than tasks. Sometimes we get busy and are more focused on completion and checking things off our list, but time management goes beyond that. It means thinking strategically and more high-level, so you see the needle move in the direction it needs to.  

Hybrid environments can blur the line between home and work. How can you draw effective boundaries? 

Kate: As someone who works 100 percent of the time from home, creating boundaries is one of the most difficult things to do. I’m big on blocking time on my calendar and color-coding those blocks to build in my personal boundaries. You should also consider what time of day works best for you – are you an early morning person, or a night owl? As a night owl, I love the ability to craft an email response and schedule it to send at a later time. That way, I’m being productive but still respecting others’ time.  

Ray: I agree about blocking off your schedule – I do it all the time. I also push my employees to identify the time that they plan to work each day and stick to it, only working 40 hours a week as much as they can to keep their sanity. (Additionally) I make sure that all of my meetings have agendas, because otherwise, they can end up not being productive or addressing the problems we needed to talk about.  

How do you create boundaries when others don’t respect them? 

Ray: There are times when you do have to go outside your scheduling blocks, but I think that when you stick to them the majority of the time, you create a culture of respecting that.  

Kate: I’m a big fan of boundaries, and I make sure to model them. As a supervisor, you have to create the norms and expectations. You also have to communicate and be transparent about what’s appropriate. 

How can you spot and remove the “time sucks” in your schedule? 

Ray: I schedule everything so I can streamline my day. When I have availability, I’m happy to meet with my employees, but I make sure that I also put my priorities on my calendar and lock that time in, so I can get things done. 

Kate: I use the Eisenhower Matrix to help prioritize what’s urgent and important when I get overwhelmed. It helps me discover trends and mitigate problems up front.  
Sometimes, issues come up and your schedule gets derailed. It happens. But make sure you remove drama from your day. You need to empower your employees to solve their own problems and conflicts. 

Ray: I agree – empowering your employees has long-term benefits. We’re building the next set of leaders, and we have to put them in situations, so they learn how to handle them and find solutions.  

What are some of your go-to skills or tactics for time management? 

Kate: You need to know yourself and when you work well. I mentioned this earlier, but some of us are morning people, some of us are more productive mid-morning and some of us are night owls.  

I also schedule an hour on Monday and Friday for myself, and just label it “thinking.” It’s time I take to prioritize my tasks, and it’s a great way to begin and end the week. 

Ray: If you’re having consistent issues, identify them, and have a meeting about them, so you can collaborate to solve them.  

What’s the best way to communicate with your team to improve time management problems? 

Kate: My biggest challenge is that I want to be approachable with an open door policy, but I still have to get things done. It can be hard to set parameters, but it’s important to have times where you mark yourself unavailable. Set the expectation up front that when you’re green, you can pop in, but otherwise, you need to send a text or email.  

Ray: Parameters are very important. I would suggest not answering emails right away. Emails can take up a lot of your time, and sometimes it’s an issue that your employees can solve themselves once they have a minute to think about it. Give them that minute and don’t send an instant response. 

How can you best meet the needs of your team without working 24/7? 

Kate: Going beyond time management, it’s important to be an advocate for your team. If everyone is consistently working after hours, they’re going to get burnt out, and we need to work smarter. It’s our role as a supervisor to ask the team for solutions on how to manage the workload together. There’s a difference between having a surge of work and consistently working too much. 

Ray: Keeping your employees happy is the key for productive employees. While you may not be able to give them everything they ask for, it’s important that they know you will go to bat for them and give them the resources they need for success. Communicate to them that they’re not alone.  
For more time management tips, take a look at this recording of the May 23 online training, and don’t forget to sign up for next month’s online training, “How to Set Team Goals.” 

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