We recently gave an executive leader an assignment in advance of a program we’re starting in Ohio. Weeks, two missed deadlines, and multiple e-mail and telephone reminders later, I got a nice note telling me how busy they were and that they would get around to it (after vacation). I’m not holding my breath.
Time management (which is what we’re talking about), is especially critical these days, where we often wear multiple hats and battle efficiencies by hiring support “just too late” rather than “just in time.” Tell me you’ve never heard of a small business leader who is the chief “this” AND “that.” I have and it isn’t new or uncommon news.
Working from home or managing blended workforces has only proven to make things worse. According to researcher Jennifer Moss, over the past year (and globally) our workdays are an average 48 minutes longer and we’re scheduling 24% more meetings. There’s more to be shared in her upcoming book, The Burnout Epidemic. No time for books? Read on.
So the problem is this – in general, we suck at time management and our evolving work experience is about to make it all harder. Great news and what should we do?
Well, the tried-and-true solutions still exist; we seem to have been talking about them for years (to no avail): make prioritized to-do lists, delegate more, say “no” more often, etc. “Just make the time” is my personal favorite. Sure, why didn’t I think of that?
Enough rant. Here are a few suggestions (and we could talk about this for hours)…
- Reorganize what you do when. Any time tracking application will monitor the software packages you’re using and infer productivity (or lack thereof) based on the software in use. I tracked my time (passively) for about a month and learned that I was most creative in the mornings but tailed off dramatically after lunch. Mondays weren’t particularly productive for me, but Tuesday through Thursday morning were. By reorganizing those tasks requiring creativity to earlier in the day and to specific week-days and pushing the more mundane into afternoons or Mondays/Fridays, I was able to dramatically improve my weekly productivity. You should try it (after checking into downloading software to your work computer). By the way, this goes for your meetings too. Just because a work team has ALWAYS convened every other Tuesday at 9:00 AM doesn’t mean it has to forever.
- Stop “Splintering” Your Time. If neurological research tells us it takes 20-30 minutes to refocus when moving from activity to activity (and it does), that intellectual bouncing around is killing your available time. Think about one hour during the day. Check your e-mail. Answer the telephone. Back to whatever you were working on before you checked your e-mail. Look something up. Someone stops at the door. Back to that thing you’re working on. Hour done; nothing else. If you’re easily distracted – SQUIRREL – managing distractions will help. Easy advice. Difficult execution.
- Stop treating your weekly calendar like a Tetris game. News flash – all white space does not need filling. How about packing just Tuesday through Thursday and leave Monday and Friday for thinking and planning? I tried this about a month ago and felt immediate stress relief without impacting productivity.
In our 12 years of business, time management for professionals in any industry remains a significant challenge. Recommendations here may fall into the “Captain Obvious” bin, but if they are, we’re still tripping over them and it’s time to do something before we start breaking our people. More on that next quarter. Obviously, if you want some help reclaiming parts of your week, we hope you’ll give us a call. We’ve got time.