One McKinsey report surveyed over 1,500 executives globally, asking them how they spent their time at work. Only 9% of respondents said they were "very satisfied" with their current time allocation!
And ineffective time management doesn't just waste your time, it wastes money too. A survey by Proudfoot Consulting, which spanned 4 years, covering 2,500 businesses in 39 countries, found just how expensive poor time management can be. In the UK alone, wasted time cost businesses around £80bn per year!
Whether a company has a culture of disorganisation that fosters time management issues, or there are just a few problematic employees, poor time management can plague a business and act as a foundational cause for larger problems.
Although it is often considered to be an individual pursuit, realising the effects of poor time management on the entire organisation can help you put things in perspective. Below are some of the ways poor time management can affect your work and business.
Individual Effects of Time Management IssuesObviously when employees are less productive than they could be, or miss important deadlines, this costs the company money and can lead to problems with internal departments and external clients. Problems caused by poor time management include:
Lack of focus and prioritisationPeople often have more on their plates than they can accomplish in a single day or week. Employees who are unable to manage their time properly often feel overwhelmed, and focus only on what is most urgent at the time. They still feel like they are getting things accomplished and marking them off their to-do lists, but in reality they are working from one crisis to another instead of being proactive about the work that they actually need to get done.
Missed deadlines and appointmentsPeople who don't pay due attention to schedules or who are poor at keeping to a diary are highly visible, often by their absence! They will miss calls, be late for meetings, or cause any number of other delays which can only harm the business. If someone is consistently late or unprepared, they cause problems for everyone and waste the valuable time of others who have prepared and are ready to work.
Another sign of poor time management is chronic procrastination. Whether someone suffers from a lack of motivation at work or is dealing with a deep fear of failure that prevents them from taking action, procrastination can be paralysing and lead to missed deadlines.
Poor quality of workUnfortunately, problems caused by procrastination and lack of focus tend to snowball and lead to a generally lower quality of work. People who feel stressed and too rushed to do what needs to be done are more likely to make mistakes and overlook details. Their work may become sloppy as they rush to complete an assignment at the last moment.
One way to get around this is to take your list of tasks, divide them up and spread them across a reasonable length of time. Shift your focus to completing a set amount every day.
Wasted timeAttempting to start any tasks or projects with unclear priorities will only lead to inefficient work flow and low productivity. When people are not clear about what is expected of them, they are more prone to getting distracted. This first step towards procrastination will lead to doing unfocused work, which only contributes to opportunities wasted by the company.
Effects of Poor Time Management in Team EnvironmentsWhen one or more members of a team suffer from work problems caused by poor time management, this affects relationships and can impair the overall functioning of the team. This is especially true when a team leader or manager has time management issues. Some of the harmful effects include:
Lack of professionalismTardiness and missed deadlines caused by poor time management signal a lack of professionalism for an employee and will undoubtedly hurt his or her career. They will also act as a brake on motivation within the team -- especially if the culprit is their line manager or supervisor. And on a wider scale, this unprofessionalism can tarnish the reputation of the company if clients or business partners are upset by unreliable behaviour.
Strained relationshipsWhen someone is consistently unfocused and not delivering quality work on time, their colleagues start to mistrust them. Other team members feel more pressure because they cannot count on their teammate to do what is required. This can lead to a downward cycle of mistrust unless behaviour improves.
Wasted meeting timeAs deadlines are missed and projects fall behind, more meetings may be needed to stay on top of things and monitor performance. Extra meetings are frustrating to employees who are performing well and they take time away from the work that needs to be done.
Financial penaltiesContracts can include Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which impose penalties when deadlines are missed or other performance objectives are not met. These financial losses caused by poor time management are compounded by reputational damage suffered in the eyes of the client.
Management ApproachesPoor time management can clearly lead to many problems in the workplace. Managers who want to lower stress levels in their department and keep customers happy need to be vigilant for the warning signs of time management problems, and put in place an effective method of dealing with these issues.
If an employee consistently has trouble meeting deadlines or focusing on key tasks, it is a relatively simple route (at least, in theory) to a disciplinary meeting based on poor performance. But the most professional way of dealing with the situation will always be to improve the employee's skills, knowledge and awareness.
This is accomplished by intervention: firstly a review to discuss the problems and ways of eliminating them, then by coaching or training sessions to reinforce the message. Further review sessions -- part of any modern management setup -- can address the matter again, and it is almost inevitably the case that a firm but supportive environment will create the basis for future success and higher morale across the whole team.