When employees are strapped for time, it’s easy for them to disregard long-term projects and goals and focus entirely on their immediate concerns.
For example, a customer-facing presentation needed by the end of the day will often take precedence over the design of a new process to streamline the development of such presentations, the completion of which has no hard-and-fast deadline.
In the short term, this makes sense. One item is time-sensitive, while the other is not. But, in the grand scheme of things, investing some time today in improving a process that will save time down the road is a sound time investment.
In this context, money and personal finances serve as an easy and understandable analogy to the concept of time and effective scheduling and long-term planning.
Pay Now to Gain Later
Using our previous example, had the hypothetical employee been able to invest sufficient time in the development of a streamlined presentation creation process, future presentations would take less time.
If the new process takes a total of 10 hours to implement and saves, on average, 2 hours per presentation, this time investment will have paid for itself after the completion of 5 presentations.
It’s very similar to placing money in an investment that pays out regular financial dividends in the future.
Big Benefits from a Long-Term Focus
We provided one hypothetical example of a benefit of sound time investment above. Here are some of the other ways in which investing time into long-term initiatives can benefit individual employees, as well as teams and organizations.
Preventing crises. Failing to place some financial resources into savings can increase the risk of a personal or corporate financial crisis. Failing to budget and invest time can lead to crises in terms of the ability to complete necessary assignments and meet deadlines.
In addition, failing to take a long-term approach can result in the inability to capitalize on potentially lucrative opportunities that may emerge. Getting work done “just in time” is like living paycheck to paycheck. The damage control in dealing with crises often takes significant time that puts the employee or team further in the hole when it comes to temporal resources.
A mistake that could have been prevented by investing a couple of extra hours up front may end up taking multiple people days to remedy. Investing time up front can help create a “slush fund” of time that can be used to prevent crises or successfully manage them as they arise or invest further into greater timesavings down the road.
Improved ability to delegate. An area where investing time can really pay off is training and onboarding subordinates. It’s easy for managers to fall into the trap of doing more work than necessary themselves because they don’t have staff sufficiently trained or experienced to assist.
Of course, it takes time to train someone, and it may seem like there is never enough time to make that investment. But, investing the time today to train subordinates can save a manager significant amounts of time down the road when he or she can confidently delegate work to those subordinates.
Unfortunately, managers who consistently fail to find the time to engage in such training will never get to the point where they can trust tasks to well-trained employees.
Establishing efficient processes. One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in any organization is repeating the same mistakes over and over again—and repeating the same work over and over again.
Investing time in creating and improving efficient processes can shave time off of recurring activities down the road. Each instance of saving time performing one of those activities is a return on the initial investment. We alluded to this earlier when discussing the hypothetical presentation example.
For example, your organization might put together an easy-to-use template for frequently used reports so that staff members don’t need to start from scratch every time they generate such a report. Or, a process might be put in place to require a meeting of the staff with approval authority for certain initiatives in order to have a single group discussion on an initiative’s merits as opposed to multiple, one-on-one discussions that may be contradictory and repetitive.
Training Employees to Invest Time Wisely
Time investment as a concept is great, but how does one instill such values and thought processes into an organization’s staff? Here are some basic tips and strategies.
Demonstrate the benefits. It’s great to think that employees will always do what they’re told simply because they’re told to do it. In reality, of course, incentivizing desired actions can help. In this case, the personal incentives are saving time, becoming more efficient, and reducing stress. There are many ways to demonstrate these benefits.
Managers could highlight the success stories of other employees or simply have staff members perform a before-and-after experiment, asking them to track the time it takes them to complete an assignment the way they’ve always done it and then track the time it takes them to complete it using a template or following a new process.
Encourage time-management skills. Time investment can seem like a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation—in order to free up time, you need to be able to have enough available time to put toward time investment initiatives.
Basic examples include creating a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule; creating project milestones and deadlines and sticking to them; and prioritizing activities effectively.
It’s understandable that employees focus first and foremost on the activities that are the most time-sensitive and need to be completed as soon as possible.
However, the downside to employees focusing too heavily on immediate concerns is that it often leaves little to no time for long-term initiatives that can help save time in the long run. Take some steps to help employees recognize the value of long-term time management.