A review of the time management
Brigitte J.C. Claessens, Wendelien van Eerde and Christel G. Rutte
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and
Robert A. Roe
Universiteit Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Purpose – The purpose of this article is to provide an overview for those interested in the current
state-of-the-art in time management research.
Design/methodology/approach – This review includes 32 empirical studies on time management
conducted between 1982 and 2004.
Findings – The review demonstrates that time management behaviours relate positively to
perceived control of time, job satisfaction, and health, and negatively to stress. The relationship with
work and academic performance is not clear. Time management training seems to enhance time
management skills, but this does not automatically transfer to better performance.
Research limitations/implications – The reviewed research displays several limitations. First,
time management has been deﬁned and operationalised in a variety of ways. Some instruments were
not reliable or valid, which could account for unstable ﬁndings. Second, many of the studies were
based on cross-sectional surveys and used self-reports only. Third, very little attention was given to
job and organizational factors. There is a need for more rigorous research into the mechanisms of time
management and the factors that contribute to its effectiveness. The ways in which stable time
management behaviours can be established also deserves further investigation.
Practical implications – This review makes clear which effects may be expected of time
management, which aspects may be most useful for which individuals, and which work characteristics
would enhance or hinder positive effects. Its outcomes may help to develop more effective time
Originality/value – This review is the ﬁrst to offer an overview of empirical research on time
management. Both practice and scientiﬁc research may beneﬁt from the description of previous
attempts to measure and test the popular notions of time management.
Keywords Time measurement, Training, Control, Job satisfaction, Performance management
Paper type Literature review
During the last two decades, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of
time in the organizational literature. According to Orlikowsky and Yates (2002), the
temporal dimension of work has become more important because of expanding global
competition and increased demands for immediate availability of products and
services. Garhammer (2002) has pointed at the increased pace of life shown in doing
things faster (acceleration), contracting time expenditure (e.g. eat faster, sleep less), and
compressing actions (making a phone call while having lunch). Other studies have
examined the perception of time in organizational contexts (e.g. Palmer and
Schoorman, 1999) and the experience of time pressure among employees (e.g. Jackson
and Martin, 1996; Major et al., 2002; Teuchmann et al., 1999).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 4 July 2004
Revised 13 October 2004
Accepted 15 December 2005
Vol. 36 No. 2, 2007
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
The increasing salience of time is reﬂected in theoretical as well as practical
publications. A number of authors discussed the need for better incorporating time in
theoretical models and research designs (e.g. Ancona et al., 2001; George and Jones,
2000; Wright, 2002). Others focused on the ways in which people in organizations
manage their time, and on ways in which these efforts can be improved (e.g. Macan,
1994). In this article we will address time from the second perspective, and review the
empirical studies on time management. More speciﬁcally, we will review deﬁnitions of
time management, discuss methods for studying time management, summarize
empirical ﬁndings on time management and the use and effectiveness of time
management methods, identify gaps in the current research literature, and give
suggestions for future research.
The interest in time management is by no means new. The problem of how to
manage time was already discussed in the 1950s and 1960s, and several authors
proposed methods on how to handle time issues on the job (e.g. Drucker, 1967; Lakein,
1973; Mackenzie, 1972; McCay, 1959). They suggested simple remedies such as writing
work plans down on paper (so-called “to-do lists”) in order to increase job performance.
At the same time, some authors (e.g. Drucker, 1967) recognized that planning tasks and
activities does not always lead to the completion of planned work, especially when time
pressure is high.
McCay (1959) developed a concept for a time-management training program, which
is still being used. Critical elements are: giving insight into time-consuming activities,
changing time expenditure, and increasing workday efﬁciency by teaching people how
to make a daily planning, how to prioritise tasks, and how to handle unexpected tasks.
Many books and articles were written to convey these and similar ideas to managers,
promising them a greater effectiveness while using less time (e.g. Blanchard and
Johnson, 1982). Over the years the focus of time management publications and training
courses has shifted from managers as the major target group to a broad audience of
working people. The term “time management” is actually misleading. Strictly
speaking, time cannot be managed, because it is an inaccessible factor. Only the way a
person deals with time can be inﬂuenced. Time management can be viewed as a way of
monitoring and controlling time (e.g. Eilam and Aharon, 2003). In this regard, it would
be more appropriate to speak about self-management with regard to the performance
of multiple tasks within a certain time period. But in the literature, the term
self-management has a different meaning. It refers to monitoring and regulating
oneself, but without any speciﬁc reference to techniques for monitoring time use.
Therefore, we will stick to the use of the term time management in the present paper.
In spite of all popular attention to managing time, relatively little research has been
conducted on the processes involved in using one’s time effectively (e.g. by using
“prime time” to carry out important tasks) and completing work within deadlines. In
1987, a review was published that addressed the increasing popularity of time
management (Richards, 1987). It discussed the principles mentioned by authors like
McCay (1959) and concluded that, for instance, setting life goals and keeping time logs
were important techniques for effectively managing one’s time. Although this article
was helpful in understanding the ideas behind the notion of time management, it was
not a review of empirical time management studies. In fact, to our knowledge, no
reviews of empirical research of time management have been published since the
article by Richards (1987). Therefore, the ﬁrst aim of the present study is to review past
empirical studies on time management and to determine the state-of-the-art in this area
of research. We will review the way in which researchers have incorporated time
management concepts and methods in their research and critically discuss the research
designs they used. Questions to be addressed are: What is time management
behaviour? What are its antecedents? What is its impact on outcome variables, such as
health and job performance? Our second aim is to determine in which areas more
research is needed to extend the present knowledge of time management and the
Selection of studies
Empirical studies on time management published between 1954 (when time
management was introduced) and 2005 were found through PsycInfo, Socioﬁle, and
references of past studies. Query terms included time management, time use, time
allocation, and time structuring. A ﬁrst criterion for the selection of studies was that
time management had been related to academic or work situations. Quite a few studies
dealt with topics like rehabilitation after an injury or accident, geriatric afﬂictions, and
other medical conditions (for example, Sakelaris, 1999), which fell outside the scope of
our study. The second criterion was that time management behaviour or attitudes had
been measured by means of instruments constructed for this purpose. In some studies
(e.g. Sweidel, 1996), time management was measured post hoc by combining some
items that were more or less related to time management, rather than by means of
validated scales to measure time management. Results were therefore questionable and
were not included in this review study.
Using these two criteria, 35 empirical studies were selected for inclusion in this
review. We will discuss these studies by presenting the theoretical contributions made,
the deﬁnition of time management used, the measurement scales, the results, gaps in
research, and suggestions for future research.
Table I describes the studies included in this review in terms of: author(s) and
publication year, the methods used, the samples, the measures of time management,
and the variables involved.
As can be seen in Table I, we found no empirical studies published before 1982.
Obviously, time management has made its way into the literature without being
accompanied by empirical research. The number of respondents in the studies ranged
from four to 701, with an average of 90. Three types of research groups were included,
(1) employees of different organizations (social service agencies, car dealers);
(2) students following psychology classes; and
(3) employees with double workload, that is, working full-time while studying
part-time, or working full-time and running a household with children.
The majority of respondents were recruited among students in psychology classes.
Research methods included self-report questionnaires, diaries, and experiments.
Author Method Sample
measure Variables included in the study
1. Adams and Jex
Survey 522 employed adults TMBS Test of factor structure of TMBS
2. Adams and Jex
Survey 522 employed adults TMBS Time management behaviours, perceived control of time,
W-F conﬂict, job satisfaction, health
3. Bond and Feather
Survey 3 samples: 312, 160
and 211 students
TSQ Time structure, self-esteem, depression, psychological
distress, stat anxiety, trait anxiety, neuroticism,
extraversion, health, physical symptoms, hopelessness,
type A behaviour
4. Barling et al. (1996) Survey 102 car salespersons Short version TMQ Short-range planning, long-range planning, achievement
striving, sales performance, years of sales experience
5. Britton and Tesser
Survey 90 freshman and
TMQ Short-range planning, long-range planning, time attitudes,
grade point average, scholastic aptitude test
6. Burt and Kemp
Study 1: experiment Study 1: 100 students Activity planning,
Study 1: expected, retrospective, and actual task duration
Study 2: survey Study 2: 50 students Study 2: time structure, role overload, activity duration,
7. Claessens et al.
Survey, longitudinal 70 R&D engineers Planning scale Planning, perceived control of time, work strain, job
satisfaction, and job performance
8. Davis (2000) Survey Women working in
14 different nursing
TMBS Time management behaviours, job-induced tension,
somatic tension, job satisfaction, experience, performance
9. Eilam and Aharon
33 students Yearly and daily
Planning tasks, awareness of discrepancies between
suggested versus enacted work (monitoring), and
readjusting plans over time
Experiment, survey 48 students or
TMBS, TSQ Expected task duration, retrospective and prospective
tasks, time management behaviours, time structure
studies in the review
Author Method Sample
measure Variables included in the study
11. Green and
Survey 232 employed adults
(134 also follow up
developed for the
study several time
Time management skills, time culture, stress, work home
12. Grifﬁths (2003) Survey 120 central ofﬁce
TMBS Time management behaviours, self-reward,
self-punishment, job productivity, job satisfaction,
work-family conﬂict, stress, positive and negative
13. Hall and Hursch
Diary study 4 members of faculty
and staff at a
An activity log and
Time spent on high-priority tasks, feelings of
14. Jex and Elacqua
Survey 525 employees of a
TMBS Time management behaviours, role conﬂict, role overload,
W-F conﬂict, strain, feelings of control over time
Survey 112 participants (of
which 95 workers)
TSQ Time structure, polychronicity
16. Kelly (2002) Survey 130 undergraduate
TMBS, TSQ Time management behaviours, perceived control of time,
time structure, worry
17. King et al. (1986) Survey, intervention 56 participants Time management
Knowledge of time management, high-priority tasks,
self-monitoring of working on high-priority tasks,
self-efﬁcacy, social support, stress, life events, spouse
18. Koolhaas et al.
Survey 469 personnel ofﬁcers PTP’90 (Dutch scale) Optimism, saving, here and now, past, rush, vagueness,
timeliness, personal growth
19. Lang (1992) Survey 96 undergraduate
Time management behaviour, coping, strain, somatic
Author Method Sample
measure Variables included in the study
20. Lay and
Survey 65 psychology
Short version of
Trait procrastination, agitation, dejection
21. Macan et al. (1990) Survey 353 employees of two
TMBS Time management behaviours, perceived control of time,
role ambiguity, role overload, job-induced tension, somatic
tension, job satisfaction, Type A-B behaviour, job
22. Macan (1994) Survey Study 1: 353
employees of 2
TMBS Time management behaviours, job satisfaction, job
Study 2: 341 students
23. Macan (1996) Survey, intervention
38 employees from a
social service agency
TMBS Time management behaviours, stress, job satisfaction, job
24. Mudrack (1997) Survey 701 adults for TSQ TMBS, TSQ Test of psychometric qualities of TSQ and TMBS
207 adults for TMBS
25. Orpen (1994) Diary study 96 undergraduate
scale created for the
Time management behaviour, experienced overload,
anxiety, depression, somatisation, social desirability
26. Peeters and Rutte
Survey 123 elementary
Short version of
Burnout, emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment
27. Shahani et al.
Survey Study 1: 93
1: TMBS, TSQ 1: Time management behaviours, immediate time
pressure, long-term personal direction (goal), time
utilization, time anxiety, time submissiveness, time
possessiveness, greedy attitude towards time
Study 2: 106
2: TMBS 2: Comprehensibility of life, manageability of life,
meaningfulness of life, high/low academic pressure
28. Simons and
study, and diary
Study 1: 88
Planning survey Planning practices, goal setting, prioritising,
Author Method Sample
measure Variables included in the study
Study 2: 39
29. Slaven and
Survey, diary study,
34 delegates of two
Work commitment, internal work motivation, work
30. Strongman and
Survey, diary study Study 1: 101 ﬁrst year
Study 1: TSQ Time structure, procrastination, role overload, self-esteem,
Study 2: 17 students Study 2: diary
31. Trueman and
Survey 293 students TMQ Daily planning, conﬁdence in long-term planning, age,
32. Van Eerde (2003) Survey 37 trainees in time
workshops and 14
Short version of
TMB, time management training, emotional stability,
worrying, avoidance reactions, training motivation
33. Vodanovich and
Survey 115 students TSQ Time structure, procrastination
34. Williams et al.
Survey 204 psychology
TMQ Time management, personality types
35. Woolfolk and
81 beginning teachers Evaluation time
Tasks that need to be ﬁnished (with different deadlines
and measurement of meeting deadlines), self-report and
external ratings of use of time management
Deﬁnitions of time management
There is no agreement on the deﬁnition of time management in past studies.
Although many authors referred to Lakein (1973), who suggested that time
management involves the process of determining needs, setting goals to achieve
these needs, prioritising and planning tasks required to achieve these goals,
several other deﬁnitions were suggested. Thus, time management has been
referred to as: techniques for managing time (Jex and Elacqua, 1999; Davis, 2000;
Macan, 1994, 1996; Macan et al., 1990; Mudrack, 1997); a technique for effective
time use, especially having enough time to accomplish the many tasks required
(Orpen, 1994; Slaven and Totterdell, 1993; Woolfolk and Woolfolk, 1986); planning
and allocating time (Burt and Kemp, 1994; Francis-Smythe and Robertson, 1999a);
the degree to which individuals perceive their use of time to be structured and
purposive (Bond and Feather, 1988; Strongman and Burt, 2000; Sabelis, 2001;
Vodanovich and Seib, 1997); a way of getting insight into time use (Koolhaas et al.,
1992); a technique to increase the time available to pursue activities (King et al.,
1986); practices intended to maximize intellectual productivity (Britton and Tesser,
1991); an application of self-regulation processes in the temporal domain (Grifﬁths,
2003); coping behaviour in at-risk populations (King et al., 1986); self-regulation
strategies aimed at discussing plans, and their efﬁciency (Eilam and Aharon,
2003); the use of procedures that are designed to help the individual to achieve his
or her desired goals (Hall and Hursch, 1982); ways to assess the relative
importance of activities through the development of a prioritisation plan
(Kaufman-Scarborough and Lindquist, 1999); clusters of behaviour that are
deemed to facilitate productivity and alleviate stress (Lay and Schouwenburg,
1993). Some authors gave no deﬁnition at all (Barling et al., 1996; Simons and
Galotti, 1992; Trueman and Hartley, 1996).
Besides time management, other terms, such as time structure (Bond and
Feather, 1988), were used interchangeably with essentially the same meaning.
Because a commonly accepted deﬁnition of the concept was lacking, we found it
difﬁcult to determine the exact content of time management in past research, to
describe the current state of affairs, and to identify which parts are responsible for
Based on the literature, we suggest a deﬁnition of time management as “behaviours
that aim at achieving an effective use of time while performing certain goal-directed
activities”. This deﬁnition highlights that the use of time is not an aim in itself and
cannot be pursued in isolation. The focus is on some goal-directed activity, such as
performing a work task or an academic duty, which is carried out in a way that implies
an effective use of time.
These behaviours comprise:
.Time assessment behaviours, which aim at awareness of here and now or past,
present, and future (Kaufman et al., 1991) and self-awareness of one’s time use
(attitudes, cognitions, e.g. Wratcher and Jones, 1988), which help to accept tasks
and responsibilities that ﬁt within the limit of one’s capabilities.
.Planning behaviours, such as setting goals, planning tasks, prioritising, making
to-do lists, grouping tasks (e.g. Britton and Tesser, 1991; Macan, 1994, 1996)
which aim at an effective use of time.
.Monitoring behaviours, which aim at observing one’s use of time while
performing activities, generating a feedback loop that allows a limit to the
inﬂuence of interruptions by others (e.g. Fox and Dwyer, 1996; Zijlstra et al.,
Measurement instruments used
Past studies have mainly used self-report questionnaires. There were only a few diary
studies and experiments. In total, ten different types of self-report questionnaires were
used to measure time management behaviours, three types of which were used more
often. These questionnaires are:
(1) the time management behaviour scale (TMBS, Macan et al., 1990);
(2) the time structure questionnaire (TSQ, Bond and Feather, 1988); and
(3) the time management questionnaire (TMQ, Britton and Tesser, 1991).
The TMBS was constructed by Macan et al. (1990), and was based on a list of
popularised concepts of time management behaviours examined by factor analysis.
The subscales were: setting goals and priorities, mechanics of time management (e.g.
making to-do lists), preference for organization (e.g. having a preference for an orderly
way of working), and perceived control of time. Reliability levels were moderate and
differed greatly among different studies (see, for instance, Davis, 2000). In her study in
1994, Macan argued that perceived control of time was actually an outcome variable of
time management behaviours, and should not be considered part of the TMBS.
Adams and Jex (1997) tested the underlying factor structure of the TMBS using
conﬁrmatory factor analysis and found additional evidence for a three-factor solution,
although they included only 28 of the 33 original items. Shahani et al. (1993)
investigated the convergent validity of the TMBS by examining the relationships with
three other scales (including the TSQ). They found that the TMBS factors were
signiﬁcantly correlated with the other scales and concluded that the TMBS had
convergent validity. They stated that the TMBS is the most elaborately validated scale
to measure time management behaviours. The studies that included the TMBS did not
present all information on the internal consistency of the scales (e.g. Adams and Jex,
1997). Those who did present coefﬁcient alphas found that they ranged from 0.50 to
0.90 (Adams and Jex, 1999; Davis, 2000; Francis-Smythe and Robertson, 1999a; Macan
et al., 1990; Macan, 1994; Mudrack, 1997; Shahani et al., 1993). The lowest coefﬁcients
alphas were found for the preference for organization-scale (0.50, 0.60, 0.68, 0.70, and
The TSQ was constructed by Bond and Feather (1988) and consists of items
referring to the extent to which time is used in a structured and purposeful way. Factor
analysis on the items of the TSQ revealed six factors, but only ﬁve could be named, i.e.
sense of purpose, structured routine, present orientation, effective organization, and
persistence. Bond and Feather (1988) claimed that the TSQ meets the usual
psychometric criteria for further use as a research instrument, and concluded that the
scale had face validity. Although the internal consistency of the total TSQ score in the
three samples amounted to 0.88, 0.92, and 0.91 respectively, the internal consistency for
the subscales ranged from 0.55 to 0.75. A total of eight other studies included the TSQ
and found internal consistencies ranging from 0 0.66 to 0.75.
Mudrack (1997) compared the TMBS and the TSQ psychometrically and suggested
to use shortened versions of both scales. His goal was to establish whether the factor
structures of the TSQ en TMBS could be accurately replicated and whether a shorter
scale would be acceptable. The coefﬁcient alpha of both the TSQ and TMBS scales
equalled or exceeded 0.70, with small differences between the original and shortened
form. Based upon these ﬁndings, Mudrack (1997) recommended using a 20-item
version (versus 26 original items) of the TSQ and a 26-item version (versus 46 original
items) of the TMBS.
The TMQ was constructed by Britton and Tesser (1991) and included items on
attitudes towards time management (e.g. “do you feel you are in charge of your own
time, by and large?”) and planning the allocation of time. The scale consisted of three
factors, namely short-range planning, long-range planning, and time attitudes, which
together accounted for 36 percent of the variance. Williams et al. (1995) included all
three scales in a study but did not present internal consistency values or other
psychometric information about the TMQ. Barling et al. (1996) used shortened forms of
two scales, short-range and long-range planning, and conducted a conﬁrmatory factor
analysis. They found that a two-factor solution ﬁtted their data reasonably well,
producing coefﬁcients alpha of 0.85 and 0.73, respectively. Trueman and Hartley (1996)
used 14 items of the original 18-item TMQ and identiﬁed two subscales, namely daily
planning and conﬁdence in long-term planning, with coefﬁcient alpha 0.85 and 0.71,
A common feature of the time management measures is that each includes items
that refer to planning behaviour. The TMBS subscale “setting goals and priorities”, the
TSQ factor “structured routine”, the TMQ subscales “short-range planning” and
“long-range planning” all refer to planning tasks and activities. Other time
management measures covered by this review also included planning behaviour
items relating, for instance, to yearly and daily planning reports (Eilam and Aharon,
2003), using an activity log (Hall and Hursch, 1982), and setting goals, following
priorities, scheduling, organizing and planning (Lang, 1992).
As for reliability and construct validity, the existing time management measures
can clearly be improved. So far, most support was found for the TMBS (Macan, 1994)
as a psychometrically reasonably sound measure for studying time management
behaviour. However, it is not an ideal measure because of the variability of internal
consistency values and inconsistencies in ﬁndings with respect to the relations
between the subscales and outcomes measures, which will be discussed next.
Time management theory
Not only a deﬁnition, but also a theory on time management is lacking. The question
“how does time management work and why?” is still unanswered. Only Macan (1994)
presented a model of time management that comprised antecedent, mediating, and
outcome variables with respect to time management behaviours. Macan (1994) stated
that time management training programs lead to three types of time management
(1) setting goals and priorities;
(2) mechanics of time management; and
(3) preference for organization.
She hypothesized that these behaviours would result in perceived control of time, or the
feeling of having control over one’s time. Furthermore, perceived control of time was
hypothesized to mediate between the time management behaviours and job-induced
and somatic tension, job satisfaction, and job performance. Results showed that time
management training was positively related to only one scale of the time management
behaviours, goal setting and priorities. Setting goals and priorities and the mechanics
of time management were positively related to perceived control of time, whereas
preference for organization was not. Job-induced and somatic tension was negatively
related, and job satisfaction was positively related to time management behaviour and
mediated by perceived control of time. Perceived control of time was not signiﬁcantly
related to job performance. These results imply that by implementing time
management techniques, one is able to experience control over what can be done
within workday time. This feeling in turn has a positive effect on job satisfaction, and
job-induced and somatic tensions.
Three replication studies (Adams and Jex, 1999; Davis, 2000; Jex and Elacqua, 1999)
provided only partial support to Macan’s (1994) model. Jex and Elacqua (1999) found
that perceived control of time partially mediated the relations between goal setting and
prioritising, and preference for organization on the one hand, and strain on the other
hand. Adams and Jex (1999) found that perceived control of time mediated between
setting goals and priorities, mechanics of time management, and preference for
organization on the one hand, and health and job satisfaction on the other hand. Setting
goals and priorities and preference for organization were positively related to perceived
control, whereas mechanics of time management were negatively related to perceived
control of time. Davis (2000) found that perceived control of time only acted as a
mediator in the relation between preference for organization and the outcome variables
job related tension, somatic tension, and job satisfaction. Claessens et al. (2004) used a
different time management scale to test the mediation model over time. A planning
scale was used instead. This study also revealed partial mediation of control of time.
In conclusion, these studies found some support for Macan’s (1994) process model
that hypothesised perceived control of time to fully mediate between time management
behaviours and job- and person-related outcomes.
As for the relationship between particular time management behaviours and
outcomes, it was found that planning showed most signiﬁcant results. Bond and
Feather (1988) for instance, found that the TSQ factor “sense of purpose” accounted for
most of the variance in the total TSQ score and was therefore identiﬁed as the most
important factor of the TSQ. Macan (1994) found that the subscale “goal setting and
prioritising” was signiﬁcantly related to outcomes such as perceived control of time
and job satisfaction. Britton and Tesser (1991) found a positive relation between
short-range planning and grade point average of students, whereas long-range
planning was unrelated. They stated that short-range planning was a more effective
time management technique than long-range planning because plans could be adjusted
to fast changes or unpredictable situations, which allowed for ﬂexibility.
Antecedents of time management
Only a few studies have investigated antecedents of time management behaviour. Yet,
it is quite likely that certain personality traits act as antecedents of time management.
Also, as is suggested by Macan’s (1994) model, time management training is a likely
antecedent of time management behaviour. To our knowledge, six studies focused on
possible dispositional antecedents of time management, whereas eight studies
investigated the effects of time management training.
Dispositional characteristics. The study of Bond and Feather (1988) included many
possible antecedent variables, such as neuroticism and extraversion, related to time
structure or time management. Bond and Feather (1988) found that time structure (total
TSQ score) was positively related to sense of purpose in life, self-esteem, and type A
behaviour, and negatively to neuroticism and anomie (i.e. the individual’s generalized
sense of self-to-others alienation (Bond and Feather, 1988, p. 323)).
Francis-Smythe and Robertson (1999b) introduced a ﬁve-factor scale of time
personality (time personality indicator, TPI), four of which are work-related:
Punctuality, Planning, Polychronicity, and Impatience. Planning for instance, was
operationalised as an attitude towards planning and structuring tasks in advance. This
study was conducted to examine the dimensions of time personality, rather than
examine the relation between with behaviour and outcomes. However, the authors
suggested that people who obtain high scores on punctuality, planning, and
polychronicity might have a higher need for controlling the situation and use these
attitudes to achieve control.
Lay and Schouwenburg (1993) studied the relation between trait procrastination, i.e.
the habitual tendency to avoid the start and completion of tasks, and time
management. They found that people high on trait procrastination exhibited a greater
likelihood of being behind schedule on their personal projects, studying fewer hours
than intended for an examination, and having low scores on feeling in control of time,
setting goals and priorities. They also used fewer time management techniques.
Shahani et al. (1993) examined the relation between time management behaviours
and sense of coherence, a construct that is assumed to reduce vulnerability to stress.
They also studied the stability of time management behaviours under varying levels of
academic stress. If time management is based on a personality trait, as they asserted,
the reported use of time management behaviours should be unchanged under varying
levels of stress. Their data provided some support for this idea.
Kaufman-Scarborough and Lindquist (1999) studied the relation between time
management and two styles of dealing with multiple tasks over time, i.e. the
polychronic style (preference to perform two or more tasks simultaneously), and the
monochronic style (preference to perform tasks sequentially). They found that people
with a monochronic style more often engaged in detailed planning than those with a
polychronic style. Yet, they found it hard to enact the planning, probably because they
wanted to focus on one thing at the time. Polychronics perceived that they reached
their planned goals more often than and were better able to manage work interruptions
and activity switches than monochronics.
Williams et al. (1995) investigated the relationship between the Myers Briggs Type
Indicator (MBTI) and time management practices. They found that all TMQ-factors
(Britton and Tesser, 1991), i.e. short-range planning, long-range planning, and time
attitudes, were signiﬁcantly related to the J-P (judgment-perception) index of the MBTI.
A high score on this scale indicates “...having a preference for a planned, orderly, and
controlled way of living” (Williams et al., 1995, p. 37).
In conclusion, some support for a dispositional foundation of time management
behaviour was found because TSQ factors (Bond and Feather, 1988), TMQ factors
(Britton and Tesser, 1991), and TMBS factors (Macan et al., 1990) appeared to be
related to several personality variables, but this needs further exploration in future
research. Within the ﬁve factor model of personality, time management appears to be
most closely related to Conscientiousness, whereas Neuroticism may be a second
Time management training programs. The effect of time management training
programs on time management and on outcomes such as job performance was
investigated in eight studies included in this review. The results with respect to the
effectiveness of time management training were mixed. Five studies (Green and
Skinner, 2005; King et al., 1986; Macan, 1994; Slaven and Totterdell, 1993; Van Eerde,
2003) found support, as participants indicated that they did engage in time
management behaviour more frequently after a time management training program;
one study (Macan, 1996) did not. A positive relation between time management
training and performance (e.g. time spent on working on high-priority tasks) was found
in three studies (Hall and Hursch, 1982; King et al., 1986; Orpen, 1994), whereas in two
other studies (Macan, 1996; Slaven and Totterdell, 1993) this relation was not found.
Orpen (1994), for instance, conducted a ﬁeld experiment in which a self-developed time
management scale was used. The participants of the training group rated their time
management skills higher than the control group. A diary study showed that
participants made more effective use of their time than the control group did, as rated
by managers who examined their activity diaries. Although Macan’s (1996) study time
management behaviours did not increase after the training program compared to a
control group the participants did report more feeling of control of time after they had
participated in a time management program. Van Eerde (2003) found that time
management training signiﬁcantly increased participants’ time management
behaviours and decreased worrying and trait procrastination in relation to a control
group. Green and Skinner (2005) did not compare the results to a control group, but
obtained post-training scores and follow-up scores after several months. Companies
from different sectors were included. Generally, the results were positive over a range
of behaviours linked to the coursebook.
In conclusion, past studies have demonstrated that time management training
programs generally increased participants self-reported time management skills.
Supervisor rating was positive in one study (Orpen, 1994), and some conﬁrmation from
supervisors or peers with the self-reports was obtained in three studies (Green and
Skinner, 2005; Macan, 1994; Van Eerde, 2003).
Effects of time management
Time management activity has been studied in relation to several other outcome
variables. A ﬁrst group of studies have looked into effects on proximal variables, such
as accurately estimated time duration (Burt and Kemp, 1994; Francis-Smythe and
Robertson, 1999a); spending time on high-priority tasks (Hall and Hursch, 1982); the
ability to readjust plans to improve progress rate (Eilam and Aharon, 2003).
Other studies have examined effects on performance in work and academic settings,
such as sales performance (Barling et al., 1996); job performance (Davis, 2000; Macan,
1994); college grades (Britton and Tesser, 1991; Trueman and Hartley, 1996); academic
performance (Burt and Kemp, 1994); grade point average (Britton and Tesser, 1991);
and total study habits score (Bond and Feather, 1988).
A third group of studies have investigated the effects on attitudinal and
stress-related outcomes, such as perceived control of time (Adams and Jex, 1999; Davis,
2000; Jex and Elacqua, 1999; Francis-Smythe and Robertson, 1999a; Macan, 1994); job
satisfaction (Davis, 2000; Macan, 1994); role overload (Burt and Kemp, 1994);
job-related and somatic tension (Davis, 2000; Macan, 1994); work-family interference
(Adams and Jex, 1999); strain (Jex and Elacqua, 1999; Lang, 1992); emotional
exhaustion (Peeters and Rutte, 2005); and health (Bond and Feather, 1988).
The proximal outcomes time estimation and spending time on high priority tasks
were positively affected. Francis-Smythe and Robertson (1999a) concluded that
participants who perceived themselves as practicing time management behaviours
estimated the expected time durations more accurately than those who did not, but
tended to underestimate time in passing. The authors emphasized the role of
motivation, as they found that more motivated respondents had better results in
There appeared to be a difference between the academic and job-related
performance outcomes. College grades and total study habits score were positively
affected, but the expected relation between time management behaviours and job
performance was modest or even non-signiﬁcant. Macan (1994) failed to ﬁnd a positive
relation with job performance, whereas Barling et al. (1996) did ﬁnd a relation with
sales performance, but only for those participants scoring high on achievement
Results on stress-related outcomes showed that time management was positively
related to perceived control of time, job satisfaction, and health, and negatively to
job-induced and somatic tension, strain, and psychological distress. Jex and Elacqua
(1999) found a moderating effect of time management behaviour on the relation
work-family conﬂict and strain, with a stronger relation between work-family conﬂict
and health for participants who applied time management techniques. This
moderation is similar to what Peeters and Rutte (2005) found, time management
moderated the relation between high demands and low autonomy on the one hand, and
emotional exhaustion on the other.
In conclusion, research has found positive effects of time management behaviour on
proximal outcomes, performance, and stress-related outcomes. However, the results
obtained for performance appear to be the weakest within these three categories.
Gaps in research
Surprisingly, little research attention has been given to the question what time
management can contribute in combination with organizational or work place factors.
In a job in which it is not possible to plan one’s workday because managers, or the
workﬂow procedures determine the order and timing of activities, or, in other words,
where job autonomy is low, time management might not be an option. Time
management assumes that the workplace is suitable for planning one’s workday and
being able to say “no” to more work, whereas in practice, this is often not the case.
Conditions in the workplace and the prerequisites for time management behaviour
were not included in past research.
Second, as planning was identiﬁed to be an important aspect of time management,
time management research on detailed aspects of planning such as prioritising and
planning alternative tasks in case the original plan could not be executed (e.g. due to
work interruptions or the unavailability of information) would have seemed logical.
Yet, it appears that such research has not yet been done. Also, although some authors
have suggested that good planners can be poor at managing time while performing
their planned work (Burt and Kemp, 1994; Eilam and Aharon, 2003; Francis-Smythe
and Robertson, 1999a), this topic has not been researched thoroughly. People might
overestimate the time required to complete a task as a safe estimation strategy.
Overestimating time may be a means of controlling time and avoiding stress because
they allow enough time for tasks to be completed (Burt and Kemp, 1994).
Third, it appears that research has not studied time management techniques aiming
at completing work as planned or persisting in the execution of tasks, such as
self-regulation and self-monitoring. Self-regulation refers to the extent to which people
are motivated and able to stick to their goal and persist into action towards the goal
even when they are confronted with competing motivations (Kuhl and Fuhrmann,
1998). Self-regulation tactics (e.g. effort) have been found to be related to sales
performance (Vandewalle et al., 1999) and thus may also be important with respect to
time management. A fourth point is that studies have not addressed the social context,
such as the work relations among individual workers. Colleagues or co-workers,
supervisors, and customers can also be responsible for a disorganized workday and not
feeling in control of time (e.g. Perlow, 1999). In deﬁnitions and questionnaires of past
time management studies, these factors cannot be found. Depending on the type of
work, a person can be more or less interdependent of the work or information of others.
Time management could include inﬂuencing or stimulating others to ﬁnish their work
in time or to organize their work in a way that it supports one’s own work. Also,
engaging in time management behaviour can be annoying for others if they do not
work in a similar way. For instance, a proposed time management technique is to
reserve certain ofﬁce hours (e.g. between 4 and 5 pm) for questions of co-workers. This
technique might be helpful for the individual in the reduction of interruptions at work
but, at the same time, it can be inefﬁcient for the work of others. Moreover, avoiding
work interruptions, especially being interrupted by phone or e-mail, might be an
important aspect in time management research and has not been part of research yet.
The relation of “time managers” with others was not addressed in past research, but
could be an important factor in time management research.
Fifth, motivational aspects or self-regulation of individuals who are responsible for
maintenance and effectiveness of time management techniques have not been not
included in previous studies, although for instance Francis-Smythe and Robertson
(1999a) suggested that motivation may be important. It has been shown that
motivational aspects are important drives to energize behaviour. Gollwitzer (1999), for
example, stated that an action process consists of two motivational phases. In the
pre-decisional phase, preferences are set by deliberating the desirability and feasibility
of options. In this phase, the goal to pursue is chosen. The second, pro-actional phase
involves an evaluation of the necessity of further goal pursuit. When the outcome of
this evaluation is that plans are not reached, people have to motivate themselves in the
persistence of goal or task pursuit. Also, Sansone and Harackiewicz (1996) stated that
individuals might hold similar goals, but differ in their motivation to reach them.
Motivation to reach goals has a direct effect on initial and maintenance behaviour.
Maintenance behaviour or persistence is inﬂuenced by phenomenal experiences as
“feeling like it” and task involvement. Farmer and Seers (2004, p. 280) studied the
motivation entrainment model in relation to how “individuals use time to guide their
work and evaluate progress” and “synchronize” their multiple tasks with shifting
deadlines. Thus, motivational aspects could be included in future research as they are
possibly important determinants of time management behaviours and behavioural
While the foregoing gaps relate to issues of content, the ﬁnal gap we would like to
point at is of a methodological nature. Given the very nature of the topic, one would
have expected that studies of time management would have looked at how people plan
and execute their activities within a given time interval, and that researchers would
have investigated plan-action discrepancies as a function of dynamic events, time
budgets etc. However, as we have noted, most research studies have used
cross-sectional designs and measurement instruments that emphasize stable rather
than dynamic aspects of time management behaviour. In our view, future research
could proﬁt much from dynamic approaches to theory building and research (Mitchell
and James, 2001; Zaheer et al., 1999).
This review of time management studies has shown that time management is not a
well-deﬁned construct. Also, the quality of measurement instruments was shown to be
questionable. The effect of time management on outcomes such as job performance
was not clearly established, but the results on proximal and stress-related outcomes
were generally positive. Some support was found for a dispositional foundation of time
management behaviour, as some of the time management behaviours appeared to be
related to personality variables. Time management training was demonstrated to
enhance the use of time management behaviours, but there are no conclusive results
about tt he effect of these behaviours on outcome variables.
Most of the past studies were ﬁeld studies and used questionnaires. Our main
criticism on these instruments is that they were based on different deﬁnitions of time
management and thus represent non-equivalent operationalisations of the time
management construct. The internal consistency of the scales differed somewhat over
studies and was in some cases below the generally accepted level of 0.70. Planning was
part of all three mostly used time management questionnaires (TMBS, TSQ, TMQ),
suggesting that planning is an important time management component.
A large number of past studies used student samples. It can be questioned whether
the results for students also hold for employees, because students deal with different
kinds of tasks than employees, and it has not been demonstrated that the processes
involved are comparable. One of the differences is that students are able to postpone
activities by deciding not to study for an exam, while employees have less possibility
to do so and may face more negative outcomes of not doing certain things in time.
In conclusion, this review of time management literature demonstrates that there is
still a lot of work to be done on the subject of time management. Past studies have
covered only parts of the conceptual spectrum and did not always demonstrate which
considerations led to their point of view on time management behaviours and to the
selection of outcome variables.
In future research, time management behaviour should be studied in more detail.
We believe that it is necessary to explore how people plan and prioritise their work
activities, whether and how they perform their planned actions, and how they
implement time management techniques. To be able to do this, we ﬁrstly suggested a
deﬁnition of time management behaviours that incorporates all relevant aspects. Next,
a time management measure that operationalises this deﬁnition should be constructed
and a model of time management should be developed that covers antecedents as well
as outcomes of time management behaviours. Based on this research, time
management training programs might be developed and evaluated. All this stands
in stark contrast to the current situation where research has taken popular notions of
time management and topics included in time management training programs as
points of departure.
Future research could also focus on the characteristics of the work situation,
including the lack of autonomy in work, a heavy workload, the inﬂuence of others,
or a planning system to organize one’s time at work in relation to time
management behaviours. Characteristics of non-work life conditions should be
considered as well, as they can also inﬂuence the use of time management
techniques. People with double workload, e.g. work and study, or work and a
family with children, have a bigger likelihood of experiencing priority conﬂicts
because they have to balance between the two situations constantly. Furthermore,
personality type, personal characteristics (for instance a preference for a structured
work style or work strategy), and openness for learning new strategies could
inﬂuence the success of time management behaviours. Individuals differ widely
from one another in the degree to which they handle the passage of time and the
pursuit of goals. Some individuals are constantly drawing up schedules and lists,
and setting deadlines for themselves, while others pay less attention to short-term
concerns (Conte et al., 1998).
With respect to the outcomes of time management behaviours, future research
should be directed at the effects on perceived control of time and effectiveness in terms
of task completion within the available time (deadlines). Factors determining whether
the timely completion of tasks results in higher job performance (e.g. Kelly, 2002), more
leisure time, or working less overtime (e.g. Rau and Triemer, 2004), could be included in
Besides quantitative studies on time management, qualitative research studies
could be conducted to obtain detailed information about the application of time
management behaviours in practice. For instance, by means of a diary study on how
people plan and prioritise their tasks from day to day, how they actually spend their
workday and what considerations are important here, what unexpected events come
up, and how they handle this. The advantage of a diary study is that information on
how people use their time is obtained as it occurs (Conway and Briner, 2002; Pentland
et al., 1999; Reis and Wheeler, 1991; Symon, 1999).
Another suggestion is to focus future research on speciﬁc target groups. As most
studies have dealt with student samples, further research on time management at work
could focus on employees in their work situations, preferably from different
organizations in order to ensure sufﬁcient variation in contextual factors. To be able to
show the differences in decision-making and strategy between individuals, research
groups could be divided into persons that are good or average time managers.
Sonnentag and Schmidt-Braße (1998) have shown how this can be done. They asked
supervisors to name employees that they thought had the quality to either be good or
not as good at performing a certain task.
A shortcoming of the present study is that only 32 studies on time management
were included in the study, which can account for a biased view of past research,
although they were the only studies available within the selected criteria. Also, as there
were few time management studies available and time management measures were
quite different, it was not possible to do a meta-analysis on the results of previous
This review of time management studies gives an impression of how useful time
management may be. Although some appear to be sceptical about the results of
implementation of time management in practice, scientiﬁc studies have demonstrated
that the popularity of time management is justiﬁed in as far as it has some favourable
effects on people’s perceptions and feelings. Results of past studies were consistent in
showing evidence of positive effects of time management on perceived control of time,
job satisfaction, and negative effects on job-induced and somatic tensions.
Additionally, perceived control of time was found to be associated with higher job
satisfaction, and to mediate the relation between time management and several other
outcome variables. As for the effects of time management on job performance, results
In this article, we have introduced a new deﬁnition of time management and
suggested directions for future research. We feel that time management deserves
further research, using more rigorous methods of analysis. Such research may clarify
both the processes involved and the effects on perceptions, feelings and performance.
From a practical perspective, this time management review has identiﬁed aspects of
time management, including time assessment, setting goals, planning, prioritising and
monitoring, that seem to affect outcomes positively. Several of these aspects were
already covered in the original work by McCay (1959). Incorporating all these aspects
in a systematic manner may help to improve current time management training
programs and to develop new time management interventions.
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About the authors
Brigitte J.C. Claessens is a Researcher, Wendelien van Eerde is Assistant Professor and Christel
G. Rutte is Full Professor. All are based in the sub-department of Human Performance
Management of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. Brigitte J.C. Claessens is also a
Consultant at Beteor B.V. She is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
Robert A. Roe is Full Professor of organizational theory and organizational behaviour at the
Universiteit Maastricht. He has worked on a wide range of topics in personnel and organizations.
Currently, his focus is on management and organizational behaviour from a temporal
perspective, with as emphasis on motivation, competence and performance.
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