Effective time management can be considered a super-skill for any person. However, when you’re a leader, it makes you even more effective.
As a supervisor, mastering the art of time management can help you get more done, in less time, and with less stress. It is not merely about clock-watching, but about optimizing moments to clear a way of success for your team. Boosting productivity should be a goal supervisors set for themselves and their team. Effective time management can help make that happen.
By establishing a structured approach to time, supervisors can instill a sense of purpose, direction, and momentum in their teams. This can empower them to excel in their respective roles with remarkable efficacy. But what are some of the things supervisors should do to improve their time management? In this article, we’ll look at some practices supervisors can adopt to improve their time management skills.
We often think that handling many tasks at once is what efficiency looks like. However, multitasking might not be as beneficial as it’s been made out to be. In fact, it can be counterproductive.
Multitasking, by definition, is the simultaneous execution of more than one task. This might seem effective on the surface. However, it spreads one’s focus thin. This can lead to divided attention on each task. Research has repeatedly shown that the human brain, despite its complexity, is designed for deep, focused work. One study showed that only 2.5% of people can multitask effectively.
Every time you switch tasks, you use cognitive energy. Over time, these switches can lead to mental fatigue and reduce overall productivity.
To make the most of your time, try minimizing the amount of multitasking you do. Throughout the day, try to focus on one task, priority, and conversation at a time. Doing this will help you get more out of each one of those things. And, in the long run, it saves you mental energy.
Learn to Prioritize
Every task has a degree of importance and urgency. Some tasks might be critical but not urgent. Others might be urgent but not necessarily critical. For example, answering some emails may be important but not critical at this very moment. When you’re trying to improve your time management habits, learning the difference will make a huge impact.
Understanding prioritization begins with clarity on your goals. When supervisors are clear on their long-term and short-term objectives, it becomes easier to map tasks to these goals and prioritize them accordingly. Tasks that directly align with core objectives should come first.
Another aspect of prioritization is recognizing the difference between being busy and being productive. It’s easy to fill our hours with tasks and chores. But, the real value comes from accomplishing tasks that move the needle and make a genuine difference.
Learning to prioritize will take some time. You can start by making a list of all of the things you do during your workday. Then, give them a ranking from 1-5. 1-5, with 1 being the most urgent and 5 being not important at all. Try to minimize the amount of time you spend on tasks that have a 5 ranking and focus on completing the things that are ranked 3 or higher.
As a supervisor, it’s impractical and inefficient to shoulder every task yourself. This is why delegation is so important. Even though this ability can be impactful for any leader, many struggle to do it effectively. One survey found that 37% of CEOs felt they could strengthen their delegation skills.
Delegation, at its core, is the assignment of tasks or responsibilities to others. While this seems straightforward enough, many supervisors wrestle with this. Sometimes it’s because supervisors are concerned with quality and control. Many have an ingrained belief that “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” However, this mindset can crush productivity.
If you’re this type of supervisor, you may be inhibiting the development of the people on your team. When supervisors delegate tasks, they are essentially providing team members with opportunities to expand their skill sets, take on new challenges, and grow in their roles.
To become a better delegator, you need to start by acknowledging the strengths and expertise of team members. Who on your team is good at what? And, are they in the position to utilize their skills to their fullest potential?
It is important to understand that successful delegation is not about offloading tasks. Instead, it is about clear communication of expectations, timelines, and desired outcomes.
Keep a Record of Your Activities
You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. If managing your time has been an issue, one of the first things you can do is to find out where you have been spending your time.
Maintaining a log or journal of daily tasks, meetings, and engagements gives you insight into how you’ve spent your days. Keeping a record for yourself provides multiple benefits.
First, it provides clarity. With a detailed log, supervisors can identify patterns in their work. They may notice recurring tasks that take up too much of their time. Or perhaps it shows them periods of their days when their productivity plummets. This information can be super valuable in reshuffling tasks or restructuring one’s day to maximize efficiency.
Another benefit is accountability. By regularly documenting activities, supervisors commit to doing productive tasks. The very act of recording tasks can act as a motivator. Try not to make the act of keeping a record a tedious chore in itself. Leverage digital tools, apps, or even a simple physical diary to streamline this process.
Learn to Handle Stress
In supervisory roles, stress is often an inevitable companion. 41% of senior leaders are stressed and 36% are exhausted. Not only that, nearly 70% of senior leaders say burnout is affecting their ability to make decisions. The weight of responsibility, the pressure of deadlines, and the complexities of team management can really add up and lead to heightened stress levels. However, while some degree of stress might be unavoidable, how one handles it can make all the difference.
Understanding the sources of stress is the first step towards managing it. Is it a specific project? A team dynamic? Or perhaps an external factor unrelated to work? Pinpointing the root cause can assist supervisors in devising targeted strategies to mitigate these stressors.
Physical well-being plays a pivotal role in stress management. Regular exercise, a good diet, and adequate sleep can significantly boost your resilience to stress. Physical activity, in particular, is known to release endorphins, the body’s natural stress relievers, promoting a sense of well-being.
You also need a good support system. This could be in the form of colleagues, mentors, friends, or family. Sharing concerns, discussing challenges, or simply venting can offer emotional release, helping reduce the intensity of stress.
Finally, set clear boundaries. In an era of constant connectivity, supervisors need to delineate work time from personal time. Maintaining work-life balance is one of the major challenges of being a supervisor. However, disconnecting from work, both physically and digitally, allows for genuine recuperation.
Learn to Say “No”
For all types of leaders, “no” can be a powerful word. Saying no doesn’t mean that you are not a team player or not willing to participate. Saying “no” to certain requests is a way to prevent yourself from over-committing to things you don’t have time for.
As supervisors navigate through all of their tasks, they are constantly on the verge of landing under a pile of assignments. Here, the act of saying “no” creates a protective shield, safeguarding supervisors from over-committing.
Also saying “no” can help nurture professional growth and personal well-being. It gives supervisors the space to cultivate critical thinking. It can also prevent burnout due to taking on too much.
Many supervisors, admittedly, have an issue with saying no to their bosses and their team. However, not doing so can end up hurting both in the long run.
Here are some phrases that can help you say “no”:
- “Thank you for thinking of me for this task. Unfortunately, due to my current workload, I won’t be able to take on any additional responsibilities at this moment.”
- “I’m not able to do that now, but I’d be happy to help you find someone who can, or suggest an alternate solution.
- “I appreciate your confidence in me, but I think this task might be better suited to [another team or person with more expertise or availability].
- “I’m really focused on [current project or responsibility] right now to make sure it’s done to completion. I’m afraid I won’t be able to take on additional tasks at the moment.”
- “I would love to be of assistance, but I’m trying to avoid over-committing myself to ensure the quality of my work doesn’t suffer. I hope you understand.”
- Now isn’t a good time for me. I’ll let you know if my schedule frees up.”
- “Thanks, but I’m all good. I appreciate the offer.”
Avoid Digital Distractions
Digital distractions are everywhere. And, they can manifest in many forms. It could be the incessant ping of a new email notification. Or maybe it’s the lure of social media updates. However it arrives to you, there’s all this temptation to explore a trending topic or respond to a message right away. However, being distracted by these can cumulatively wreak havoc on productivity and focus.
The first step in mitigating digital distractions is awareness. You must recognize and acknowledge how bad the issue is for you. How many times do you check your phone during work hours? How often does a quick online search morph into an hour-long deep dive into unrelated content? By understanding these patterns, supervisors can develop strategies to counteract them.
One effective approach is to designate specific periods for checking emails or social media. This is called a “bulking action”. Instead of giving in to the lure of constant notifications, set aside designated times during the day for these tasks. This will help make sure that they don’t fragment the entire workday.
Also, it can be beneficial to turn off non-essential notifications during work hours. Your friends’ TikTok videos can wait until you’re off of work or at least until your lunch break.
If all else fails, physical separation from devices can be surprisingly effective. Simply placing your phone on the other side of the room, making it slightly inconvenient to access, can significantly reduce the frequency of impulsive checks. Numerous apps block distracting sites or monitor screen time. This can also help keep your bad habits in check.
Take Breaks Consistently
There’s a common misconception that continuous work leads to greater productivity. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Consistent breaks, when implemented strategically, can significantly enhance productivity, creativity, and overall well-being.
Our brains aren’t designed for prolonged periods of unrelenting focus. Just as muscles tire after sustained exertion, cognitive faculties, too, need intermittent rest. Over time, continuous work can lead to diminishing returns in terms of productivity and can also result in burnout.
Breaks serve as cognitive refreshers. A short diversion from a challenging task can provide a fresh perspective upon return. It’s not uncommon for solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems to emerge after stepping away and then revisiting the task.
One of the major responsibilities of being a supervisor is managing a team. That is why you must learn to manage your time. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are consistent, you will begin to see yourself get more done in less time and notice your days going more smoothly.