Startup Right: Time Management Skills

The Startup Right series is a place for the Canberra Innovation Network to share insights from mental health professionals that apply directly to entrepreneurs. We’re here for you, as part of the Virtual Coworking community, the Weekly Innovation Challenge and on LinkedIn

This article originally appeared on EAP Assist; EAP Assist is an Australian company established in 2008 providing employees with confidential phone counselling and digital support.

Time management is the process of planning activities to increase productivity. Resent research looked at 158 separate studies, including over 50,000 people around the world, to find out whether time management works. Here are some of the findings.

Time management strategies
There are a seemingly endless number of time management strategies, but most involve three basic components:

  • Structuring time
    Encourages the use of daily routines so that work fits together in a structured way. Time management strategies are generally trying to combat the unsystematic way most people work. In practice, this involves simply prioritising tasks and using to-do lists.
  • Protecting time
    Protecting time is mostly about stopping other people from interrupting you working. This could involve saying ‘no’ when asked to do something else, delegating tasks to others or keeping other people away during certain periods. The idea being, we cannot get the work done with continuous interruptions. This can be especially difficult to sole founders of new startups, but switching ‘off’ from certain people and tasks so you can be ‘on’ a main project is important.
  • Adapting time
    Involves looking at your overall schedule and seeing what time can be adapted for different purposes. For example, sometimes you know a period will be waiting time — what could be achieved in that space? Adapting time is about time reclamation: seeing what currently ‘useless’ time can be swept up and put to good use.

Central to many different time management strategies is setting goals and priorities. In the ABCD analysis, for example, long used in business management, tasks are prioritised on this basis:
A – Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important
B – Tasks that are important but not urgent
C – Tasks that are unimportant but urgent
D – Tasks that are unimportant and not urgent

Another, the ‘Pareto principle’, states that 80 percent of tasks can be done in 20 percent of the time, so do those ones first. That isn’t to say entrepreneurs should spend all of their time responding to easy emails when they could be solving big problems, however!

Does time management work?
Time management does work, but not wholly in the way people imagine, the new study reveals. It improves performance at work somewhat, but its main benefit is to happiness, through a boost to life satisfaction. After reviewing 158 separate studies on time management the study’s first author said:

“We found that it does have a moderate impact on work performance. But we found that the relationship between time management and job performance actually increased over the years, and significantly so.”

Time management has become more important in recent years as work has become more autonomous. And as we all find ourselves working from home more and more (especially during a lockdown) there are more balls to juggle in the air than ever.

“People have more leeway in deciding how to structure their own time, so it is up to them to manage their own time as well. If they’re good at it, presumably they will have a better performance. And if they’re not, they will have an even worse performance than they would have had 30 years ago, when they had more of their time managed for them.”

The research found that time management improves people’s life satisfaction — when done well, it makes them happier.
“Time management helps people feel better about their lives because it helps them schedule their day-to-day around their values and beliefs, giving them a feeling of self-accomplishment.”

Personality and time management
The researchers found three main factors that predicted who is better at time management. First, they found that women are slightly better at time management than men. Second, personality had some influence, with the trait of conscientiousness tied to better time management. Conscientious people tend to have a strong sense of responsibility and are competent, dutiful and self-disciplined.

“The only trait that did correlate strongly with time management was conscientiousness. That involves people’s attention to details, their desire for organization, to be reliable and systematic. That is understandable, because there is a lot of overlap there.”

Third, people with an internal locus of control were better at time management. An internal locus of control is high when people feel they have control and can change their lives. It makes people more likely to reach their goals because they feel they are attainable.

For help with your own time management, join the Virtual Coworking community for their weekly Accountability Sessions!