Time management - key takeaways from the forum

3 Aug 21

Construction is a time-pressured industry and proper prioritisation of tasks is required to improve time management in the long-term and shift the focus from ‘putting it right’ to ‘getting it right first time’. Understanding how to classify tasks according to their importance and urgency was one of the key takeaways of GIRI’s time management forum, along with the need for engagement from senior management to support effective time management. 

Watch the recording of the forum.

Convert your action list to an Eisenhower matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a process for reviewing tasks and classifying them in terms of how urgent they are, and how important they are. Tasks can be designated as having high or low importance and high or low urgency, and the combination of the two will enable us to decide how to spend our time. But while high urgency, high importance tasks clearly need to be prioritised, and low urgency, low importance tasks might be automated, delegated or even discarded, it is the low urgency, high importance tasks that pose the greatest challenge in terms of time management and decision-making.

Generally, try to prioritise “important but not urgent” activities on your action list

Consider what role the activities that are generally classified in this way play in the avoidance of error. Put measures in place to ensure that you are able to spend the right amount of time on the important tasks, rather than being continually distracted by the urgent ones. Although it could take time to put these measures in place, in the long-run they will free you up to focus on the important tasks. It could be something as simple as setting up automated ordering for office supplies so that you don’t spend valuable time rushing around to buy paper or printer ink. Also consider that taking breaks may be classified as ‘important but not urgent’ but work quality could suffer and errors become more frequent without them. 

Make commitments (to yourself) to do or not do certain activities – like New Year resolutions but applied to your daily life, both personal and business 

These are known as ‘commitment devices’ and are used to prevent or encourage a certain behaviour. For example, if you are on a diet, you might take biscuits or chocolate off your shopping list. By committing to not having them in the house you can help reduce your consumption. A similar device in the construction industry could be the commitment to put safety – or indeed quality or error reduction – on the agenda of every meeting.

Encourage leaders to take time to meet regularly to collaborate on achieving mutually agreed outcomes for a project or business, having listened openly to feedback from staff and operatives 

Regular meetings allow information and processes to be reviewed and any issues to be addressed before they seriously impact on time management. An individual’s ability to manage their time effectively is largely influenced by their line manager or senior staff in the company, so the buy-in of leaders to supporting effective time-management is critical. Making sure that time is set aside for important tasks in the programme, and also that the staff responsible for those tasks have been consulted about how much time they will require, makes it much more likely that they will be carried out. 

Training and planning are notable “important but not urgent” activities that should be prioritised

Poor planning in particular was identified by GIRI research as being the most significant root cause of error in the industry. A campaign to change the culture of a company and its attitude towards error would be considered important, but would not be classified as urgent, despite the long-term benefits it would generate. 

Do not make snap decisions if you have more time to research and consider other options

Time pressures in the construction industry mean there is a tendency to rush decisions and worry about sorting out any errors later. However, taking the time to consider the task or problem before taking action can result in time saved later down the line. One of GIRI’s core principles is pressing pause to avoid error. When in doubt, pause, think, replan, and start again. 



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