Examining Time Management as a method of Empowering Employees

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An organisation's success is mainly dependent on how it manages its resources effectively. One of the key resources in any organisation has always been its employees since employees are the ones entrusted to carry out the tasks to meet the organisation's goals and objectives. The success rate of an organisation will thus largely depend on the skill levels and attitude of these employees. The key issue to realise here is that employees need to be continually evolving with the rapidly changing world to avoid the danger of falling behind the prevailing trends and breakthroughs, technological or otherwise, and thus dragging the organisation down as well.

An organisation too, on its part, needs to be cognisant of this fact and ensure that its employees are being given the opportunities to continually improve and thus, being able to translate this improvement across the organisation. One of the most important skills that any organisation would hope to inculcate in its employees would be proper time management, especially so in these days of information overload. Time management is a skill that one learns and develops with practice and repetition (Tracy, 2009). Like any other skill, one has to hone the art of time management by putting into practice the effective methods of time management.

In this essay, the author aims to show that by managing one's time more effectively, one would be able to improve one's self immeasurably and thus be better placed to empower other individuals within an organisation, with the ultimate aim of working towards achieving an organisation's goals and objectives. Time management is not about managing time since time is a constant, but rather about self-management or self leadership skills (Hoagland-Smith, 2007). It is common to see individuals falling into the trap of poor time management, thus resulting in these individuals not being able to perform to their utmost capabilities. Why do most people tend to have poor time management skills?

This is because most people tend to do more things than there is time for, resulting in working overtime, frustration, stress and panic if deadlines are not met (Roberts, 1998). How does one then acquire the proper tools of time management? In order to understand what tools one lacks, it is important to recognise the obstacles one commonly faces when it comes to effective time management. Some common obstacles include lack of planning, perfectionism, procrastination, lack of prioritisation and an inability to say no (Enross, 2010).

Most people are often guilty of lack of planning. How can one work towards achieving anything without identifying the goals or objectives of any given task? By setting clear goals or objectives, one will more easily be able to overcome the pitfalls of poor planning since one is then able to visualise what one needs to do to achieve one's goals. One of the most widely used tools to set goals or objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. mnemonic, i.e. one should set goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. In other words, one should set goals that are tangible. Failure to do so can often result in one being overwhelmed by the task at hand. Why is this so?

How often has one come across an organisation's goals which read too generally, for example, "To become the largest selling chemicals company in the region"? When reading that particular statement, it would be more sensible to define that particular goal more specifically. Compare and contrast the statement above with the following statement: "To become the largest selling inorganic chemicals company in the South East Asian region by the year 2013". One is now able to visualise more clearly the goal set by this particular organisation. Clarity in setting goals will then enable the organisation's employees to work towards those goals more effectively. Similarly, one should strive for setting goals which are clear and adhere to the S.M.A.R.T. mnemonic structure.

Even though one may plan one's work, one is, at the same time, constantly bombarded with many things in one's personal and professional lives; things that seem to demand one's utmost attention. However, if all these things seem important, how does one then prioritise them? While there is no exact science when it comes to prioritising, some of the steps that one can take to become more efficient include making lists, considering people and time constraints, re-prioritising, and removing unimportant items (McFarland, 2006).

Making lists is one of the most common steps one takes to prioritise one's tasks at hand. While this approach has its benefits, one sometimes tend to find that one is unnecessarily stressed due to the inflexibility of these lists since it is very easy to get knocked off course due to issues cropping up in one's daily life (Du Plessis, 2010). The key is to be flexible in one's planning, hence the term re-prioritising. What appeared important initially may now seem unimportant or less urgent, hence one needs to re-organise and re-prioritise as applicable. Failure to do so will most likely leave one focusing on the less important tasks instead, and once again struggling to meet the relevant deadlines.

Another common obstacle to effective time management is procrastination. Procrastination is an automatic problem habit of putting off important and timely activities until another time and has probable consequences (Knaus, 2010). Based on the definition above, one would most likely infer that the "probable consequences" have negative connotations. Despite the negativity generally associated with procrastination, why is it so prevalent?

Procrastination is a common trap to fall into if one is not careful of one's actions. Easy tasks are generally put off till another time, with the thinking that not much effort or time will be needed to accomplish them, only to realise later that these so-called easy tasks are not as straightforward as earlier thought. This can then lead to instances of rushed and sub-par works.

On the other hand, most people are also prone to put off difficult tasks, only in this case it could be out of fear. Not being equipped with the proper skills to tackle these difficult tasks would most likely result in people working in a less than satisfactory manner. This drop in quality, if left unchecked and repeated over a period of time, could have serious repercussions on one's career.

Additionally, it would not be inconceivable to realise that the time taken to complete these difficult tasks is longer than what would have been necessary had these tasks been assigned to the right people from the start. Therefore, it is imperative that an organisation properly identifies the skill levels of its employees in order to maximise the effective output, and where necessary, upgrade the skill levels of its employees accordingly.

Procrastinators with unreasonably high expectations bear the burden of both procrastination and perfectionism (Arenson, 2009). This is yet another area where procrastination becomes an issue. Simply solving tasks may no longer be sufficient for these individuals. For some, these tasks have to be solved in the most perfect manner, which generally results in endless revisions until one is fully satisfied with one's work.

While the ultimate aim may be admirable in this case, individuals who subscribe to this theory may come to realise that it is a case of one or the other when it comes to meeting deadlines, in that one may have perfectionism or meet deadlines successfully, but never both at the same time. One has to realise when a task can be considered to have been done and move on to next task in line. Dwelling on any given task longer than what is necessary may prove to be one's undoing in the long run.

Yet another common factor that can cause one to have poor time management is one's inability to say no to others. One may feel that by saying no, one may have the reputation of being wilfully difficult or come across as not being a team player. However, in an effort to please every one by accommodating these additional requests, one may end up with having too many things to handle with too little time to do so.

How often has one come across situations where one has to perform last minute tasks at work just because another individual failed to carry out the necessary actions? By doing so, one has to again evaluate one's tasks at hand and prioritise these tasks accordingly. Interruptions caused by having to carry out these additional tasks may result in one drifting away from one's own important tasks. All this additional effort will inevitably take up more of one's time and contribute significantly towards one's poor time management. How then does one say no to others?

One must realise that saying no is not a selfish act and in fact can be more beneficial because it means that one has more quality time to spend on things that one has already committed to (Hollands, 2010). The key to saying no is saying "yes", but giving a different kind of help, i.e. rather than taking on the task personally, one can offer advice or suggestions instead (McCrimmon, 2007). The author would agree with this approach as this allows one to still contribute, but without having to sacrifice much of one's own time. One is then able to better focus on other more important or urgent tasks.

Of the three precious resources in life, i.e. time, money and creativity, the only one unlimited is one's creativity; hence by making creativity one's main resource, time and money will not be scarce (Zelinski, 2006). What this means is that no matter how little time and work one takes to perform a tedious task, there will always be a more efficient and effective way to get it done (Zelinski, 2006). By being more creative, one is then able to save time by completing tasks in a faster and more efficient manner. These little "parcels" of saved time, when added up, can be significant and can enable one to have more available time in one's daily life.

The author has, in this essay, outlined just some of the relevant skills that one needs to master to ensure that one is able to manage one's time more effectively. Once one has mastered effective time management skills, how does one then proceed to empower others? Empowerment is about making organisations both more effective and better places in which one spends a major part of one's life and it is about creating environments that promote high performance and high levels of appreciation among individuals (Murrell & Meredith, 2000).

The author would argue that an empowering organisation would automatically elicit higher performance from its employees. This is because employees would feel more appreciated and valued, which would then translate to these employees "wanting" to work for an organisation, rather than "having" to, which from the organisation's point of view, is the ideal way of maintaining high performers as well as attracting new ones.

An employee with effective time management skills would be better placed to contribute more effectively towards an organisation's objectives and goals. This is because an employee will be more organised and structured when dealing with issues at work as a result of prioritising the said issues and planning the solutions accordingly. It is very common to see staff leaving all key decisions to managers in order to avoid being blamed if and when something goes wrong. This is especially prevalent in organisations where employees are often punished for failures, rather than being presented with opportunities to learn from mistakes made.

As a result of this, managers will have less time to focus on other more important matters which could affect an organisation's development and growth. These managers too will be constantly under pressure as a result of being accountable for the actions of others and thus may begin to lose focus. As such, in order to be successful, it is imperative that an organisation develops its employees to an extent that these employees are able to solve the problems at hand or at the very least, offer possible solutions to address the said problems, rather than merely highlighting these problems for the attention of others. In other words, employees need to be accountable too and not take the easy way out by passing the buck to managers.

The author suggests that one of the best ways for an organisation to empower its employees would be by inculcating proper time management skills in its employees. This is because employees would then be able to spend more quality time analysing the problems at hand, rather than merely fire-fighting and thus be able to identify the root cause of any given problem. In other words, organisations can move away from short-term fixes and begin looking at long-term solutions. Being aware of the importance of time will greatly enhance the output of employees as these employees will now realise the benefits of solving problems quickly and effectively to ensure that an organisation does not incur unnecessary delays, which could translate to loss of profits in the long run.

By mastering the art of prioritising for instance, an employee will be better placed to focus on the more important tasks at hand rather than spend valuable time on other less important matters. In addition, employees will be less prone to procrastinate when an organisation practises a working culture that is systematic and structured.

Managers, too, would be less prone to micro-manage situations and thus be able to spend more time on other more important and urgent issues. This is because these managers will not feel the need to be directly involved in every single issue since the employees are now more than capable of handling the said issues.

Organisations could further benefit from employees being more independent and taking ownership of issues at hand. The successful development and growth of an organisation cannot be achieved without effective input from its employees. As such, an organisation that believes in empowering its employees and acts accordingly will have a better chance of growing as opposed to one that does not.

With proper time management skills, one would be better placed to balance one's personal and professional lives more effectively since one would be able to manage, and remove where possible, the obstacles that contribute to one not having sufficient time to handle all the relevant things in one's life. From a professional point of view, organisations too would appreciate having employees such as these on-board since these employees can contribute more effectively towards achieving an organisation's goals and objectives.

In conclusion, the author strongly believes that effective time management is a skill that, when mastered, can greatly enhance the quality of one's life. One of the main reasons for this is because one is less prone to being stressed as a result of frequently chasing deadlines and rushing to complete tasks at hand. In addition, a clear mind is infinitely better compared to a muddled one. Therefore, from an organisation's point of view, empowering its employees can result in the said organisation growing and developing along with its employees.

An organisation that inculcates proper time management in its employees and empowers these employees accordingly will inevitably find itself achieving its goals and objectives more effectively since its employees would have realised the importance of managing one of the most precious resources, which is one's time. These organisations would then be much better placed to grow and develop successfully in today's highly competitive markets.