Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin

5 Time Management Trends for 2016

Time management

Time management and time tracking is something that occupies a lot of our – you guessed it – time as project managers and leaders at work. Where are these activities going? It’s hard to predict the future, but let’s give it a go! Here’s my top 5 time management trends to watch out for in 2016.

More Multitasking

You don’t have to look hard to find studies that say multitasking is bad for your brain.

A now-famous 2009 research study by Stanford University put students through three tests, each designed to highlight what multitaskers were better at than people who didn’t routinely multitask in a multimedia environment. In each test, the multitaskers came out worse.

Conclusion: people who are frequently barraged with electronic information from several streams have worse attention, poorer memories and lower abilities to switch between tasks than people who work on one thing at a time.

But despite that, I feel like I’m multitasking more and seeing it happen more and more often. In my colleagues and friends I think it’s because we are adding more into our lives – side hustles, family commitments – and not taking anything out. That isn’t going to change any time soon, so we’re a generation facing decreasing brain power as a result of multitasking.

Note to self: Try to slow down and do less at the same time in 2016.

Working With Part-Timers

More and more project managers and team leaders will be working with part-time team members or people who just aren’t reliably around day after day throughout the year. Some of this is due to working on multiple projects and not being able to commit to working on your stuff all the time. Some of it is due to a shift in culture.

This year we saw new parental leave rules come into force in the UK, giving parents the right to share time off after a new baby joins the family. I know of colleagues who have taken statutory paternity leave, come back to work, gone off again for a month, come back and gone again. Family friendly and flexible, but not easy for managers to plan around.

Companies like Netflix and Microsoft have announced changes to parental leave policies this year, and it’s likely that other companies will follow suit. It’s good practice, it helps retention and recruitment and it makes the workplace a nicer, kinder place to be.

The impact on time management is that we’ll have to be especially good at planning projects around absences or part-time hours to get the same work done.

Working on the Go Decreases

I predict that we’ll see the need to work on the go decrease.

That doesn’t mean remote working overall is on the wane. In fact, it’s very obviously not. The Society for Human Resource Management in a survey of nearly 400 businesses reports that the use of flexible work arrangements is on the rise.

However, I’m noticing that people aren’t on the road so much. Instead, they are working from home and avoiding traveling unless it’s totally necessary.

The impact on time management is two-fold:

  • Conscientious employees working at home want and need to report back what they’ve been doing.
  • Managers want transparency around what remote workers are doing, because they don’t want to fall into the problem of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Time tracking, reporting and project management tools all provide the comfort blanket of managerial oversight that makes everyone feel more confident about working at home. As homeworking increases, the requirement for reliable tracking and reporting methods that tell us what we actually did with our time increases.

Time Management Goes Casual

There will always be a need for formal time tracking and management systems, and we won’t see that changing in the coming year. But I think something is changing around the formality of managing your time. In my teams we are setting up more meetings via chat, or checking in quickly on Skype. Organizing our time and reporting on it isn’t a big deal: there’s no complicated bureaucracy or difficult systems to use.

Time management systems are sneaking in under the radar, and that’s a good thing. The more casually we approach recording time and tracking progress against tasks, the more this behaviour will become engrained in how teams work collaboratively. And the data benefits everyone.

The Rise of Robot Time Trackers

OK, not real robots. But there is a shift towards using predictive algorithms in software: think predictive text for your SMS messages, but bigger. Predictive software could look at your past timesheets and let you know what’s going to be eating up your time in the week to come. It could harvest data from your calendar and report on how much time you spend in meetings. It could even harvest data from your colleagues’ timesheets and calendars and predict if they are going to hit their project milestones.

We’re a bit far off that yet. However, I think we’ll see moves in this direction over the next year or so. PwC agree: the professional services firm forecast that first we’ll see growth in mobile apps capturing and modelling contextual information. They predict that this data will feed into the ‘robot’ processors to enable predictive services that meet your needs before you have even told them what you want to know.

If you thought time management systems were just about timesheets, think again. Workplace organizational systems and policies are changing, society is changing and technology is advancing at a pace, all of which means that time management is an area affected by trends just as much as any other. It will be interesting to see how these themes advance in the coming year and beyond.

Time management all starts with knowing how you spend your day. Want to take the first step to find out? Let’s go.

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