Article: What Is Time Management?

Nov. 2, 2011

Following the “what is”-series regarding different business areas is here an article about what Time Management is. The idea of the “what is”-series is to write the articles in a way that people who have never been in contact with the area will understand.

Time Management is the process of controlling, understanding and planning how much time is spent on different activities in an organization.
Time Management is used in different situations to make it possible to increase efficiency as well as to understand how much time that has really been spent on different activities.

There are different purposes in controlling time spent for activities. Some companies use it to be able to understand what people are really doing during the day. This can sometimes be important to make sure that time is spent on the right things. It is also vital information to have as base for making the business more efficient in different areas.

But, time management is also important in areas where you invoice work that has been done for customers. Without having the information on how much time you have spent it will be impossible to invoice the correct amount of money.

There are different kinds of time management software that helps in tracking time spent on different activities. Some of them are specific to only collecting time and are mostly known as either time management software or time tracking software. However, since time is recorded in so many different areas of the organization, time management is also included in software providing other services, such as project management software, issue tracking software, etc.

Being aware of the amount of time certain activities take will not only make it possible for a company to understand what the personnel are doing during the days. Besides having an understanding for possibilities to improve efficiency the information is invaluable for planning of future activities, especially when initiating a new project.
By having information about how long an activity usually takes project planning will be much easier. The more times you have performed the activities, the better accuracy in planning.

To be able to manage time in a good way it is important to have time management software that is not too advanced to use for the personnel. The more advanced and the more time it takes to enter the time the less willing your personnel will be to enter the time. This will result in inaccurate information about how long time activities took since they tend to add less activities and group activities into one.

You also use time management to be able to allocate resources. This is usually the step after the planning phase and before the work is about to be done. The allocation is needed to be able to make sure resources are used the most efficient way. This is especially important with key people who are needed in different units of the organization. Since these resources might be needed in different places it will be very hard to not allocate them to ensure that the work will be done on time. One way of understanding allocation the best way is to think of booking of a conference room. If the room is not booked ahead there is a big chance that more groups of people wants to use it at the same time.

There are different approaches to time recording.

Some companies use time management software where you enter the activities using your own description without categorizing. This kind of software will mostly be used to control what has been done by personnel and is not that good as base information for future work.

Another way of recording time is by having some predefined activities that you can enter time for. You put in how much time you spent on something but may in some systems also enter how much time you believe that is left until the activity is done. The second part is not as commonly used since it also takes time to predict and think through what is left to be done. The activities can also be defined in hierarchy, having parent activities to be able to gather information in a more structured way. An example can be to have a parent category called Meetings and then have sub-activities for the specific meetings.

The third way, which is a new idea of time management, is to record deviations from a predicted value. This is a way to make time recording more efficient. If there are 15 people attending a meeting that is set to 1 hour, it would be very inefficient to have all 15 people report the 1 hour meeting. If the meeting took 1.5 hours instead, this can easily be changed by the person responsible of the meeting. By having one person doing this instead of 15 the time reporting will take much less time and more useful.
The same works in projects. By having project activities predefined you will be able to confirm the time instead of filling in the time spent yourself.

Some help desk software, task tracking software, service desk software and call centre management can automatically record time while working on a task. The recording starts a clock when you open the task and then stops the clock when you close the task.

There are several ways of keeping track of how much time is spent on activities in the organization. Using reports to bring out the information you want in the right way is the key to most time management.

Before implementing time management in your organization you should think about what you want to do with the information. Sometimes you believe that time management will be a solution to a lot, for example controlling what your personnel is doing during the days. But there are sometimes other solutions that should be used in these cases, for example manager coaching to give them tools to help the employees be more efficient.