Business productivity relies on employee time-management. Invest a little time upfront for a bigger productivity payoff in the long run.

According to a sampling of business executives and managers, organization/ time management is emerging as one of the most critical issues in the workplace. As organizations struggle to achieve profit goals and remain competitive, employees tend to take on more roles, work longer hours, etc. Even though I’m known for organization (my grade school teacher told my Mom that she knew I’d be “organizing other people’s lives some day” – I wonder if my Mom knew how to take that comment about her 10 year old), it’s easy to get caught in this trap.

Does it sound familiar that the last time you were “caught up” with your workload was so long ago that it is a distant memory?

So, how do you gain an hour a day? Simplicity and focus.

First, a simple to-do list can achieve wonders. It doesn’t require software, fancy forms, a PDA, etc. Keep a list of all the things you need to accomplish. As you think of items, add them to the list, and as you complete items, cross them off the list. If the items do not need to be completed until a future time, put them on a list for that month and file it away for now. These lists allow you to see your workload at a glance and receive immediate feedback (a good sense of accomplishment) as you cross items off the list. And, most importantly, they “work”.

Second, you have to spend time to free up time. As counterintuitive as that sounds, it has proven true. I heard more times than I can count that managers do not have the time to meet with their employees. However, I found that if you spend the time up front on a regular basis (such as every 90 days at a minimum) to sit down with your employees and discuss past performance, future goals, and potential roadblocks, more than one hour a day of time is freed up over the long term. Employees need to fully understand their goals, how/ why those goals are providing value for the company, how they should prioritize their workload, etc. It is interesting that as this is implemented, you gradually see your employees feeling empowered to make decisions within their guidelines, asking better questions and becoming more productive and enjoying their day more. Not a bad side benefit!

Third, prioritization combined with follow up is key. Although follow-up is important, following up on the priority tasks is what achieves success. Follow-up only on your “A” and “B” tasks on your to-do list (put your “C” tasks on a separate list or on the bottom of your list for “when there is extra time available”). When prioritizing, a simple system works effectively. Think about the result the task will achieve and what that will achieve for your company or for you. If it’s important, put it on the top of your to-do list and if it isn’t, put it at the bottom. Then, work the to-do list in order and follow-up with your employees on the critical tasks only (what you follow-up on will be perceived as what is valued). Provide yourself with a reward as you complete critical tasks. (It can be as easy as walking to the cafeteria for a soda, taking time to call your family, etc).

Start slow. Implement one technique consistently for a period of time so that it has a chance to yield results. Soon, you’ll have an hour more a day. It requires no money or complicated systems – only simplicity and tenacity.