RightPeople’s Time Management Research

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Out of Time?

Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Department of Psychology have found that being a good time manager is closely related to how conscientious a person is, and that this may be a personality trait rather than a skill one can acquire. Good time managers are also likely to be early birds, and slightly more prone to worrying.

There is an extremely strong relationship between time management and conscientiousness. We know from personality theory that conscientiousness is a dispositional quality, so it is possible that time management is also a personality trait, and would therefore be impossible to teach. There is now a plethora of books and courses to help people better manage their time; however, the conclusion from our research is that it is likely that not everyone is suited to these time management learning strategies. A more useful approach might be to tailor books and courses to different personality types.

People who are low in conscientiousness may require intensive training in specific areas of time management, such as how to overcome their tendencies to procrastinate or act impulsively, while highly conscientiousness individuals may require little, if any, treatment.

Conscientiousness is the tendency to possess self-control, plan, organise and carry out tasks. Such people are scrupulous, punctual, reliable, thorough, purposeful and determined, terms that could also be applied to being a good time manager. This is unsurprising, given our findings about the close relationship between conscientiousness and time management.

The team from RightPeople have developed the Australian Time Organisation Management Scale (ATOMS), a 62-item questionnaire measuring time management skills. The inventory was based on the study involving 280 people which identified six facets of time management:

These were:

  • 1.¬†Purposivism: sense of purpose, level of focus and goal-setting capacity;
  • 2. Time facilitation: tendency to procrastinate, to incorrectly estimate time needed to complete tasks and feel in control of time;
  • 3. Mechanics of time management: making lists, keeping a diary, and sticking to a schedule;
  • 4. Temporal perspective/change management: perception of the past, present and future, and the potential to cope with change;
  • 5. Spontaneity: a propensity to act impulsively, and a preference for predictability;
  • 6. Effective organisation: a preference for having a neat and, organised workspace and an orderly approach to tasks.

People might be low in some areas – they might have a messy desk or be impulsive, but compensate in other ways, such as keeping a diary, and end up being good time managers. No correlation was found between time management and intelligence.