By Emily Reynolds
As our lives have become busier and busier, the desire to get things done quickly and efficiently has increased – as demonstrated by the rise of speed reading apps, the lack of interruptions to work, and a general focus on “productivity”. Good time management skills are therefore highly valued both at work and at home.
But do such techniques actually work? In a meta-analysis published in Plus oneBrad Aeon of Concordia University and colleagues find they do – but maybe not for the reasons you would expect. While time management skills have become increasingly important in assessing job performance since the 1990s, their greatest impact lies elsewhere: in personal wellbeing.
In short, time management is a decision-making framework that helps us structure, protect and adjust our time in changing circumstances. It can therefore be measured using questions such as “Do you have a daily routine?” “Do you find it difficult to say no to people?”. and “Evaluate your daily schedule?”. Work-life balance and attitudes towards time and time management are also central.
To investigate the effectiveness of time management, the team collected 158 articles in journals from the fields of business, computers, gender studies, psychology, sociology and education from the mid-1980s to 2019. Papers containing scales or questionnaires on time management were also included. (Interestingly, time management studies grew in popularity between 2000 and 2010, indicating a broader trend and interest in the subject.)
These studies included work on time management in science and in the workplace, individual differences in time management and its effects on wellbeing factors such as life satisfaction, anxiety, depression and positive and negative effects.
In examining the impact of all of these studies, the team found that time management had a moderate, positive impact on job performance, both in terms of managerial performance appraisals and factors such as motivation and involvement in the job. The relationship between time management and job performance grew stronger over the years that the studies were published. This is another indication that time management has become a more important factor in people’s lives. This association was not as strong in the academic setting – time management appeared to be less relevant to test scores or grades than it did to performance reviews at work.
Most of the individual differences were only weakly related to time management skills: for example, women have stronger time management skills than men, but this correlation was weak. Women’s time management skills have increased over the course of meta-analysis, but this may be a sign of more busy schedules and increased juggling of tasks.
Despite reports suggesting that time management is primarily a professional or occupational skill, the strongest link between good time management and wellbeing was: the effect of time management on life satisfaction was 72% stronger than on job satisfaction. Time management also reduced feelings of distress.
Overall, the results suggest that time management works – although contrary to popular belief, it does Wellbeing That is the most positively influenced factor, not work. Work and wellbeing are clearly linked – if you are having a terrible time at work, your life satisfaction is unlikely to be too high. However, the results could mean that wellbeing is not only a by-product of a successfully managed work life, but can also be a direct result of good time management.
However, you may not want to place too much emphasis on time management: good time management, the team argues, is often a function of privilege. Things like income, class, and education all affect how we manage our time. They use the meme-ified phrase, “You have as many hours a day as Beyoncé” to get your point across: while Beyoncé is technically true, it does have a full team of nannies, drivers, cooks, personal trainers, and more more to manage her time and time So has the hours of her day just like hers.
Those without such resources are unlikely to achieve as much as someone who does, and it does not help to shame them for lack of achievement. And while time management skills can be invaluable in a busy life, it is also useful to refer to the words of Dr. Maria Kordowicz who were written in the November edition of The psychologist: You are more than your productivity.
– Does time management work? A meta-analysis
Emily Reynolds is an associate at BPS Biomedarticles