Time to take control

    Business Spotlight 3/2017
    Eine Frau spricht am Telefon.
    © MichaelSvoboda/istock.com
    Von Bob Dignen

    The increasing demands and complexity of business life mean that time-management skills are more important than ever before. Yet, time management is itself a complex topicThematopic, which makes it difficult to offer universal recommendations. In this article, we’ll be giving you the opportunity to think about your own approach to managing time, and to develop a smarter approach that will enable you to become both more productive and more motivated.

    The problem with time management

    Time management concerns the behaviours, processes and tools that enable individuals to increase their efficiency at work and, with it, the performance of their organizations. But efficiency often to come with a priceseinen Preis habencomes with a price. The constant pressure to be more efficient can lead to stress, alienationEntfremdungalienation, demotivation and output that is of poor quality.

    Further, the increasing uncertainty and complexity of business life makes traditional planning approachHerangehensweise, Methodeapproaches less useful. Why should you try to plan and manage time when the future is so uncertain and competingkonkurrierend; hier: schwer vereinbarcompeting goals and processes have to be to reconcile sth.etw. in Einklang bringenreconciled?

    In fact, we need to move away from the traditional idea of managing time in mechanistic ways. Instead, we must develop effective self-management within volatileunbeständig; hier: sich schnell änderndvolatile environments. The aim should be to enable individuals to deploy sth.etw. einsetzendeploy their strengths effectively, work towards meaningful and motivating goals, and plan (and replan) pragmatically. In the next sections, we look at five key areas to help you to think about this. You will find further questions that you can ask yourself about these five areas in our language reference section below.

    1. Understanding time challenges

    Two key factors that shape our relationship to time are the “external” organizational context and our “internal” psychology.

    a) The external world

    To analyse your organizational context, think about these questions:

    • Uncertainty. How unpredictableunvorhersehbarunpredictable is your workloadArbeitspensumworkload on a weekly basis?

    • Complexity. How many complex tasks do you need to perform each week?

    • Dependency. How much do you depend on the authority of others to do your job?

    • Conflict. To what extent do your goals to compete with sb./sth.mit jmdm./etw. im Wettstreit stehencompete with the priorities of others in the organization?

    • Global. To what extent does your rolehier: Positionrole require international collaborationZusammenarbeitcollaboration?

    The more uncertain, complex, dependent, competitivevon Wettbewerb geprägtcompetitive and global your work environmenthier: Umfeldenvironment is, the more difficult it will be for you to manage your working scheduleZeitplanschedule. Possible solutions are to move from tight to pragmatic planning processes, not to promise to deliver too much too quickly and to build time bufferzeitlicher Puffertime buffers into project plans. Also, conflicts and dependencies should be discussed openly, and time should be spent building relations with (international) colleagues.

    b) The inner world

    We also need to examine and manage our internal orientation to time. One model for profiling individual psychology is the Team Management Profile developed by TMSDI. The idea is that individuals invest time differently at work, based on their preferences for doing certain types of work in certain ways. (You find more details here.) To start to understand your own preferences, think about your answers to the following questions:

    • Do you like to invest a lot of time in collecting and analysing information before taking decisions?

    • Do you to get boredsich langweilenget bored easily and want to take quick decisions?

    • Do you like to invest time in developing personal relationships and supporting others?

    • Are you impatient to get results and do you regard small talk as a waste of time?

    • Do you prefer to spend time developing future strategies, rather than working on routine tasks?

    • Do you like clearly structured work and schedules, or are you flexible and happy to change plans?

    • Understanding your own approach to time is a key step in helping you to manage your work.

    Time to think. Think about your current environment and personal time prefe­rences. Decide on two things that you will do to improve your approach to time.

    2. Focusing on what is valuable

    If you ask people what tasks demand their urgent attention, you often hear that “everything is urgent”. It’s an answer that is both right and wrong. Many people are indeed to face sb.jmdn. konfrontierenfaced with too many competing urgent priorities. But it is essential to identify which tasks are really urgent and will create value for your organization.

    Setting clear, higher-level goalZielgoals with strategic value is everyone’s responsibility. Doing so enables you to create a motivating picture of how your role fits into the organization, to choose which micro-activities will serve high-level strategic goals and to decide which tasks not to do. The same is true of people in leadership positions, who often spend too much time on operational firefightingdas Lösen betrieblicher Problemeoperational firefighting rather than strategic, conceptual work.  

    Time to think. Reflect on your role and how you can add value to your organization. Identify two things you can do to spend more time on high-value activities.

    3. Planning the essentials

    There are certain basic tasks that you need to do well if you are to use your time effectively:

    • to allocate sth.etw. zuweisenAllocating. Estimate how many hours (per day, week, month, etc.) you have available for work in order to get a rea­listic idea of your personal capacity.

    • to prioritize (several things)(mehrere Dinge) nach Prioritäten ordnenPrioritizing. List key tasks or groups of tasks in the order in which they must be completed. This is usually a mixture of planned strategic and ad hoc urgent tasks.

    • to schedule sth.etw. (zeitlioch) planenScheduling. Decide when something has to be done, how long it should take and when it has to be finished. Be reaslistic in your scheduling.

    • to qualify sth.etw. relativierenQualifying. Think about how much effort should be put into a task. What level of quality is desirable or essential for each task?

    • Coordinating. Think about how best to communicate and coordinate your tasks and outputLeistung(en), Arbeits-
ergebnis(se)output with others to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary extra meetings.

    • Delegating. If you are in a leadership role, you need to decide how much you can delegate to others. And what is the optimal level of oversightKontrolleoversight to guarantee the necessary quality?

    Time to think. Reflect on how well you do these basic time-management tasks. Decide on two things that you would like to improve in the coming weeks.

    4. Managing pressures on planning

    However well we plan, outside pressures can to disrupt sb.jmdn. störendisrupt us. Here are some typical cases and how you can deal with them:

    • An important customer has just asked for a proposalVorschlag, Angebotproposal. Customers are important and you need to respond quickly. But if your customers are constantly surprising you with proposals, you are probably not close enough to them. Spend more time finding out about their needs and plans. Also, responding too quickly tells your customers that you have time on your to have time on one’s handsviel (freie) Zeit habenhands. If you want to to maintain sth.etw. aufrechterhalten, behaltenmaintain your value, don’t be available at all times.

    • I get so many emails. Not all emails have to be answered immediately. Decide which ones are urgent. Others can be handled with a holdinghier: die Antwort auf einen späteren Zeitpunkt verschiebendholding email (“I’ll respond by the end of the week”). And one way to reduce the number of emails you receive is to send fewer.

    • I was so tired last night. Tiredness may to indicate sth.auf etw. hindeutenindicate that you are not managing your energy levels well enough: poor diethier: Ernährungdiet, not enough sleep, not enough downtime (US)Pause(n), Auszeit(en)downtime, not enough exercisekörperliche Betätigungexercise. Tiredness may also be the result of poor planning: you shouldn’t be doing important things when you’re tired. to adopt sth.etw. annehmenAdopt a lifestyle that enables you to perform when you need to.

    • I waste a lot of time travelling. OK, but airport lounges, airplanes and trains often to makehier: darstellen, seinmake excellent offices. Also, taxi rides provide time for informal phone calls.

    • I have too many meetings. Meetings are only as good or bad as the people attending them. Try having regular, shorter meetings to set priorities. And make sure you yourself don’t to prolong sth.etw. verlängern; hier: in die Länge ziehenprolong meetings with long or irrelevant contributionBeitragcontributions.

    • My boss asked me for support. If you have a boss with poor time-management skills, it’s important to learn to say no. Otherwise, they will never learn that poor time management is bad for them, you and your relationship.

    • I can do it tomorrow instead. This may be a sensiblesinnvollsensible adjustmentAnpassung, Berichtigungadjustment to your plan. But be aware of to put sth. offetw. aufschiebenputting things off just because you think something is difficult or unpleasant. A simple rule is: “to engagesich mit etw. befassenengage, do not delay”. This can help you to avoid to feel guiltyein schlechtes Gewissen habenfeeling guilty, give you a a sense of achievementein Gefühl, etwas geleistet zu habensense of achievement and keep others happy.

    Time to think. Which of these excuses do you use to justify your poor time management? Decide on two that you will no longer use and adapt your behaviour.

    5. Learning to use your time better

    We are changing constantly at work, learning new skills and to take sth. onetw. übernehmentaking on new roles. So, your use of time should always be adapting, too. You need to take the time to talk to colleagues and business partners about time management — and about mutualgegenseitigmutual and conflicting priorities.

    Time to think. Think about how your use of time has changed over the past years and how it might to evolvesich entwickelnevolve. Talk to two people about ways to manage this change.


    If you don’t control time, time will control you. By understanding your own approach to time, thinking about what is valuable to your organization, doing the organizational basics well, to cut sth. outhier: etw. ausschaltencutting out interruptions and regularly adapting your approach to time management, you can enjoy a healthier and more productive relationship to work. But it’s to be up to sb.an jmdm. liegenup to you. If you don’t take the time to do it, who will?


    Language reference: Useful phrases

    These questions will help you to reflect on the time challengeHerausforderung, Schwierigkeitchallenges that you and your team are facing and use your time effectively.


    Understanding time challenges

    • What can I/we do to manage the uncertainties?

    • What dependencies might delay decision-making?

    • What conflicts might cause time problems?


    Focusing on what is valuable

    • What is our ultimate goal here?

    • What is our strategy?

    • What’s the return on investmentKapitalrendite; hier: Rentabilitätreturn on investment for this project?


    Planning the essentials

    • What do I/we need to prioritize?

    • When does it need to be done byhier: spätestensby?

    • What level of quality is desirable/essential?


    Hearning to use your time better

    • What do I/we do efficiently and where can I/we optimize?

    • What should I/we do to manage these new challenges?

    • What skills do I/we need to manage my/our time better?


    Mehr zum Thema

    Vertiefen Sie dieses Thema mit dem zugehörigen Audio-Artikel und der Übung:

    Ken Taylor on time management (audio)

    Time management (exercise)

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