Time management has always been a huge issue for HR professionals. They're constantly pulled in countless different directions, and often have to handle last-minute workplace crises while still needing to accomplish their long-term goals and larger projects.
In an era when the average cost per hire is over $4,000 and it takes 42 days to hire a new employee, workplaces demand more out of their HR departments than ever before.
“HR leaders are, in many ways, the backbone of a company,” said San Francisco-based productivity, time management, and leadership coach Alexis Haselberger. “They are, quite literally, in the business of distributing, maintaining, developing, and supporting the company's most valuable resources — their people. Despite this central role, HR is a function that's often overlooked, undervalued, and understaffed, meaning that HR folks are stretched thin.”
To keep up with their work while taking care of their own health and well-being, HR leaders need to intentionally utilize time management skills.
“It's important for HR professionals to protect our time,” said Ann Nihil, Operations and Culture Manager at Fracture, a glass photo printing company. “Just as we encourage the teams that we oversee to do the same, a savvy HR leader must also heed their own advice.”
If you are an HR leader struggling with time management and want to improve how you function in the workplace, here are seven easy steps to get you started.
1. Plan out your day.
When you start work every day, you should know exactly what you have to do. Plan your day in advance with a to-do list, and you’ll be set up for success, according to Los Angeles-based productivity expert Siimon Reynolds.
Instead of just diving right into your work as soon as you sit down, Reynolds recommended first spending 10-15 minutes carefully determining what your most important activities are for the day.
“Then you need to allocate time for each of them in your calendar,” Reynolds said. “Only then should you begin your tasks for the day. This will make a massive difference in how much you achieve of value, and how calm you are at work.”
2. Use the right tools.
There are so many helpful, readily available tools that you can use to stay on task and hone your time management skills. Nihil said she’s used Jira, a software development project tracker; Asana, an online management tool; and Google Calendar.
“[With these tools], we’re able to see what the day has in store for us and what can be moved around,” said Nihil. “This allows us to be proactive and prioritize based on current needs.”
Haselberger said she utilizes digital signature tools like DocuSign and HelloSign, which help to streamline paperwork and save time, especially if you’re working in a remote environment.
Eileen Roth, organizing expert and the author of Organizing for Dummies, recommended using RescueTime, which is an automatic time-tracking software, or simply tracking your own time and “noting what time you start and stop various activities, recording everything [like] telephone calls, interruptions from visitors, and time [spent] on social media,” she said.
3. Consolidate meetings.
As everyone who’s ever worked in an office knows, meetings are a real time killer. They can drag on and on and hijack your productivity in the process.
If you have back-to-back meetings constantly scheduled on your calendar, try to consolidate recurring ones into a single day or a couple of mornings or afternoons during the week, advised Haselberger. If any last-minute meetings come up with employees or colleagues, ask that they be scheduled during your designated office hours, just like college professors do.
4. Estimate time commitments.
Every quarter, Karen Oakey, Fracture’s Director of HR, said she makes it a point to come up with one large HR initiative to be completed. Then, she details the steps to complete the project and estimates how long it will take.
“Estimating time to complete initiatives allows me to leave open time slots to support the day-to-day people operations,” Oakey said.
By knowing how much time it’ll take for you to complete your tasks — whether they’re your regular, daily ones or longer-term projects — you’ll be able to stay on track.
5. Delegate tasks to other people.
This is where your people management skills will come into play. Instead of doing everything yourself, figure out what you can delegate to other staff members so you can concentrate on the top priorities and harder tasks that only you can do, Roth said.
For instance, you could delegate tasks related to insurance, health, safety, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports, and interviewing. Keep in mind, however, that you may have to train staff on how to do these tasks.
“Staff can’t grow if they aren’t trained,” said Roth. “The HR manager does not have to handle it all — and should not.”
6. Create boundaries around work.
A crucial part of strengthening your time management skills is to make sure you manage your time outside of work carefully as well. Don’t constantly work; relax when you aren’t in the office and model this behavior for other employees.
“Leaders of any kind set the standard and precedence for others at work,” said Haselberger. “If your company purports to support work-life balance, take vacations and don't check email on the weekends. Show others that it's not just lip service.”
7. Remember to breathe.
Distractions, an overwhelming to-do list, meetings, and everyday demands that come up can cause you to become stressed and quickly lead to work burnout. However, you can avoid that with the proper time management skills, which will ensure that you’ll complete your necessary responsibilities without becoming totally depleted.
“It can be difficult when you have a day where you’re pulled in a million different directions and your plan falls apart,” said Oakey. “Take a minute to breathe and focus on the critical things that must be done. Tomorrow is always another day.”
If your work calendar is always packed and your tasks are piling up and feel unmanageable, these steps will help you take control of your time — and your workday. And don’t be discouraged if the new time management system you implement doesn’t work perfectly at first. As Oakey said, you can always take a deep breath and start over again.