At work, time isn’t always on our side—especially in this new era where advanced technology, changing office environments, and differing attitudes about the way we do business has dramatically altered the landscape of the workplace. The days of sequestering yourself behind closed doors and telling your secretary to “hold all calls” are long gone, as is the ability to be “off the clock.” Today, technology has made everyone reachable at all times. Even if you’re not answering calls, you’re expected to be reading your texts and checking your email on a regular basis.
Coupled with this new culture of near-omnipotent digital connectivity is the open-concept workplace. Since we’re no longer tethered to our desks by phone cords or bulky desktop computers, we can emerge from the cubicle and move to communal lounges, sit/stand workstations, or even recreational and exercise areas. Closed-off offices and stuffy boardrooms are, like landlines, going the way of the dinosaur. Meetings take place on-the-fly and more informally—when the need or the inspiration arises. And since everyone’s so connected, the expectation of instant availability has made time management a tricky proposition for those accustomed to living by the clock.
Not surprisingly, millennials tend to be more comfortable with technology, extreme connectivity, and the distractions of a fast-paced world than their more-experienced, but less tech-savvy counterparts who are tied to the old paradigm of a scheduled day. The new era of time management isn’t just a generational issue, though. Extroverts are better suited for the freeform, communal approach of the modern workplace, while introverts prefer to work independently and want ample time to prepare for group interactions. In addition, visionary, big-idea, creative types fare well in the new environment, while task-oriented, strategic planners operate better in more structured and scheduled cultures.
For everyone to succeed, leaders must guide the change. Here are a few tips that will help your team navigate through the new era of time management.
- Be flexible. Flexibility is a must. Scheduling must be fluid, not static. Be prepared to adjust and tweak your plans to accommodate a more open office structure.
- Put up guardrails. Set boundaries for yourself—and others. You may be reachable 24/7, but that doesn’t mean you can drop everything at a moment’s notice. Establish acceptable limits and stick to them. If you can be flexible, so can others.
- Prioritize. Prioritizing critical tasks is essential. Stay organized and clear about what needs to be accomplished. Take care of the most pressing matters immediately without getting bogged down with non-essential tasks.
- Focus on goals. Setting and tending to specific goals isn’t the same as scheduling every minute of the day. Have a plan and stick to it by avoiding the inevitable distractions, including technology.
- Stay disciplined and on-task, revisiting and revising your goals as needed.
- Delegate and empower others. Learning to say no is imperative when it comes to time management. You simply can’t do it all.
- Empower others to make decisions and take care of non-critical tasks—freeing up your time for essential, goal-driven priorities.
The new era of time management may be a road filled with curves, twists, and bumps, but it’s a path worth traveling if you want to succeed in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven workplace.
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