How to answer "What is your approach to managing your time and balancing multiple priorities?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why employers ask this

Employers often ask candidates about their approach to managing their time and balancing multiple priorities to assess their ability to work under pressure and handle different tasks and responsibilities. As an employee, you are expected to meet deadlines, prioritize tasks, and deliver quality work while juggling multiple projects. The interviewer wants to know how you manage your time, organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to handle competing demands.

In essence, this question aims to assess your:

  • Time management skills
  • Organization and planning skills
  • Ability to prioritize tasks
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Capacity to multitask and handle diverse responsibilities

How to answer the question

When answering this question, it is essential to demonstrate your ability to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently. Here are some tips on how to answer the question:

  1. Explain your approach to managing time: Start by explaining your systematic approach to time management and how you prioritize tasks. Discuss your methods for developing to-do lists, using calendars and task tracking tools to schedule your day, breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and setting achievable goals and deadlines. Highlight how you keep track of your progress and monitor your time to ensure efficient use of your work hours
  2. Describe how you balance multiple priorities: Provide examples of situations where you have had to balance competing priorities successfully. Explain your techniques for evaluating and ranking tasks based on their deadlines, workload, importance, and urgency. Highlight how you communicate with your team, supervisors, and stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands expectations
  3. Provide specific examples: Back up your answers with specific examples of how you have demonstrated your time management and multitasking skills. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to provide specific examples of how you have managed your time and delivered results efficiently
  4. Highlight your adaptability: Employers value candidates who can handle change and uncertainty. Highlight how you have adapted to changing priorities, unexpected demands, or last-minute assignments. Discuss how you have remained flexible and re-prioritized your workload to accomplish your goals despite unforeseen circumstances

By answering the question effectively, you can demonstrate your excellent time management, organizational and planning skills, ability to prioritize tasks, work under pressure, and handle diverse responsibilities. This will show the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job.

Sample answers

  1. Bad answer:

    Uhmm, I just try to do everything at once? I think, if I can manage to work on all the tasks at the same time, I can accomplish everything quickly.

    Why it’s bad: This answer displays a lack of understanding about time management and the importance of prioritizing tasks. Trying to do everything at once is a recipe for disaster and shows that the candidate doesn't have an effective approach to managing time.

  2. Good answer:

    My approach to managing my time and balancing multiple priorities is by creating a to-do list every day and prioritizing the tasks based on their importance and deadline. I allocate specific timeframes for each task, and I make sure to complete them within those timeframes. In case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances, I remain flexible and adjust my priorities accordingly.

    Why it’s good: This answer demonstrates that the candidate has an organized approach to managing time and prioritizing tasks, as well as the ability to remain flexible when necessary.

  3. Bad answer:

    I usually just work on the tasks that I feel are the easiest or most interesting, and then leave the harder or less enjoyable tasks for later when I have more time.

    Why it’s bad: This answer shows a lack of discipline and ability to prioritize tasks based on importance and deadline. It also suggests that the candidate might procrastinate on tasks they don't enjoy, which can lead to delays or missed deadlines.

  4. Good answer:

    My approach to managing my time and balancing multiple priorities is by using tools like calendars, reminders, and project management software. I break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and set deadlines for each of them. I also communicate regularly with my team and supervisor to ensure I am on track and aligned with the company's goals.

    Why it’s good: This answer shows that the candidate is proactive in finding technologies and strategies to make their work more efficient and organized. It also demonstrates their ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with others towards achieving common goals.

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