How do you help an employee with time management?

The signs are clear when someone struggles with managing their time: tasks completed at the last minute, delays, or even things getting lost. Slow progress in meetings and odd-hour email responses, like 2 a.m., are also indicators. If you’re a manager facing this issue with a team member, it can be challenging. Instead of expressing frustration or considering disciplinary action, there are practical steps you can take now to help.

1. Understand and Accept Your Feelings

Acknowledge your emotions before providing feedback. Write down your thoughts without sending them to your employee. Process your feelings on your own or with someone you trust. Be honest about why you’re unhappy—whether it’s a sense of being out of control, fear, embarrassment, or stress. This helps you avoid being too harsh with your employee.

2. Examine Your Role

Analyze whether your actions contribute to the problem. If you introduce tasks last minute, don’t give clear instructions, refuse to define priorities, lack a follow-up procedure, or expect constant availability, you may be part of the issue. Identify areas where you could improve before discussing the problem with your employee.

3. Identify the Source of Tension

Figure out what specifically bothers you about your employee’s time management. Is it a lack of materials for updates or presentations? Last-minute requests causing stress? Identify the root cause to target your feedback effectively.

4. Clearly Communicate Expectations

Calmly convey what you need, when you need it, and why. Ask about their needs for success. Avoid venting frustrations harshly, as this can be counterproductive. Remember that your employee likely has good intentions but struggles in this area.

5. Provide Help from the Beginning

Offer guidance on prioritizing tasks, brainstorming new approaches, and discussing details. Create intermediate goals, request regular progress reports, and consider working on tasks together in a meeting. Team them up with colleagues to provide support and momentum.

6. Notice Small Steps Forward

Express gratitude for any progress you observe. Positive feedback boosts their self-esteem and motivation. Rather than causing them to slack off, it propels them toward better results.

7. Seek Help from Others

If you’re too close to the situation, seek external resources like time management training, internal or external coaching, or other support. A detached perspective can often be more effective in helping your employee overcome challenges.

Remember, communication can have a powerful impact on your employee’s ability to improve their time management and productivity. Instead of berating them, focus on building them up and overcoming obstacles together.

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