TODAY, we use devices and platforms at work that we wouldn’t have dreamt of 15 years ago. But while times have changed, time management strategies have lagged behind. Here are a few approaches that are better suited for today’s complex work environment.

Despite the fact that work has evolved through the years, the training we get about how to manage our time looks pretty much the same as it always has. These days, traditional time management teaches us to start every morning by making a list of things to do that day. But once you check your e-mail, that list is already woefully outdated. Time management also teaches us to make a list of tasks and prioritise. But these days, everything seems urgent and competes for the highest priority.

We need a new kind of training to be truly effective.

This training should:

1. Clarify employee roles: when your employees are clear about the most important parts of their job and the direction of the company, they understand what to prioritise. Leadership needs to be clear on how day-to-day behaviours align with various job roles, and how each role relates to the mission of the firm.

2. Teach attention management: this is the ability to control distractions and maintain focus when necessary. Additionally, calling attention to unproductive behaviours helps employees recognise when they are engaging in them.

3. Develop a workflow management system: the basis of a useful workflow management methodology is the ability to make tasks and responsibilities easy to organise, track and act upon. Most employees keep some or all of their workload in their head. But employees can only truly manage what they can see, and they can only see what is outside their head, where it becomes tangible. A workflow methodology allows individuals to regain control, feel less scattered, and experience less stress.

(Adapted from How to Refocus a Meeting After Someone Interrupts at HBR.org.)

© 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp

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