We have survived the worst of the dark days of Winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and as the seasons start to change we develop a heightened awareness of time as the days start to get longer and lighter. It is at this time of year that many consider starting the Spring Cleaning regime.
Added on 08 February 2016 by Angela Jowitt
But how well are we using our time? If you experience the constant pressure of time (or lack of it) then maybe now is a good time to do a bit of Spring cleaning at the office to address time management. Hopefully this blog will remind you of some of the common sense techniques that will give you more time, hopefully contributing to:
Reduction in stress levels
Better quality of work-life balance
Feeling more organised
Step One – Tidy up!
It is worth investing some time having a good clear out. Tidy your desk, ditch those files and clear out your in-box. Think about all those little time wasters such as digging around your desk looking for a file or trawling through your computer trying to find that all important email. It all adds up.
Step Two – Make a list
As well as tidying your work space, tidy your mind by getting the clutter in your head onto a piece of paper or an app. List all the things that need to happen, both work and home. Once it is all down you will be amazed at how much calmer you feel.
Once you have a list to hand it will be much easier to prioritise and delegate. One tip is to categorise all your tasks into three columns; ‘to do, doing, done’. Moving a task to the ‘done’ column gives a sense of achievement and if you have it on view in the office, say on a white board, it can communicate to others for you instead of people interrupting you and asking how things are going.
Looking at your list, do you really have to do all of these things? A lot of managers I coach confess that some of the things on their list are there because they like doing them or ‘it is quicker to do it myself’. It may seem quicker in the short term but the reality is you never get rid of that task long-term. When all your team are waving you goodnight as they leave the office, you are still there staring at a mountain of work. Does that seem right to you? Go through the pain barrier, train people to take on new tasks and trust them to get on with them. Being the boss shouldn’t equate to leaving last.
Interruptions can’t be totally avoided, but they could be minimised. Turn off the notifications on your email and opt to visit your inbox at regular intervals in between tasks. Have a code for signalling to others that now is not a good time. If you have an office, the door can be closed, but in an open plan office, find another way of conveying the message ‘do not disturb’. Think creatively; can you work from home on occasion? If you commute some distance, think of the hours saved in travelling time.
Train the team
Sometimes it is hard to manage our own time because of the time management skills of others. If members of the team are more pressure prompted; i.e. they are energised by the thrill of working up to the deadline, it will not sit comfortably with those whose style is to plan ahead. Knowing the preferences of your team can help. Consider a psychometric such as MBTI or Strength Deployment Inventory to understand how your team like to work. It can help kick start a conversation and gain team commitment to work in a way that suits all styles, allowing people to manage their time more effectively.
Of course none of us are guilty of this! If you do recognise that on occasion you are procrastinating then consider why that is. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Your ‘to do’ list may help you here. If you know you are putting something off because you really don’t want to do it, then spend a moment to think about how good it will feel to get the task done. What are the consequences of not doing it, and what can you do to reward yourself on completion?
Declutter; both the desk and the mind
Invest in a good note book or app and make writing lists a new habit
Don’t fall into the ‘I can do it quicker myself’ trap
Plan ahead. If you know when the busy times are coming you can ring fence your time either by working from home or shutting yourself away for a short while
Align the team by understanding their work style better and agreeing on ways you can help each other to be more productive
Finally, if you can’t delegate it accept you have to do it and get it out of the way
All of these things are common sense, but it is amazing how common sense slips when we get busy. Hopefully these serve as timely reminders of the good habits we need to keep up.
Time management is part of a key session on our Management Development Program, which focuses on the specific areas where managers need practical support.