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Focusing on 'Key Results' Helps Manage Your Time Better

clock, time Credit: Clock image via Shutterstock

With businesses having trimmed staff in recent years to cut costs, employees are being asked to do more than ever — a reality that demands a boost in time management skills.

Time management expert Peter Turla said figuring out how to best use each minute of the day is critical for an employee's success.

"Good time management allows you to better manage your time so that you can focus on the things that’ll make you or keep you successful," Turla told BusinessNewsDaily. "If you don't manage your time well, you'll still be spending the same amount of time as anyone else — we all get 24 hours a day — but you'll have to work a lot harder or longer to accomplish what good time managers can accomplish."

One tip Turla offers to workers trying to keep their eye on what matters most is to define what he calls "Key Results Areas" (KRAs), the tasks and responsibilities that are most important for success. He said employees should write those items down and keep them in sight while working.

"When you're getting scattered with your focus, ask yourself if what you are about to do makes a significant accomplishment to you achieving one of your KRAs," he said. "If it doesn't, why are you doing it?"

For employees who are trying to get work done faster, Turla suggests creating some quiet time, getting rid of unnecessary clutter to boost focus, combining related activities, setting priorities and sequences for work flow and doing the hardest and most difficult items during peak mental times.

Harriet Schechter, time management expert and author of "Conquering Chaos at Work" (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 2000), said employees can improve their time management simply through better calendar scheduling.

Schechter said employees should look at their calendar like a print advertisement, in that a good ad generally has a good balance of white space and isn't overly cluttered. She encourages workers to assess whether their calendar looks like a poorly designed ad, with too many activities and not enough white space.

While it might seem more efficient to pack each day with side-by-side commitments, she said it's ultimately not as effective as leaving some free time in the schedule.

"White space functions as a sort of shock absorber for scheduling bumps caused by distractions, interruptions, emergencies and delays," Schechter said. "White space pumps flexibility into your schedule, and flexibility is one of the keys to effective time management."

Being able to power down is vital for employees trying to get more done with less time, said David Humes, productivity expert and co-author of "Stepping Stones to Success" (Insight Publishing 2011). He believes being able to properly focus and concentrate can sometimes force employees to carve out uninterrupted blocks of time — even just 60 to 90 minutes — to do laser-focused work on their highest priorities.

"This means turning off email, putting your phone on airplane' mode and it may mean getting out of the office completely so you're not interrupted," Humes said.

He said statistics show the average CEO logs only 28 minutes of genuine productivity each day.

"Based on this information, if you can book at least one 90-minute session first thing in the morning, you will immediately triple your productivity," Humes said.

Being able to sometimes say no is also critical for employees trying to best manage their time, Humes said. He advises each worker to examine each of their projects, goals and task lists to determine which are most important.

"Saying 'no' is easy when you have clarified and prioritized your goals and you know your boss's priorities," Humes said. "If you don't know your boss's priorities, ask."

Turla agrees that the key to accomplishing more is learning how to say "no" to inappropriate uses of time.

"Look for things on your to-do list that can be done by someone else, and quit doing things that are not worth doing in the first place," Turla said.

For businesses as a whole, time-tracking and management software can help ensure all employees are making the best use of their time. Visit our sister site for a full review of each time tracking software. 

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.