What is a Time and Motion Study? Meaning, Overview, 9 Facts

Time and motion study is a method that involves the collection of data in order to identify which activities are the most time consuming in any given workplace. Using this data, you can then implement changes that will allow for an increase in productivity.

What is a Time and Motion Study?

The time and motion study has two parts: the time study by Frederick Taylor and the motion study by Frank B. along with Lillian M. Gilbreth Taylor initiated time studies in the 1880s in order to measure the length of distinct jobs occurring under particular conditions.

Taylor’s research was the most influential of those that came before him. The study of time was an element of the scientific management theory. Taylor’s strategy centered on minimizing time loss for optimum productivity.

What is a Time and Motion Study?

The Gilbreths’ motion research assessed motions and how they may enhance work practices. In an effort to further scientific management, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth pursued the motion research. Taylorism, as the idea is known, has a significant defect.

It was devoid of humanity. According to critics, Taylor’s approach was primarily motivated by profit. In their research on how to boost efficiency, the Gilbreths considered several variables. The list includes health, abilities, habits, temperament, and nutrition.

In their book, Gilbreth and Gilbreth, two experts explain that motion analysis examines worker weariness and then identifies methods to reduce it. They suggested remedies such as rest-recovery times, recliners, and workbenches.

Implementation of the scientific management idea was one of the earliest occasions in which process improvement and process management were viewed as scientific problems.

Application of Time-Motion Study in Today’s Business

Every activity, with the exception of thinking, involves movement. Movement is essential whether entering code, connecting a pressure washer, or drawing and constructing a design. This is why the time & motion research is still valid in the present world.

By analyzing how workers function and how much time they spend, a business may determine where the issue lies. The productivity of your workforce rises when inefficiencies are eliminated.

For instance, discovering a more efficient method to produce an automobile decreases manufacturing time and boosts output. The most significant source of time loss is excessive mobility. When doing a task in 10 stages when seven would have sufficed, a worker is squandering a significant amount of resources.

Implementation The Study Improves Processes

Implementing time-motion analysis correctly permits the enhancement of processes and the maximization of performance. Improved ways of labor increase efficiency and reduce worker weariness. Effectiveness is not just dependent on effort, but also on intelligence.

Time-motion theory improves planning and allocation of resources. When you are aware of the amount of time and motion required for specific jobs, you can allocate the necessary resources. Cost reduction is another benefit.

The greater the cost reductions, the more effectively you plan resources and the more work your crew completes. Remember to monitor how much time employees save as a result of adjustments.

Once you understand how time and motion study fits into regular operations, you may apply the idea to maximize staff performance.

How to Conduct a Time and Motion Study

Through the observation and timing of tasks, a time and motion study is used to assess the productivity of a workforce. It can assist you in identifying areas where you could save time and energy, which is something everyone could use! You can administer one to yourself or watch another individual.

What is a Time and Motion Study?

Before observing and timing an activity, you must first choose a method, such as real-time observation or sampling. After completing the research, the data may be utilized to design a more effective work procedure.

Choosing a Data Recording Method

If you have limited time to record, use work sampling. In this method, you observe the subject intermittently as opposed to continually.

The intervals may be random or periodic. You monitor the individual for a specified amount of time and then extrapolate from the samples to determine how much time is devoted to each job.

This kind performs better with fewer-component jobs or workers that perform fewer activities altogether.

  • For instance, if a person’s primary responsibility is invoicing, random sampling can be effective since each time a check-in is conducted, a picture of the individual’s activities is obtained. Once you have all the data, you can determine which activity or component the individual spends the most time on by analyzing the frequency and duration of its appearance in each random sample.
  • By rotating through each individual, it is possible to view several individuals in a little amount of time using this approach.
  • If you are using this technique on yourself, set an alarm to go off at specific intervals so that you may record your actions for a specified period of time.

To be able to pose inquiries, it is necessary to observe the work in real time. In this method, you are present in the room with the individual as they perform the work. Observe what they accomplish while breaking down the work into its component parts and recording timings.

Each component should make sense within the context of the whole, without becoming so intricate that it is difficult to follow.

  • Timing a major job without examining the components of each activity is ineffective. By analyzing the components, it is possible to identify inefficiencies. You will not interrupt the individual; you are simply splitting the work down for recording reasons. For example, if the task is to check the mail, the components would entail traveling to the mail room, locating the mail, bringing it back to the desk, opening envelopes, reading the mail, and rejecting or processing each letter.
  • Having a group for observation might be beneficial. Thus, you may assign one person to operate the stopwatch, one to record times, and one to take notes.
  • You may also use this method to yourself. In such instance, you will record each component as you perform it.

The participant’s performance will appear more natural if filmed. Rather than witnessing the tasks in real time, record them on video. Thus, you may assess the duration of each activity at a later date. Because you can always replay the video, you won’t miss as much.

For a more realistic research, record a video of yourself. This method is significantly simpler than the other two if you are conducting the research on yourself.

Place a camera on a tripod in a location where it can record your actions. Allow it to record when you do a predetermined job, such as drafting a report.

  • Examine the performance of the task over a specific time frame. For instance, you may choose to test it over the course of a week or perhaps a month.

Performing the Study

Create a spreadsheet to record information. A spreadsheet is a great place to record the task’s description. You will need a location for the time next to it.

Usually, jobs are completed in bunches. If this is the case, provide a location to record the time spent on each task’s component parts. This section just requires a set of numbered boxes. Add a notes column as well.

  • If the job is checking email and one of the components is reading email, note the time required to read each email in the numbered boxes adjacent to the component.

Separate the task into smaller categories. Determining how much time is spent on each job is a component of a time and motion study.

In most cases, the only approach to increase efficiency is to examine the little activities inside each activity. Establish each job component and record a brief description of it as you perform the activity.

  • Finding the appropriate amount of detail is essential. Timing the time it takes to press a single button is not meaningful information. However, you don’t want to be overly wide, since that won’t provide you with sufficient data to improve on efficiency.
  • Consider the scenario in which you are checking your email. You may divide the process into logging on to your computer and email, removing junk mail without opening it, reading emails, creating responses, and arranging email folders.

Each activity should be timed. Beginning with a stopwatch. Note the amount of time required to accomplish each component of the activity. Using the elapsed time, it is generally simpler to just stop and restart the timer. You can determine how much time was spent on each activity in the future.

  • Collect data across numerous days for greater precision.

Time tasks utilizing video. When utilizing a video, you must pause and resume the video for each component you’re timing. Thus, you will have sufficient time to record your notes and the duration of each component.

What is a Time and Motion Study?

Analyzing the Results and Making Changes

Calculate the mean duration of each component. Find the average of the timings for each component once you’re finished. To get an average, sum all the occurrences of a given component and divide by the total number of occurrences for that category.

For example, if the component is reading emails, the timings may be 65 seconds, 210 seconds, 240 seconds, 39 seconds, and 354 seconds.

The sum of 65 plus 210 plus 240 plus 39 plus 354 is 908. Subtract the number of times from the total amount. In this instance, that number is 5, thus dividing 908 by 5 yields an average of 181.6 seconds per email.

Find the mean duration of the assignment. The simplest method for determining the average time for the entire task is to simply sum the averages of its individual components. This will provide you with the average for the entire work.

Assign jobs a high or low priority. Assigning a high or low value to each job might facilitate prioritization. You are not need to assign a number; simply designate them as high or low value.

For example, responding to emails at work may be important, but unless you’re in customer service, it likely has less value than completing an important report. [5]

Reduce time spent on low-value tasks. Examine which jobs require a great deal of time but have a low total worth once you have ranked them.

These are the activities you need to find ways to reduce. It is also vital to consider the chores that require a great deal of time yet have significant value. It is not detrimental to attempt to make these jobs more efficient.

If you frequently check your email during the day, you constantly lose your train of thought when performing other tasks. Frequently, it is preferable to do a task in its entirety, such as only checking emails in the morning, at lunch, and before leaving the office.

Look out for multitasking. Because you cannot devote your undivided attention to each work, multitasking tends to lengthen the time required to complete each one.

In instances of multitasking, such as switching back and forth between writing an email and a report, consider switching tasks. Plan a period of time during which you will only perform one task. Ignore your email when composing a report.

Find inefficiencies and eliminate them. Frequently, you’ll discover inefficiencies in the procedures you time and explain. Eliminating inefficiencies can help you operate more efficiently and accomplish more within the available time.

Consider doing it all at once if, for instance, you must file files everyday in a separate area from your workplace. Constant back-and-forth consumes time that could be spent on other responsibilities.

Time studies

Time study is a direct and continuous observation of a task utilizing a timekeeping equipment (e.g., a decimal minute stopwatch, a computer-assisted electronic stopwatch, and a videotape camera) to record the time required to complete an activity, and it is frequently employed when:

  • There are repeating labor cycles of varying lengths.
  • a large number of distinct tasks are completed, or
  • Elements of process control are included in the cycle.

The Industrial Engineering Terminology Standard defines time study as “a work measurement technique consisting of careful time measurement of the task with a time measuring instrument, adjusted for any observed variance from normal effort or pace and allowing sufficient time for such factors as foreign elements, unavoidable or machine delays, rest to overcome fatigue, and personal needs.”

Frequently, the systems of time and motion studies are thought to be interchangeable, denoting identical theories. Nevertheless, although stemming from the same school of thinking, the basic concepts and reasons for the development of each system are distinct.

Frederick Winslow Taylor was a pioneer in the application of science to business issues and the utilization of time-study methods in standard formulation and job planning.

Taylor liaised with plant managers and, based on the effectiveness of these conversations, authored a number of publications advocating the adoption of wage-dependent performance criteria derived from scientific time analysis.

At the most fundamental level, time studies entail decomposing each task into its component pieces, timing each portion, and rearranging the elements according to their most efficient arrangement.

Taylor wished to change management, which was mostly an oral tradition, into a set of calculated and documented processes through counting and calculating.

Taylor and his colleagues prioritized the substance of an honest day’s labor and attempted to optimize output regardless of the worker’s physiological cost. Taylor believed that unproductive time utilization (soldiering) was a purposeful attempt by employees to advance their own interests and conceal from their employers the speed at which work might be completed.

Taylor paved the way for human relations to surpass scientific management in terms of literary achievement and managerial applicability with his instrumental perspective on human behavior.

Direct time study procedure

The approach established by Mikell Groover for a direct time study is as follows:

  1. Specify and document the standard procedure.
  2. Divide the task into individual tasks.
    Before the real time, these first two phases are completed. Before setting the standard time, they acquaint the analyst with the assignment and let him or her to attempt to boost the work technique.
  3. Timing the aspects of the work to determine the observed time for the task.
  4. Determine the standard time by comparing the worker’s performance to the norm (performance rating).
    Note that steps 3 and 4 are concurrently performed. During these processes, many work cycles are timed, and the performance of each cycle is evaluated separately. The gathered numbers from these phases are then averaged to determine the normalized time.
  5. Calculate the standard time by adding an allowance to the regular time. The required allowance factors are then added to the standard time to determine the duration of the task.

Conducting time studies

According to good practice recommendations for production studies, a complete time study has the following components:

What is a Time and Motion Study?

  1. Study goal setting;
  2. Experimental design;
  3. Time data collection;
  4. Data analysis;
  5. Reporting.

Simple evaluation of work areas

Depending on the objective of the study and ambient conditions, there are several methods for collecting time data. Typical stopwatches, portable computers, and video recorders are all capable of capturing time and motion data.

A number of specialized software programs may transform a palmtop or mobile PC into a time study device. Alternately, time and motion data can be automatically retrieved from the memory of computer-controlled equipment (i.e. automated time studies).


Many harsh critiques and responses were recorded in response to Taylor’s time studies and perspective of human nature. Unions, for instance, viewed time study as a veiled management tool intended to standardize and accelerate the production rate. Similarly, critics like Gilbreth (1909), Cadbury, and Marshall infused Taylor’s work with subjectivity.

As an illustration, Cadbury, in response to Thompson, claimed that under scientific management, employee abilities and initiatives are transferred from the individual to management[19], a sentiment echoed by Nyland.

In addition, Taylor’s detractors criticized the lack of scientific rigor in his time studies, since they depended significantly on subjective interpretations of what employees really accomplish.

However, the importance of rationalizing production is undeniable and is backed by academics such as Gantt, Ford, and Munsterberg, as well as Taylor society members Mr. C.G. Renold, Mr.Proper time studies are based on repeated observation so that motions done differently on the same part by one or more employees may be recorded in order to identify those values that are actually repeatable and quantifiable.

Motion studies

In contrast to and inspired by Taylor’s time study techniques, the Gilbreths provided a technical language that allowed for the scientific investigation of the labor process .

Using scientific ideas, the Gilbreths developed a research approach based on the examination of “work movements,” which included photographing the minutiae of a worker’s actions and body position while recording the time.

The videos served two major functions. One was a visual record of how the task was completed, highlighting opportunities for improvement.

The second goal of the videos was to instruct personnel on the best way to accomplish their jobs. This strategy allowed the Gilbreths to build on the finest components of different processes and produce a common best practice.

Taylor vs. the Gilbreths

Although motion studies remained subservient to time studies for Taylor, the attention he dedicated to the motion study approach reveals how seriously he regarded the Gilbreths’ research.

The Gilbreths had to contend against trade unions, government commissions, and Robert Hoxie[, who claimed that scientific management was unstoppable, due to their 1914 disagreement with Taylor over employees’ views.

The Gilbreths were tasked with establishing that motion studies, in particular, and scientific management, in general, enhanced industrial production in ways that benefited workers’ mental and physical health. Given the misinformation that fueled the Hoxie study and the resulting union hostility to scientific management, this was not an easy assignment.

In addition, Taylor, who believed that motion studies were only a continuation of his work, continued to impede the Gilbreths’ academic legitimacy and success.

While Taylor and the Gilbreths continue to be critiqued for their separate works, it is important to recall that they were writing during a period of industrial restructuring and the creation of vast, complex organizations with new kinds of technology.

What is a Time and Motion Study?

In addition, equating scientific management solely with time and motion analysis and subsequently labor control not only misunderstands the breadth of scientific management, but also misinterprets Taylor’s motivations for presenting an alternative mode of managerial thought.

Health care time and motion study

A health care time and motion study is used to investigate and track the productivity and quality of health care professionals.

Numerous strategies have been implemented in the case of nurses to enhance the proportion of their shifts spent giving direct care to patients. Prior to interventions, it was discovered that nurses spent 20% of their time providing direct care.

Some hospitals quadrupled that percentage, with some surpassing 70 percent of shift time spent with patients, resulting in a decrease in mistakes, codes, and falls.


External observer: Someone follows the observee visibly, either in real time or via video recording. This approach incurs additional costs since it often needs a ratio of 1 to 1 between research time and subject time. A benefit is that the data can be more consistent, thorough, and accurate than when collected by self-reporting.

Self-reporting: In self-reported research, participants must record their time and activity levels. This can be accomplished contemporaneously by having subjects stop and start a timer upon finishing a job, by work sampling in which subjects report what they are doing at predetermined or random intervals, or by having subjects keep a daily notebook of their activities.

Self-reporting adds mistakes that may not be present with other approaches, such as temporal perception and memory problems, as well as the desire to falsify the data.

GPS can track motion for automation purposes. Embedded monitoring software in the apps used to produce documentation permits the tracking of documentation activities. In addition to creating an activity log, badge scanning can also generate a record of scans.

How to Do a Time and Motion Study to Make Real Change

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” remarked Socrates, a legendary management thinker.

Everyone is setting resolutions as 2019 approaches. The majority of people do this without facts, theories, or any plan for how they will alter their behavior.

Typically, it’s a blend of regrets about failed bets, ideas on what they believe they could change, and inspiration from others. And they are perplexed as to why nothing truly changes.

Intent without information is ineffective. The definition of inefficiency, to misquote the renowned management thinker Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

Herein lies the utility of the personal time and motion research.

Time and Motion Study Basics

An overview of a time and motion research is as follows:

1. Observe your actions attentively.

2. Identify possibilities to increase productivity.

3. To do this, modify your working methods.

4. Determine if it achieves the desired effects.

5. Repeat indefinitely.

(Note: a conventional Taylorist time and motion research distinguishes between thinking about and performing labor. Because they are wearing a suit and a nice watch, you can tell who is thinking. This technique, though still prevalent, is somewhat criticized and is not the subject of this discussion.)

What is a Time and Motion Study?

Small changes, big benefits

Small deposits accumulate rapidly. Nevertheless, we waste a great deal of time in our lives on activities that are not particularly helpful. The majority of individuals spend two or more hours every day on social media.

Significant amounts of time can be freed up by eliminating or at least performing inefficient jobs.

Here’s a table to help you determine how much time you could save by making small, consistent improvements:

Is it time well-spent? Even if your objective is to be more efficient and productive, it is worthwhile to ask yourself this question regardless of what you are doing.

Pay attention

In The Atlantic, Megan Garber characterizes MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle’s working style as “the type of low-grade eavesdropping that is known as ‘ethnography’ in academia,’reporting’ in journalism, and ‘paying attention’ everywhere else.”

Pay close attention to what you’re doing and how you’re performing it.

Consider how you spend your time throughout a normal workweek. Clockify (a timesheet tool that successful teams such as Atlassian and Siemens use) and Toggl (an online timer that you can run across your devices and get reports from) may provide you with more objective data on how you spend your time.

Every day, new services and applications are introduced to help you plan your day, but you may also try writing things down.

Spot opportunities for improvement

Utilize a standard Boston Box with the amount of time spent and value on the two axes to classify your time into categories.

Your observations have already yielded data on the amount of time spent. Here are some factors for determining an activity’s importance to your job:

  • Does it provide value to the company?
  • Does my job description include this requirement?
  • Is it a personal growth investment?
  • Do I receive a bonus for completing things so well?

Some aspects of your employment, such as attending meetings and composing emails, are ineffective. Once you have divided your responsibilities in this manner, you will be able to see where you need to invest time and what needs to be adjusted.

Create a hypothesis

Common inefficiencies are an excellent location to start searching for efficiency improvements. Perform any of these actions?

  • Too much time spent on email. Email consumes more than thirty percent of the typical desk worker’s day. That is one and a half days every week.
  • Self-interrupt. A typical office worker checks email more than eighty times per day and uses instant messaging ninety-four times per day. This activity makes concentration difficult.
  • Multi-tasking. When respondents attempt to perform two or more tasks simultaneously, their productivity falls by as much as 40 percent.

Create a query or hypothesis based on your own findings that tackles these frequent habits, such as “Can I reduce the time I spend on email by 25 percent?” And what you uncover about how you spend your time, such as “can I replace or eliminate certain types of meetings?”

Make a change

Once you have a hypothesis, make a change to your method of operation and conduct an experiment to see if it is effective. Here are some tools and approaches for doing less while achieving greater results:

  • Change your working location. Try working in common places like the subway, for example.
  • Send an email report in lieu of attending fewer meetings.
  • Instead of spending an hour in a meeting, use an online tool like Tricider to generate agreement.
  • Turn off your email notifications and any other distractions. Utilize an editor devoid of distractions when your phone is in airplane mode.
  • Consider employing the Pomodoro technique to boost focus.
  • White noise or classical music can be used as background music.
  • Set up email rules for routine communications, including the use of autoresponders and pre-written answers.

There are several modifications possible. This is only an introduction.

Consider automated solutions

There are an increasing number of automated solutions for routine chores like as data entry, bookkeeping, and tax preparation, allowing staff to focus on more creative, high-value work.


What is a Time and Motion Study?

AI winter in which machines take over the workplace, these tiny adjustments have a significant impact on productivity.

The majority of employee time is used by simple, repetitive tasks. After doing a time-and-motion analysis, determine which low-value tasks are the most time-consuming and consider investing in solutions that can perform these tasks for you.

Evaluate results

Give your experiment a week to run its course. Utilize the same instruments as before to conduct the same observations. Exists an improvement? Great. Otherwise, try something else. Repeat indefinitely.

Investing a few minutes per day and around one hour per week in time and motion study experiments can have a significant impact on your productivity.


A time and motion analysis is a common method for maximizing corporate efficiency. It combines a time study, which records the amount of time needed to complete each step of a workplace task, with a motion study, which examines the steps a worker takes to perform the job.

This technique was pioneered by Frederick Taylor and became a key component of theory of scientific management. The use of a time and motion study can greatly increase both the speed and quality of work, but this technique has historically been met with great resistance by employees.


In summary, a time and motion study goes like this:
  1. Look closely at what you’re doing.
  2. Spot opportunities to be more efficient.
  3. Make a change to the way you work to do it.
  4. See if it produces the expected results.
  5. Rinse and repeat.
Proper implementation time-motion study allows you to improve processes and optimisation of performance. Better working methods boost efficiency and decrease fatigue in workers. Effectiveness is not just about how hard you work, but how smart. Time-motion theory enhances resource planning and allocation.
Motion studies

The films served two main purposes. One was the visual record of how work had been done, emphasizing areas for improvement. Secondly, the films also served the purpose of training workers about the best way to perform their work.

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