What does time management in the workplace entail?

  • Time management is the act of planning the amount of time you spend on each activity.
  • It is the act or process of exercising control over the amount of time spent on a specific activity to increase productivity.
  • It is the ability to prioritise.

Read the scenario and answer the questions that follow:

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Why is it important to manage time?

  • It's important that you develop effective strategies for managing your time to balance the conflicting demands of time for study, leisure, earning money and job hunting.
  • Time management skills are valuable in job hunting, but also in many other aspects of life: from revising for examinations to working in a vacation job.
  • Sometimes it may seem that there isn't enough time to do everything that you need to.
  • This can lead to a build-up of stress.
  • When revising for examinations, or during your final year when you have to combine the pressures of intensive study with finding time to apply for jobs, good management of your time can be particularly important.
  • Once we have identified ways in which we can improve the management of our time, we can begin to adjust our routines and patterns of behaviour to reduce any time-related stress in our lives.

How to manage time?

Tools for planning

What skills are required for effective time management?

  • Some of these skills include setting clear goals, breaking your goals down into smaller steps, and reviewing your progress toward reaching your goals.
  • Other skills include prioritising − focusing on urgent and important tasks rather than those that are not important or don't move you toward your goals.
  • Organising your work schedule.
  • List making to remind you of what you need to do when.
  • Persevering when things are not working out and avoiding procrastination.

Setting goals

  • Set yourself specific and clearly defined goals, and make sure that these are realistic and achievable.
  • To do this, you first need to examine your present situation and assess what goals are important to you and what action you need to take to achieve them.
  • Have a contingency plan or alternative route to your goal in case you have to change your plans, for example, taking a relevant postgraduate course if you can't get a job or even starting a small business while still hunting for a job.

What is action planning?

  1. Action planning is a process which will help you to focus your ideas and to decide what steps you need to take to achieve particular goals. It is a statement of what you want to achieve over a given period of time. Preparing an action plan is a good way to help you reach your objectives in life: don't worry about the future, start planning for it!
  2. It involves:
  • Identifying your objectives.
  • Setting objectives which are achievable & measurable.
  • Prioritising your tasks effectively.
  • Identifying the steps needed to achieve your goals.
  • Using lists.
  • Being able to work effectively under pressure.
  • Completing work before a deadline.
  • Having a contingency plan.

What should an effective plan have?

  • An effective action plan should have a definite timetable and set of clearly defined steps to help you reach your objective, rather than aimlessly wondering what to do next. It helps you to focus your ideas and provides you with an answer to the question: ‘‘What do I do to achieve my objective?’’.
  • It’s OK to have several objectives, but you will need to make a separate action plan for each, otherwise things get confused.
  • This technique or strategy can be applied in careers as well as in many other aspects of your life.

Action Planning Model

  • Action planning is a cyclical process, and once you have been through one cycle, you can start with a new cycle.
  • In real life it’s not quite as simple as this, though.
  • The process is more organic and stages will overlap, or you may change your goals as you progress, and you must be prepared to revise your plan as circumstances dictate.

What are the planning stages?

The stages of planning (explained)

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The main steps in preparing an action plan

Have a clear objective.
  • Start by asking yourself ‘‘Where do I want to be?’’
  • To be motivating, a goal needs to be challenging enough to stimulate you, but not too difficult to be demoralising.
  • It should be just outside your comfort zone: stretching, but not highly stressful.
  • Be precise about what you want to achieve.

2. List the benefits you would gain by achieving your goal.

3. Start with what you will do NOW.
  • Dissect your goal into smaller manageable sizes.
  • There is no point in having an action plan that will start in six months’ time. Start NOW!!!

4. Define clearly the steps you will take.
  • Ask yourself “How do I get there?’’
  • Think of all the possible things you could do to take you closer to achieving your goal, no matter how small.
  • Break down any large steps into smaller components, so it doesn’t seem so difficult to achieve. What is the biggest obstacle?
  • Ask yourself “What could go wrong”? Think about the type of problems you might encounter at each step. What are the barriers in the way of achieving your goal? What could you do to overcome these problems? Concentrate 10% on the problem and 90% on the solution. Try to turn every problem into a challenge and every challenge into an opportunity.

5. Identify the end point for each step and give yourself a small reward for achieving it!
  • This could be sweets, clothes, a gadget, book or CD or meal out with friends.

6. Review your progress.
  • Keep a diary or blog of your daily activities and record your progress as things happen: this keeps your plan as concrete as possible.
  • A good time to start your review is about two weeks after you have begun. Review how far you have got towards your objective, identify any mistakes you have made and what you can learn from them, look at any new ideas or opportunities that may have presented themselves and then revise your plan to incorporate these.
7. Mix with positive people who will encourage you to keep going and can hold you accountable!
  • Tell your friends or relatives about your goals. They will provide support when going gets tough and will also give you an incentive to keep going as you'll feel embarrassed if you have to tell them you've given up!



  • There is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Someone who works hard and is well organised but spends all their time on unimportant tasks may be efficient, but not effective.
  • To be effective, you need to decide what tasks are urgent and important and to focus on these. This is called prioritising.
  • Prioritising is a way of placing, in order of importance, what needs doing and when. This is an important aspect of all decision-making, and each task will have its own timescale and deadline.
  • In essence prioritising is the ability to focus on what is important and then to manage the task effectively in the face of the demands on our time.
  • Differentiate also between urgent and important tasks: an urgent task may not necessarily be important! When job hunting, you won't be able to apply to every employer. You will need to carefully prioritise those you wish to apply to, based upon factors such as closing date, location, the requirements and chances of getting in.
  • It's important to list the tasks you have and to sort these in order of priority, and then to devote most time to the most important tasks.
  • This avoids the natural tendency to concentrate on the simple, easy tasks and to allow too many interruptions to your work.


Keep a list

  • You should have a reminder system to tell you when you need to do what: don't try to remember everything in your head as this is a recipe for disaster!
  • At the simplest level your reminder system could simply be to use your diary to write down the things you need to do, including appointments and deadlines.
  • You can also use the Outlook calendar by booking meeting requests and all your appointments and set a time reminder for you to keep track.
Advantages of using a to-do list
  • Focuses your mind on important objectives.
  • You are less likely to forget to do tasks.
  • Writing a list helps order your thoughts.
  • It helps realising the bigger picture.
  • You don't need to hold everything in your head.
  • It saves time.
  • It helps you decide on priorities: the most important and the most urgent.
  • You are less likely to become side-tracked.
  • You get the reward of ticking off your achievements.
  • You feel more in control.
  • You have a record of what you've done.
  • You always have something to work on.


Knocking procrastination

Action Planning

Persevering when things are not working

  • In life things never work out as we plan or wish.
  • When things do not go as we want them to be, it is crucial to develop a positive attitude and be optimistic.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, especially if you are new in the workplace.
  • Ask colleagues which strategies work for them and try them or even adapt them to suit your needs.
  • Being assertive can also help you to learn to politely say no to demands of others. (Learn more about assertiveness in the module on assertiveness & building self-confidence.)
  • Get rid of self-doubt.
  • Don’t get dragged down by others − as you walk down the path towards your goal you might encounter people who question you or tell you that you won’t get far. DON’T LET IT WEIGH YOU DOWN.
  • This is part of the course − believe in yourself and prove them wrong.

Reviewing and revising the plan

  • Effective time management requires us to be flexible.
  • It is critical that you constantly reflect on what you have achieved and what you still need to do to achieve your planned objectives.

The question that you must ask yourself is:
Did your strategy have the IMPACT it was intended to? If not, why?
  • Reflect on these reasons − then consider the changes you need to make to get where you want to be.
  • Review your plan.
  • Revise each action, AND THEN
  • Take corrective action or steps to stay on course.

In summary, remember…

Strategies for effectively managing time:

  • Know your goals.
  • Prioritise wisely − “first things first”.
  • Work SMARTER and not HARDER.
  • Learn to say no!
  • Plan ahead.
  • Eliminate distractors.
  • Delegate where necessary.
  • Monitor the progress.
  • Revise your plan.