You Can’t Control Everything All Of The Time

The key to time management is life management. How you manage your time is how you manage your life. You only have 168 hours in the course of a week – no more – or no less. Today’s manager must do more with less. (The productivity equation will never change. You need to minimize the input and maximize the output.) This is the 3rd blog posting in a series of blogs dedicated in helping you get control over your time and your team’s time. The first posting dealt with Goal Setting and Prioritizing (If You’re On Time – You’re Already Late) – the second dealt with Planning and Scheduling (On Time and On Budget – Managing Team Time). This 3rd posting deals with Interruptions and Meetings.

Interruptions – Get use to it. Interruptions are a fact of life. Experts would have us believe that you are going to be interrupted 6 times an hour – every working hour of the day – especially if you work in an open-office environment. (That’s why you need to add some flex time to your schedule. You know you’re going to be interrupted so you might as well plan for it.) Try this experiment. Keep an Interruption Log for two weeks. Every time you are interrupted by someone or something – write it down in your log. (Who interrupted you, how much time did they rob from you – and what was it about.) Is there a pattern there? Are you being interrupted for things that aren’t part of your job  description or someone besides you could be doing it? (Great opportunity here to delegate) Are you being interrupted by someone who has too much time on their hands? By phone calls or text messages that can be returned later or ignored completely? Once you know where your time is going – you can put a plan together to eliminate or re-direct those interruptions.

Here are a few tips you can try to help reduce the amount of interruptions

  • Close your door when you are working on something that requires your full attention. Put a sign on your door letting everyone know that you don’t want to be disturbed. Once you have finished that task – open your door – but be prepared that someone is going to walk in and interrupt you. You need to have an open door policy but you get to decide when the door is opened.
  • When someone walks into your office – stand up and walk around to the front of your desk. (You are non-verbally telling that person not to sit down and get too comfortable because they won’t be there very long.) Better yet – remove the chairs from the front of your desk all together.
  • If you are going to have a meeting – have it in their office or a neutral location so you can get up and leave when you feel the meeting is over.
  • After the interruption don’t doodle. Get back to what you where working on before you got interrupted. Get back to that “A” item.

Meetings: Intelligence is no substitute for information; Enthusiasm is no substitute for ability; Willingness is no substitute for experience; And a meeting is no substitute for progress! Meetings are the biggest waste of time ever invented by man. Patrick Lencioni wrote a great book on the subject of meetings called “Death by Meeting” which is well worth the read. The first thing I recommend you do is go out a buy a copy of “Robert’s Rules” and teach yourself how to run an effective meeting. It’s helped elected Parliaments and Social Clubs all over the World run effective and productive meetings for centuries and it will do the same for you

  • Consider alternatives to “live” meetings like email or conference calls.
  • Invite those people who only need to be there.
  • Meetings are NOT social gatherings. Have an agenda with time lines and stick to the agenda.
  • Show up on time – prepared to talk on the agenda items. If you are on time – you are already 15 minutes late.
  • Summarize the results of the meeting and make note of the action items and most importantly – who is responsible for following up on those items to make sure they will be completed on time and on budget.
  • If you haven’t been sent an agenda prior to the meeting – don’t go to the meeting.

Next weeks posting will look at Paperwork and Procrastination and give you some timely tips to help you utilize your time more effectively. 

On Time and On Budget – Managing Team Time

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)