How To Apply Lean Principles To Time ManagementLean management is a broadly applicable philosophy that can increase production at all levels of an organization.

Continuous improvement should be your standard for your own work as well as that of employees.

Lean principles not only enhance productivity, but also allow leaders to understand how employees respond to Lean transitions.

At the core of Lean's success is its insistence upon empowering every employee to improve. Empowerment and accountability start on the ground floor, but must not stop there.

Three Lean Principles For Time Management

Here are three methods of Lean thinking you can apply today to better manage your time.

Keep the "Customer" In Mind

When you do not "think Lean," you will likely start your day with the work that presents itself first. Instead, make a habit of taking 10 minutes every morning, without distractions, to prioritize your work based on its value to the many "customers" you serve.

What will stakeholders most value from you today? How can you best serve your fellow leaders?

This thought exercise may lead you to discover that you are spending the lion's share of your productivity on tasks that are not valued by key "customers."

Use Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is used to chart a product's journey from raw materials to the end user, with the goal of eliminating waste. You can use roughly the same strategy to more efficiently manage projects that require your participation, but for which you are not solely responsible.

Let us say that your company is preparing a public statement about a product recall in your industry. The "raw materials"--a rough draft--will be sourced from a communications manager. The statement then "flows" up the chain to you for approval, potentially passing through multiple communicators and your legal team along the way. Once you have weighed in, the draft will flow back to your communications team and be delivered by a company leader.

If you spend five minutes sketching a time management value stream map before assigning this type of work, you may find that your original plan would force you to wait for redundant feedback, or would delay the statement's release by delivering it to you for editing at an inconvenient time. By understanding the flow of this "product," you can ensure that it is delivered more efficiently.

Watch Out for Wasteful Injury

Reduction of unnecessary movement is a common Lean management goal, usually targeting shop floor employees. Along similar lines, you may be wasting productive time because your working style causes unnecessary pain, leading to time off and/or frequent breaks during the day.

Consider having your workstation evaluated by an ergonomics expert. Instead of waiting until your level of productivity has been reduced by pain to stretch, schedule short breaks to walk around your office and limber up. If possible, use an adjustable desk to alternate between standing and sitting while you type.

Do you use Lean principles for time management?