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What Is Time, Really?

hr best practices hr department hr management hr technology Dec 05, 2023

There’s a great quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr: "You have exactly the same numbers in a day that were given to Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein, look what they were able to accomplish.” I think we can all resonate with that – so the take away for me is… we don’t want to hear that you don’t have enough time in a day. The question is… how are you using your time? 

Often in HR, I think we let others capitalize on our day.  We come in with a plan, then an employee shows up and needs a new ID card, a supervisor has an employee that was late for the 3rd time and your CFO sends an email that he forgot a work comp audit is due today.  Sound familiar?  So what are you to do?

It’s our responsibility to work smarter – not harder. We all having completing priorities for our time. Ensuring that we make the most of every moment will allow you to create great things in your career, and then reality sets in.  

Consider these four steps as a way to evaluate what you are going to focus on at what point:


Evaluate the actions you’re taking on a regular basis. Are you taking actions to drive your function in your organization forward? Are you taking actions that are stuck in the administrative portion of your position – and draining critical time from strategic analysis? Look at the “to do” list you have today. Are your actions made up of activities that will create initiatives driving your organization forward. If not, consider ways to delegate or automate the activities to free your time up for thought provoking and significant actions.


The squeaky wheel often gets the grease – and in HR the actions at the top of the list are often focused on those employees that complain the loudest and most often. That doesn’t really work if you are trying to manage your own time. In the 80’s, many business people subscribed to the Covey method of creating a to do list and then labelling the tasks as A, B and C based on the critical nature. We need to be sure we are doing the same today – even if we are using electronic lists. Consider your A priorities to be those that drive your goals forward, and let the B and C items be those that are focused on the tasks or service obligations to others.  We all have thing that need to get done, but if they don’t support the mission or goals can it be pushed off?  Maybe the task is a great training activity for someone else?


The most important tip of time management may be to publicize what it is you are working on at any given time. I recommend everyone have a large whiteboard in their office. I have always had a whiteboard in my office, and on that whiteboard I had the initiatives that I was working and my strategic goals. When I was running a consulting practice, one side of the board had our sales for the month and what we sold the same month last year. Everybody could see it, as soon as they walked into my office. This helped them to see my priorities, how their need fit into the big picture and why I may not have the time to print their check stub…for the third time!

Constant Evaluation

The final step of time management is to constantly evaluate what you’re doing. Tools you are using today likely didn’t work, or even exist 3 years ago. You may be filling out I-9 by hand because you always filled out I-9 by hand. But there are multiple vendors that exist today that can track and maintain your I-9 data. So think about everything that’s taking up time in your day and constantly evaluating what you can be doing to make that better.  There is so much new technology, even in our current systems, if we don’t take the time to review we’ll never get better.

You do have control of your day.  There are ways to politely say “not now” or give people realistic deadlines for completion of tasks.  Empower yourself and your HR department to manage time in a way that works for you and drives your organization forward.

Thanks for reading!

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