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Active supervision challenge: Time management

To be an effective supervisor, you will need to become an expert at managing your time

Time management

Time management is the skill of taking control of your available time to accomplish your goals.


Hello everyone, Coach Paul here. We are getting closer to the end of our active supervision challenge.

As you recall, in January I introduced the active supervision challenge on Police1. In this series, I describe the 10 skills of active supervision, which I define as the continual and consistent enforcement of the rules of your organization.

The eight skills that I have discussed thus far are performance management, critical thinking, communication, courage, training, problem-solving, innovation and inspiration.

This month we will be looking at the active supervision skill of time management. In this article, I will define time management, discuss the four elements of time management and explain the importance of time management. I will conclude with tips and techniques for supervisors working in special circumstances.

What is time management?

Do you often feel like you spend most of your day reacting to things, instead of being proactive? Most of the time does it feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to complete your assigned tasks? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you could benefit from increasing your time management skills. Time management is the skill of taking control of your available time to accomplish your goals.

Four elements of time management.

Active supervisors need to master four elements of time management:

  1. Setting goals. At the beginning of your work period, you need to establish what you want to accomplish during that work period. Your goals should be S-M-A-R-T, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. For example, instead of “I want to review some reports today,” your goal should be: “By 3 p.m., I want to have reviewed and resolved the pending reports for officers Roberts, Wilson and Franklin.”
  2. Prioritizing activities. There are several systems you can use to do this. For example, you can classify your tasks by their importance level, such as high, medium, or low. Or you can categorize them by their immediacy level, such as urgent or routine. Or you can combine them, such as urgent and high importance or routine and low importance. The key is to use that system to create an order in which you are going to do your tasks.
  3. Defining boundaries. Organize your workday into larger blocks that define what you are going to do in them. For example, rather than checking email continually, designate a period of time during each day when you will check and respond to emails. This will keep you from the common problem of feeling like you can never get anything done because you are always being pulled in many different directions.
  4. Maintaining focus. The fourth element is the most important. After you have set your goals, established your priorities and defined your boundaries, you need to execute your time management plan. Here is how this would look: At the beginning of your shift, you determined that from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., you would review the pending reports for officers Roberts, Wilson and Franklin. You have classified this as a high-priority activity. So, at 1:30 p.m., you sit down to start working on it. You don’t open your email program on your computer and you silence your text notifications on your phone. The only thing on is your radio, which you are monitoring in the background while you focus on completing these reports. You are making solid progress when around 2:15 p.m., one of your peer sergeants pokes his head in the office and asks you to take a quick minute to review tomorrow’s schedule. You tell him that you’ll be available to do that around 3 p.m. He pushes back and says it will only take a minute. You maintain your focus and say, then I’ll be happy to give you that minute at 3 p.m. That is time management in action!

The importance of time management

Becoming skilled at time management will help you improve your work quality, reduce your distress levels and become more creative. Skillful time managers produce quality work because they can put the needed time into their efforts. They aren’t doing things at the last minute or missing things because they are rushing. They also are more relaxed because they aren’t feeling the pressures of looming deadlines or missed due dates. And finally, they can make better decisions and come up with more creative solutions to problems because they create the space they need to think about things.

Bonus content: Tips and techniques

Working supervisor (splits your time between supervising and performing line-level duties): As a working supervisor, time management is a key skill for you to develop because you have two equally important roles to fill. As an individual contributor, you have tasks you need to complete in a quality and timely manner. As a supervisor, you have activities you need to do to support your organization and lead your followers. You will benefit greatly from planning your shifts at the beginning of your work period.

Small agency supervisor (supervises a small group of paid and volunteer followers spread out over a distance): As a small agency supervisor, you have the challenge of managing your ancillary duties. Rather than continually switching your different hats during your work period, experiment with blocking out different time periods for your different duties. For example, plan on doing your training-related activities during one block of time during the workday or workweek. Doing so will allow you to feel less frazzled and more in control of your activities.

Minority supervisor (supervises a group of followers who are different than you in regard to race, gender, ethnicity and age): For the minority supervisor, you will want to use the skill of time management to intentionally include relationship-building activities into your daily activities. In the managing performance discussion, I encouraged you to spend time building bridges between you and your followers. You will want to set specific goals as to what that will look like for your team and then make those a high priority for you to accomplish.


To be an effective supervisor, you will need to become an expert at managing your time. When you become an active supervisor who is skilled at time management, you will be surprised at how much you are able to get done without feeling distressed or overwhelmed.

If you downloaded or printed the free active supervision checklist that we provided in the first article and have linked here for easy download, you can update it with this month’s information. Add four lines: set goals, prioritize activities, define boundaries and maintain focus. Rate yourself again now that you have a better understanding of time management. Give yourself a + (plus sign) if you believe that you are good at the skill, a √ (checkmark) if you believe that you are ok at the skill or a – (minus sign) if you believe you need to work on the skill. After you have rated yourself, please take some time to write down your plan for developing your active supervisor skills of inspiring your followers.

If you have any questions about this skill or any of the 10 active supervision skills, submit your questions here. We will gather them up and answer them for you.

I’m Coach Paul, thank you again for taking the time to read this article. Keep your eyes, mind and heart open out there.

Coach Paul Conor, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and management consultant who has been working with law enforcement leaders for more than 20 years. He is a former US Marine infantry officer, who led Marines in combat during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Coach Paul is an award-winning author, California state-certified Team Building Workshop facilitator and former university professor. He is also a reserve lieutenant with the Orange County (California) Sheriff’s Department.