With the last quarter of 2022 in full swing, you’re likely in the middle of planning team projects for 2023. From budget optimization to retaining clients in the year ahead, there’s plenty to consider. But there’s one question you should ask yourself to make the most of 2023: Is your team’s time management strategy effective?
For many, the answer is no. A study by professional training organization Development Academy found that 82% of people don’t have a proper time management system in place – they stick to written lists, clunky spreadsheets, email inboxes, or nothing at all.
As great as your 2023 plan may be, poor time management can easily derail it. Set your team up for success in the new year by implementing a few easy (yet powerful) techniques that will boost productivity, improve collaboration, and help everyone work better.
Make a plan, communicate it
Spending a few minutes at the start of each week planning out tasks increases your team’s productivity because they have a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished. Plus, everyone’s in agreement on what success looks like within a certain timeframe.
Create a prioritized plan that simultaneously keeps everyone on the same page while tracking individual progress. Then, decide on a clear communication channel to share progress on the designated tasks. Be sure to give your team instructions on how to use it and set expectations for how you’d like the process to work.
(Tip: Harvest is a great place for managing project progress, but don’t take it from us — based on our latest awards, our reviewers agree.)
Speaking of prioritized plans, identifying which areas of work are most important can often be a timesuck in itself. A helpful way to cut through the clutter is to use the Eisenhower Matrix, which is often cited as one of the most effective time management strategies.
The method prompts you to divide your tasks into four categories:
- Important and urgent: Do these tasks first
- Important but not urgent: Do these tasks later
- Not important but urgent: Delegate these tasks if possible
- Not important and not urgent: Skip these tasks if necessary
Get started priming your prioritization by using a free online template like this one.
Track time thoughtfully
Time tracking as a team is a must for many companies who bill hourly. But invoicing aside, tracking hours in a meaningful way (instead of here and there on a spreadsheet) can elevate productivity by giving employees advanced insight into how they work.
With more visibility into their habits, it’s much easier to optimize productivity and understand where their time is best spent. For example, looking back at past projects could highlight a certain activity that’s taking the biggest toll on their workday — even though it shouldn’t. Once issues like this are identified, you can work with your team to find the best solution.
Bake time tracking into your team’s routine by giving them an easy-to-use tool like Harvest that combines time tracking and project management into one. It’s easy to get started, integrates with the tools they’re already using like Slack and Trello, and provides critical project data that you just can’t get with an old school process.
Juggling numerous tasks at once may look impressive, but the word multitasking is a misnomer. Research shows it’s near impossible for our brains to focus on more than one task at a time. In fact, one study found that only 2.5% of people are actually able to multitask effectively. The rest of us are more likely to make a mistake as our brain rapidly switches back and forth between tasks.
Encourage your team to instead set their focus on one objective at a time. An easy way to introduce this is to use the Pomodoro Technique (named after the Italian word for tomato, no less). It’s a system that breaks down the workday into 25-minute chunks that are separated by five-minute breaks — which are referred to as pomodoros.
After around four pomodoros, the breaks increase to 15-20 minutes. Creating a sense of urgency with the 25-minute timer shatters the illusion that there are endless hours in a workday to get the job done. Your team’s distractions will likely decrease when they only have 25 minutes to complete a task..
They’re also reminded to get up and take a breather, which keeps any potential burnout at bay.
Your team can easily implement this technique by using the Harvest app or they can do it manually by setting timers on their phones.
Summarize the week
Hold your team accountable for completing necessary weekly tasks by asking for a summary of what they accomplished before they sign off on Friday. All they have to do is look back at the agreed-upon plan and check off completed items or identify blockers they might have for unfinished tasks.
Doing so will not only keep everyone on the same page but also prompt you and your team to find solutions to any challenges that get in the way. Plus, laying out accomplishments is a great way to bring that momentum into the next week.
Realistically, your team will face distractions no matter how much effort you put into your time management strategy. But by working a few of these techniques into your weekly routines and getting started with an intuitive time tracking tool like Harvest, your team will have a better chance of cutting through the noise and making the most of 2023.