Do you know how well you manage time? Do you have any way of measuring this?
The modern management mantra is “If it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed.” Can time management skill be measured?
Again, in modern management context, just about any measure cannot do. We need a metric that helps us determine how well we are doing and to help us improve. The metric must be one that we can set SMART goals about – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
I offer two metrics and ways in which they may be best used. These form a subset of my “Bank Your Time” suite of metrics.
- The first relevant metric is productivity, a measure of throughput or tasks per unit time. You may wonder if this is a good metric. Some tasks take longer and others take less time. Would we be comparing apples to apples or to oranges? There are two parts to solving this dilemma. The first is estimate how long each task ought to take. The second is to divide all tasks into chunks of equal complexity such that the take equal units of time. I call these “time slice work units.” Now, when you compare time slice work units, you will be comparing apples to apples. Thus, productivity is measured in terms of time-slice-work-units per unit time. The caveat here is that you could go overboard in task division. Fix an appropriate time slice, e.g. 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 or 1 hour, and slice the task to fit these units. Thus, if you manage to complete 20 units of work per work day, this is your productivity.
- The second relevant metric is efficiency. I take this to mean results per unit effort. Again, this may, at first blush, seem inappropriate. Let me explain this metric in some detail. How can effort be measured? I measure this in terms of units of work, the same as in the previous metric. So far, so good. How about results? For this, look at the estimates. The complexity of the expected result can be expressed in terms of the number of time-slice units the task is expected to take. For example, if a task was expected to take 20 time-slice units but only to 18, you have an efficiency of 20/18. If the task was expected to take 18 time-slice units but took as much as 20, you have an efficiency of 18/20.
It may appear that both these measures are the same. There is a very slight difference between them. One is expressed in terms of work units per time units, the other is a ratio of work units expected and actual work units. The difference, again, is that the first looks at productivity without regard to actual tasks, while the second measures efficiency for each task.
How does this help? Among other things, these measures help you find out which tasks you are good at and which you could do better at, and also to set personal targets to improve your productivity.
As in anything else, the value of metrics is in how they are used.