Human Resources

Telework and Telecommuting Series – Pt.5

Hey Compliance Warriors!

Because time management is so important, we’ve divided it into two sections. This is a continuation of the previous article. Read on…


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Part Five: Time Management

Effective time management can have many benefits for any employee. Teleworkers and virtual teams can benefit even more from these skills since they are responsible for managing their own time and assignments. By understanding what we spend our time on and creating goals to overcome them, employees can learn to better manage their time and realize what should be taken care of first.

The Urgent/Important Matrix

Sometimes at work we confuse our urgent priorities with our important ones, which cause us to be confused about what to take care of first. The Urgent/Important Matrix is a tool that we can use to think about our priorities or tasks and how we handle them. Before using the matrix, write down everything you want to accomplish in a certain period of time, such as daily, weekly, or even further and assign their priority in which we want to get them done.

The matrix is divided into four quadrants, each ranging in importance, and allows for activities and projects to be plotted in each one based on their need. Using a list of your activities and duties, plot each job in the corresponding quadrant. After all of the tasks have been plotted, we see all of the things we want or need to do and how urgent they are. This leads us to make better choices regarding our time management and overall organization.

Setting and Sticking to Deadlines

Every person responds to deadlines differently, but they are a key tool to better time management. When scheduling our time, deadlines provide a sense of structure and balance for us. By setting deadlines, you are putting a concrete need in your schedule, and it helps prevent it from being forgotten or pushed aside. It gives the employee a sense of accountability when it comes to things that need to be done, such as work assignments or projects. So the next time you plan to do something, set yourself a deadline first and stick to it. Write it on a calendar or program a reminder in your cell phone. You’ll find that when you take the time to schedule them, you’ll make the effort to stick to them and see them through all the way to completion.

Tips when setting deadlines:

  • Determine what you want to finish and by what day/time
  • Set reminders for yourself – before the deadline comes up
  • Pad your actual deadline – give yourself some extra wiggle room just in case
  • Keep your deadlines in arm’s reach – write them down where you will see it

The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand and Water

There is a story about time management that uses a glass jar, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, and water to illustrate how to plan your day. The glass jar represents the time you have each day, and each item that goes into it represents an activity with a priority relative to its size.

  • Rocks: The general idea is to fill your glass jar first with rocks. Plan each day around your most important tasks that will propel you toward achieving your goals. These represent your highest priority projects and deadlines with the greatest value, often important, but not urgent tasks that move you toward your goals.
  • Pebbles: Next, fill in the space between the rocks with pebbles. These represent tasks that are urgent, and important, but contribute less to important goals. Without proper planning, these tasks are often unexpected, and left unmanaged, can quickly fill your day. Working to reduce these tasks will give you more time to work toward your goals.
  • Sand: Now add sand to fill your jar. In other words, schedule urgent, but not important tasks, only after important tasks. These activities are usually routine or maintenance tasks that do not directly contribute to your goals.
  • Water: Finally, pour water into your jar. These trivial time-wasters are neither important nor urgent and take you away from working toward high return activities and your goals.

If you commit to this approach to planning your days, you will see as time goes on that you are able to achieve more in less time. Instead of finishing things in a mad rush to meet deadlines, each day will be organized and become more productive and profitable. You will also notice yourself spending less time on activities that are of little to no value. And because you have a clear vision for dealing with competing priorities, the level of stress in your life will diminish, which will allow you to become even more focused and productive.

Recognize When You Are Procrastinating

Procrastinating is definitely a self-sabotaging behavior. Many times you may not even recognize that you are procrastinating and lose valuable time and resources. You can often persuade yourself that you have plenty of time and that you have good reasons for delaying. Because we trick ourselves into thinking we had more time, we find ourselves rushing to finish assignments or struggling to turn things in on time. Instead, the next time you are given an assignment or other deadline, begin on it right away. Even by taking the first minor step to completion, you can feel motivated to keep going instead of putting it off for another time.

Signs of procrastination:

  • Waiting until a deadline approaches to begin a project
  • Making excuses for delaying work

Practical Illustration

Angela was feeling very overwhelmed with her stack of assignments that were about to be due. She had several projects due in the next few days and some due at the end of the week. She wasn’t sure how to manage them all. Angela realized she had been procrastinating too long and needed to do something about it. So she took a few minutes and made of list of everything that needed to be done and marked which ones were urgent and which ones were more important. Looking over the list, she gave herself a deadline for each task and made a plan on how to stick to each one.

Angela knew she could only handle one at a time so she began to tackle each project one by one. By the end of the week, Angela let out a sigh of relief when she realized she had gotten everything finished on time. She was glad she did not let the growing pile of work make her feel too overwhelmed!


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Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Corporation and Chief Content Developer at HelpDeskSuites.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more in her Compliance Warriors Facebook Group.

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