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A Developer’s Guide to Setting SMART Goals for Efficient Time Management
Published:Dec 16, 2021

A Developer’s Guide to Setting SMART Goals for Efficient Time Management

Poor time management doesn’t just lead to frustration over missed deadlines. It also devastates your work-life balance and leaves you feeling stressed and anxious.

But how do you manage your time properly, especially when your line of work is as radical and ever-changing as software development? The key is to set attainable goals based on real data.

You see, time management is not an arbitrary process — it’s a science. The best way to set clear expectations and goals for time management is to rely on the information you already have about your workflow, such as time-tracking data.

In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know to use data to set achievable time management goals for yourself and your team. We’ll also be providing you with a framework that will help you develop your goal-setting and time management skills.

Time Management Goals: What Are They?

Time management means making the most of your workday by efficiently using all the hours at your disposal. A time management goal, then, is a specific objective that you set for yourself to complete within a set amount of time during your workday.

That sounds abstract and vague, which is why you need a proper framework for setting time management goals. Luckily, George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham already took care of that for us in 1981.

The framework is called SMART, which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By keeping all these factors in mind when setting goals and creating a time management system, you’ll be able to make the most efficient use of your working hours.

Why Time Management Goals Are Important

How do you go about setting SMART Goals for your projects? We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at why it’s so important to set proper time management goals for yourself and your team.

  • Setting proper goals provides direction to your entire team, helping each team member assess their priorities and decide what they need to focus the bulk of their time on.
  • Goals should always be timely, meaning that they should always come with a time frame attached to them. That helps you make sure no one misses their deadlines.
  • Having goals helps you manage distractionsin the workplace. It lets you move away from time-wasters like impromptu meetings and focus on what’s actually important.
  • At the end of the day, time management goals help you improve productivityat the workplace while also being considerate towards your team’s morale.
Why Time Management Goals Are Important

How to Set and Achieve Time Management Goals for Yourself and Your Team

Now that you know why effective time management is so important, let’s talk about how to set effective goals for yourself and your team. Below are some tips, tricks, and ideas to help you set time management goals for the entire team and also achieve them:

Use the SMART Criteria

SMART Goals are the best kind of goals because they clearly define all the different parameters involved in completing a task. Your goals have to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The last part is where time management comes into play.

For every task that you take on, it’s important to set clear expectations in terms of deadlines and time frames. So when you’re ready to set your goals for a specific project or task, make sure that it follows the SMART Framework.

Get Your Priorities Right

Once you’ve decided on a set of goals for your project, it’s time to break them down into smaller tasks and decide on which tasks you should be prioritizing first. Start by writing down all the tasks you need to complete to achieve a certain goal using a to-do list.

From there, you can use a shared calendar app to set weekly priorities and decide on what to prioritize on which day of the week. Clearly indicate which tasks are the most urgent so that all your team members stay on the same page.

Know When to Refuse

There’s no point trying to be a crowdpleaser. Being good at goal-setting also means knowing when to say no to things that put too much pressure on your shoulders. If you overburden yourself, you’ll likely not be able to complete a single task because you won’t have enough time.

You may think you’re good at multitasking, but multitasking isn’t good for you. Study after study has shown that multitasking can have permanent effects on your brain. That’s all the more reason why you should prioritize your goals and know when to stop.

Take Sufficient Breaks

According to a survey from 2018, 38% of all employees in North America don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break. That’s dangerous not just to employee productivity but also to mental wellbeing at the workplace.

Leadership researchers go so far as to suggest that workplaces offer some kind of incentive for employees to take regular breaks. So when you set goals for yourself and your team, make sure not to overwhelm anyone and leave sufficient time for breaks.

Delegate Responsibilities

Project managers can often feel tempted to take matters into their own hands, especially when things get tense. But doing so does nothing to improve the problem-solving capabilities of those working under them and can even cause employees to feel micromanaged.

A much better approach is to delegate responsibilities where appropriate so that the goals you set aren’t unrealistic or unattainable for one person. Delegating doesn’t mean you’re throwing your work at other people — in fact, it’s a key strategy for good time management.

smart goals for time management

SMART Goals for Time Management: Templates and Examples

What does a SMART Goal actually look like? Let’s break it down by discussing the various components that make up the SMART Framework:

Specific: When you’re setting goals for time management, it’s important to be clear and specific about what you’re trying to achieve. You don’t have to get into the details of how you’re going to achieve your goal just yet. Instead, think about what exactly you need to accomplish.

Measurable: How do you determine if you have been successful in achieving your goal? You’ll need to rely on metrics and it’s important to think about what these metrics are going to be.

Achievable: Setting unrealistic goals for yourself and your team is a good way to be burned out and exhausted. You should always aim for something that you can control and something you can really achieve at the end of the day.

Relevant: Achieving a goal has little value unless it helps realize your company’s mission and vision. Your goals should always be aligned with the long-term goals of the company.

Time-bound: Tracking time for your goals is just as important as all the other stuff. If you don’t set a specific time frame and a time limit for every goal you’re trying to achieve, you risk impacting your bottom line by draining more resources than you had planned for.

SMART Goals don’t just improve productivity at the workplace, they also enable your team members to achieve personal growth and reduce stress levels at work. Let’s take a quick look at a proper example to see what a SMART Goal usually looks like:

Our team wants to revise the source code of an application to reduce load times by one second over the next three weeks by putting in at least four hours a day.

This is a SMART Goal because it answers all the important questions — such as responsibility, deliverables, time frame, and key metrics for measuring success. It’s also not very technical, which is great because even non-developers within your organization will easily understand it.

Make Your Time Management Goals Attainable Using Good Data

For your goals to be achievable, they have to be based on real data. And the best way to collect that data is to rely on past trends. If you want to develop better time management goals for your next project, just look at all the other projects you’ve worked on and how much time they took.

It’s called historical time-tracking. By using time-tracking data from your past projects to develop insights into the way you and your team works, you can create better and more realistic goals for future projects.

But it doesn’t just stop there. Historical time-tracking also helps you optimize your workflow by honing in on time-eaters within your daily tasks. You can figure out exactly how much time you need to allot for each task and how to optimize your processes so that they take less time.

7pace Is the Best Source of Time-Tracking Data for Developers

7pace is a time-tracking tool for Azure DevOps and Github. It helps you track hours for you and your team across multiple projects and gather valuable data for better time management. It tells you exactly how long you spend on each task and even stores historical data on past projects.

7pace’s time-tracking solution fits seamlessly into your existing development environment, be it Azure DevOps or Github. It’s available across desktop and mobile, as well as through an integrated API.

7pace Azure DevOps and Github time tracker records your progress across various projects and automatically calculates your pace so that you can optimize your processes over time. Want to give time-tracking a chance? Get the time-tracker for as little as $5/user/month!

Free eBook

Rethinking Timekeeping for Developers:

Turning a Timesuck Into Time Well Spent

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