Not enough time? These eight time-management tips will help you make the most of your day.

8 Time-Management Tips for Engineers

Aug 21, 2019

by Mark Crawford

Engineers are skilled at using tools that maximize their efficiency, productivity, and performance to meet tough deadlines. However, when management decides to do more with less, it may mean loading up staff with more projects, creating additional time pressure, and making it tougher (and more stressful) to meet deadlines.
 
If we only had more time.
 
Time is, however, a fixed (and precious) resource that needs to be managed with care to optimize results and performance. Want to accomplish more? The eight time-management tips below will help you make the most of your day.
 
1. Learn to delegate (stop micromanaging). One of the most powerful management tools available is the ability to delegate. It is impossible to control every process and be everywhere at all times. Delegate responsibilities to qualified members of your team—this allows them to develop key skills and feel empowered as team members. The more frequently you delegate, the less worrisome it becomes. As your team takes on these added responsibilities, you can focus on the big thinking for next project.

2. Apply the 80/20 rule. According to the Pareto Principle, 20 percent of actions drive 80 percent of results. Within the context of time management, this means that 80 percent of your results are generated by only 20 percent of your actions. Therefore, focus on the most important tasks (the 20 percent) and delegate the remaining 80 percent (less important) tasks to subordinates.

3. Say (or request) “no” more often. Learning to say “no” can be tough, especially if you are not the boss. However, if the workload is too high, or priorities are unbalanced, or deadlines need to be adjusted, explain to supervisors why it is important to decline their request. Often this will result in getting the time adjustments you need, or additional staff to help with the project. This then allows you to move on to the next task in the top-20-percent list of actions.
 

Tracking time is very effective for gauging how much time is spent on various activities during the day.
4. Track your time. Do you really know how productive are you during the week? Tracking time is very effective for gauging how much time is spent on various activities during the day. TSheets by Quickbooks, RescueTime, Toggl, and Calendar are easy-to-use tools that allow you to clock in and out of various tasks. Real-time reports can be generated from the data that show how you are spending time and where adjustments are needed.

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5. Get organized. The average American spends 2.5 days each year looking for misplaced items. The trick to not doing this at work is getting organized and sticking to it. The simple-but-powerful lean strategy of 5S can be applied to the workspace—the five Ss are sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Keeping everything organized and at hand will save you time when you most need it most—for example, when the clock is ticking on design changes.


6. Invest in management tools. Just as engineers rely on the right tools to finish their projects, the same can be done for time management. Project management software tools provide a hub for project information and communication, which saves time for project managers and team members. Tasks can be prioritized and automated, providing complete project transparency, in real time. This reduces the need for time-consuming meetings. Investing in tools and equipment—or their newest versions—is critical for time efficiency.   
 

7. Conduct actionable meetings. Most meetings, even when they are important, are viewed with dread by attendees. Data-sharing tools and computerized project management updates can minimize the need for meetings; however, when one is required, prepare a definitive agenda, invite only necessary personnel, and send them materials in advance. End the meeting with action items and due dates.

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8. Review your day. Spend 5-10 minutes reviewing your task list every day before you leave the office,” advises project management leadership coach Susanne Madsen. “Give yourself a pat on the back if you achieved what you wanted. If you think your day’s effort fell short, decide what you’ll do differently tomorrow in order to accomplish what you need to. Leave the office in high spirits determined to pick up the thread the next day.”

Integrating these eight time-saving strategies into daily planning, whether you are the team leader or a team member, will allow you to accomplish more during the day, strengthen team relationships, and enable you to take on even more work (unless you have mastered how to say “no”).
 
Mark Crawford is a technology writer based in New Mexico.