One of your many duties as a manager is to step back once in a while and take a look at the big picture so you can get a sense of where you, your department or organization needs to be in 9, 12 or 18 months. You need to be able to position yourself to take advantage of any new trends or opportunities that are just starting to appear on the horizon.
Managers are agents of change – who make the kinds of changes needed to adapt to changing conditions. You need to be able to manage your time and your teams time so you have the time to do all those things that you are going to be held accountable for. (That’s why you need to learn how to delegate effectively). You need to learn how to give up control to get control.
This is my second posting in a series of blogs designed to give you some valuable insight into how to manage your time and your teams time more effectively. We all have just 168 hours in the course of a week. No more – or no less. You need to learn how to be both effective and efficient to excel managing in the 21st Century. (The productivity equation will never change. You need to minimize the input and maximize the output)
Last week I wrote about Setting Goals and Establishing Priorities (The Key to Time Management is Life Management) – This weeks blog posting is all about Planning and Scheduling – the next two categories on my list of seven that seem to take up most of a manager’s time.
Worth Remembering …
“I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.” – Douglas Adams
Planning: You’ve no doubt heard it a thousand times – “Fail to plan – plan to fail”. But it’s absolutely true. Committing to a goal and then writing a plan to accomplish that goal demonstrates to yourself and others that you are serious about achieving that goal. Dreams are goals with deadlines. Goals and planning go hand in hand. Without a good plan – goals are almost impossible to achieve. (Wishing and hoping won’t make it so. Achieving your goals is a planned event) The goal is the end result – the plan is the little steps you’re going to take to get there. (If you are travelling from Ottawa to Florida and end up in Quebec City. You know you have the wrong plan)
- Flexibility is the key to successful planning. Allow time for unexpected things like interruptions, equipment breakdowns and crises. How ever long you think it’s going to take you – times that number by two.
- If you need something completed by Friday and you know it’s going to take at least two days to complete it – then you better be having someone start it on Tuesday afternoon or first thing Wednesday morning.
- Make sure your time line and time estimates are do-able. You can be efficient and not effective and vise-versa. Efficient because you got it done but not effective because you took too long to do it – or you had to do it again because it wasn’t done right the first time.
- You should be arriving at work having already gone over your plan, set your daily priorities and be ready to take on the day.
Scheduling: So far you have decided on a goal – created a written plan listing all the steps that need be done to achieve that goal – and now you’re ready to schedule a start and completed by time for each step of your plan. Think baby steps. I do this – then I do that – and eventually I will have accomplished all I set out to do. (Anyone can eat an elephant – one bite at a time)
To be on time and on budget requires a schedule. You can’t leave anything to chance. Some managers schedule too much – but most managers don’t schedule enough. You need to schedule enough staff on the retail floor to take advantage of selling opportunities – especially at peak times. No sense having staff there when the customers aren’t. You need to schedule a production run to fill customer orders. Scheduling is critical to the overall success of any department or organization. If you don’t like to do the scheduling – delegate it – but review it – and insure everyone follows it.
- Planning is deciding “What” to do. Scheduling is deciding “When” to do it.
- When ever you commit anything to writing (Goals and Plans) make sure you also write down how long you think it’s going to take you or someone else to do it – and when you need it done by. Due dates or due times create a sense of urgency. It motivates us to get in gear. (That’s Scheduling 101)
- When ever you complete a task and before you start a new one ask yourself – “What is the best use of my time right now?” You may find that you have a spare moment between meetings or before you need to return a clients phone call. Look at your To-Do List and pick an item that can be done in the amount of “Free” time you have between tasks (I use this one a lot. You may be surprised when you find out how much you can accomplish in 5, 10 or 20 minutes)
- Identify your “Prime Time”. The time of the day when you are at your very best. When you seem to be firing on all cylinders. We all have a “Prime Time” but not everyone’s is at the same time. My prime time is between 4:30 and 10:00 am. Once I hit 3:00 pm – I know I’m done for the day. I may check my emails after 3:00 pm but if they require an answer that is going to take some thought – I won’t tackle it until the next morning. I know from experience that I’ll end up redoing it anyways so I might as well save the time. Schedule those tasks that are going to take all of your energy – when you have to be at your most creative self – or when you need to make a critical decision – in your “Prime Time”. (Next week – Interruptions and Meetings)