Time Management for the HR Professional

time management, HR, time awareness, scope creep

Time Management for the HR Professional

Time management is a problem for many of us, regardless of our job. Mobile technology has made the 24-hour workplace a common thing, and it seems at every turn, more is being expected of us in the workplace. In the HR world, we have to be constantly on our toes. You never know when an employee is going to interrupt your perfectly planned day with, “Uh, can I talk to you for a few minutes about a minor harassment issue?” You know as well as I do that it’s never just a few minutes, and it is rarely minor. Here are some time management tips written with the HR professional in mind.

Know Your Priorities

In the HR world, often when people need something, they say they need it right away. Maybe it is a manager calling to say he needs to hire two more cashiers, and he needed them by yesterday. Or perhaps it is a sudden termination that finds you driving 90 minutes through traffic to one of your company’s remote locations. The number of tasks that require us to drop everything seems limitless in HR. This is precisely why it is important to know your priorities.

Figure out what the important things are. It is easy to get caught up in thinking everything needs to be done right away when supervisors, employees, and executive management get demanding and insist their request is highly important. When someone makes such an urgent request, take a moment to ask yourself, “Does this need to be done right away?”

Clearly communicate with the requestor about when you will be able to complete their task. Be realistic and be open when there are delays, or you run into problems. Frustration with incomplete tasks can often be avoided with communication.

Be OK with Saying No

I tend to be the kind of person who thinks I need to say yes to all work requests. I have learned the hard way that sometimes it is necessary to say no for my mental health. When we stretch ourselves too thin by never turning people down, our work and well-being can suffer.

At a previous HR job at a small grocery chain, I was overseeing the hiring and onboarding of employees for a new location. This was quite a large project. Not only was I working on staffing the new store, but I was also handling my normal HR duties as they related to our existing locations. Rather than asking my boss for help, I kept taking on more and more to the point where almost every waking hour was spent catching up on work. My boss noticed and finally said something. She made me hand over some of my other responsibilities, which ended up saving me from a complete breakdown.

The experience made me realize how important it is to ask for help when things get overwhelming. This may mean sharing tasks with others on the team or getting a supervisor to advocate on your behalf and support your decision to say no to others.

Plan Ahead

I love making lists, and this is something that has helped me figure out my priorities on a weekly basis. I start off each week with a list of the things I want to complete, and then I come up with a rough plan for what days I want to focus on various projects. Review your list at the end of each day, make adjustments for things that did not get completed and look at what is on the list for tomorrow. Allow space in your schedule for the unforeseen. This gives you a bit of wiggle room for when HR emergencies come up. If nothing comes up, use the time to catch up on paperwork or other low priority tasks, or, better yet, take a couple hours for yourself.

Bonus Tip: Schedule Time for Yourself

Taking some time for yourself is an important way to recharge, which makes you a better worker. For some reason, I often find it easier to schedule work tasks than setting aside some time for myself. I have friends who will specifically block of time on their calendars just for spending time reading a book, watching a movie, spending time with family or just putting their feet up. This is a good way to make sure you get some downtime in your schedule. Just make sure to treat it the same as an important meeting, and do not cancel your “me time” just because work is calling.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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