By Dirk Zeller

As soon as you understand a staff member’s problem areas, the next step is to develop a plan to overcome these challenges and turn the employee into a productive, efficient dynamo. One of the first items on your agenda when you want to overhaul employees’ time‐management skills is to establish goals.

When establishing an employee’s time-management goals, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Cast the goals in a positive light. Instead of “stop coming in late,” try “work to consistently come in on time or earlier.”

  • Make goals realistic. Goals should be challenging but not so difficult that the employee may become discouraged. If an employee is always late for work, insisting on 100‐percent on‐time arrival starting on day one may be setting the bar too high.

  • Break goals into manageable steps when possible. What steps does your employee need to take to accomplish the goals? For instance, you may have your employee identify his most important tasks before trying to put them in order.

  • Make goals measurable. First, determine how you can measure the progress:

    • By projects completed?

    • By an increase in responsibility?

    • By adherence to new time-management strategies and systems?

    • By a rating system you develop?

    Then make sure you can measure the goals using numbers, whether percentages, totals, number of first‐time responsibilities, or specific figures. With a measureable component, a goal such as “finish projects on time” becomes “strive to increase on‐time completion of projects from 1 in 5 to 4 in 5” or “commit to completing all projects within 24 hours of the original deadline.”

  • Give a target date for goals. Without establishing a “by” date, your employees are less likely to be as motivated to do the hard work of change. To make sure the time line you attach to the goal is realistic, ask these questions:

    • When do you want to see improvement? Next week? Next month? Next quarter?

    • When is the employee’s next performance review? Is it reasonable to expect X amount of improvement by that time?

    • Are there company deadlines that have an impact on how quickly improvements need to be made?

    With a target date, “reduce the number of interruptions to four times per morning” becomes “reduce the number of interruptions to four times per morning by month’s end.”

Have your employees develop skills time lines, which determine which skills, tools, or systems they must learn and implement and by what dates. Help your employees create their time lines, but let them do the bulk of the work themselves: It builds employees’ ownership of the goals, and it teaches them the skill so they can do it themselves the next time.