Whether you’re a seasoned HR professional or an office administrator who manages HR alongside other tasks—perhaps all on your lonesome—you’re probably no stranger to a heavy workload. From payroll and time cards; to recruiting, training, and employee reviews; keeping benefits, policies and compliance up-to-date; and managing PTO, HR takes care of it.
If you chose HR as a career path, chances are you’re a natural multitasker. Even so, it’s no small feat. The added challenge is making time for those things you’d like to spend more time on, including strategic initiatives, professional development, employee training, or strengthening company culture.
The moral of this story: time management is a friend to all. If you can embrace effective time management strategies, this has major benefits on stress, workload, and overall performance (more on that later).
Professional multitaskers unite
A 2015 study by HR.com asked HR professionals to choose their five most time-consuming tasks. The top three included:
- Employee management: 71% of respondents felt that fielding questions, rewarding employees, disciplining, and conflict resolution ate up most of their time.
- Policies and compliance: 54% felt that health-benefit laws, policies, unemployment insurance, 401Ks, and worker’s compensation came second.
- Recruiting: 42% felt that tasks associated with recruiting, such as job fairs, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, verifying references, and doing background checks was next up.
Since managers and employees tend to rely on HR for guidance on a range of issues, your typical day includes meetings and tasks of both the planned and unplanned varieties. The reality is that HR professionals juggle numerous tasks constantly. The problem is, dealing with problems one at a time is actually more effective. More often than not, multitasking consumes your time and leaves you with tasks you’ve put work into, but which remain unfinished. This is where time management comes in!
Time management tips for HR professionals
The good news: there are tried and true time management strategies out there. These are well-suited to dealing with a full plate, full-time scenario—even when tedious and time-consuming last-minute requests come your way.
1. Stay organized
Rather than give in to the nagging urgency of your most pressing tasks as soon as you sit down, spend your first 15 minutes determining what your most important activities are that day. When you start work, you should know exactly what needs doing that day. To this end, create a to-do list before starting. Better yet, plan each week in advance. Leave a few time slots free for putting out unforeseen fires or dealing with abrupt but important requests. As a general rule of thumb, it can also help to start each day by completing your smallest “clutter tasks” right away just to trim down that list a bit and help clear your mind.
2. Never stop prioritizing
Generally speaking, you need to focus on tasks that are urgent and/or important. While urgent tasks require an immediate response (i.e., getting last-minute onboarding tasks done before a new hire starts), important tasks (such as professional development training) help you attain your overarching goals. It’s common for urgent and important tasks to compete for your time. In addition to crossing the 1-minute-or-less tasks off your list first thing, ask yourself what the most important task on your daily schedule is. Then, consider what needs to happen for you to cross it off that very day. If it needs to be delayed, carefully assess the effects of putting it off a day. Always be on the lookout for ways to eliminate impediments to your workflow.
3. Schedule breaks and office hours
Although it may seem less stressful, resist the urge to let things flow organically. In addition to planning out your tasks daily, schedule different time slots for different types of tasks. Scheduling microbreaks can also improve your focus dramatically. Get some air, go for a walk, eat lunch anywhere but at your desk.
To avoid constant interruptions, dub particular time slots “office hours.” Not only will this help structure your day, but it will also increase the quality of the time you spend with employees. You’ll be less rushed and better able to focus on each point. Finally, in the interest of completing tasks, set aside uninterrupted blocks (30, 60, or 90 minutes) of “focused work,” during which time you can’t be reached at all (not even via email or phone). You might even work with your team to plan meeting days and non-meeting days so you can focus even more.
4. Don’t be afraid to delegate
This is everything and for those of us who have a team to manage, this is where your ability to “manage” may be called upon. If a sudden request comes up that you can’t fit into your day, consider whether it can be assigned to someone else, when appropriate. This is part of learning to create boundaries. Consider if someone on your team or a colleague is able to handle the task (although we know this isn’t always the case).
Before delegating to others, always rank your tasks: determine which tasks you need to complete personally; which you can use outside help on; and which others can do, or would do better. Delegating to others when possible (or desirable) is an artful way of learning to include “no” in your vocabulary—another important skill for any HR professional (or anyone else) to master! For instance, maybe you don’t need to attend every meeting and can be briefed afterward instead.
5. Find tools that simplify your workflow
Don’t shy away from bringing in reinforcements whether it’s a good old-fashioned list on paper, a calendar or project management software. In terms of HR tasks, there is incredible HR software out there that is designed to save you time by streamlining and simplifying your work. HR software (sometimes called an HRIS) helps digitize, automate, and simplify common HR tasks. PurelyHR helps you store, manage, and organize employee files easily and accessibly. You will spend less time on essential but time-consuming tasks like onboarding, managing employee data, and enforcing policies. You can also use it to track PTO, manage performance, track time, and more.
Benefits of strong time management
Without an effective time management strategy, it’s near impossible to complete tasks in a set time period—at least not without compromising on quality. With good time management skills, you are in better control of your time and are able to make actual progress at work. Time management also helps with work-life balance and gives you the flexibility to respond to “surprises”—within reason.
Effective time management can yield many benefits, including:
- Higher quality output. Fact: quality work takes more time. Rushing makes mistakes more likely, which can in turn compromise outcomes. For noticeably better results, give projects enough time and uninterrupted attention.
- Increased productivity. The purpose of time management is to facilitate productivity. In spite of distractions, effective time management is conducive to more focused work with fewer interruptions. The result is higher productivity.
- Improved success rate. With a better handle on the time you have, your work becomes more productive and efficient, which in turn translates to higher revenues for the company, and more measurable overall progress toward company goals.
- Time for more important things. The same study that asked HR professionals to identify their most time-consuming tasks also asked where they’d like to spend more time. Professional development (54%) was flagged as a way of gaining more knowledge and being more helpful to the company; giving more time to employee training (47%) was deemed beneficial; and big picture initiatives to improve company culture (37%) was also ranked as worthy of time and attention. We’re talking about crucial considerations like image, reputation, and overall retention.
Bottom line: Effective time management is by far the best way to channel your HR superpowers on the daily. Prioritize managing your time above all else and reap the benefits!