Remember this term? Now regarded as bad form for a manager, when you give yourself a Kick In The A#%$, it could well be a positive step on the road to success.
Time management is all about good habit formation and spotting/ changing habits that give diminishing returns. This requires a long, hard, honest look in the mirror – a readiness to get brutal with yourself where needed.
Do you always invest your time in what is really important, or are you often side tracked by:
- What you’re good at?
- What you enjoy doing?
- Fillers – activities that take time but don’t add value?
- Others’ priorities so that you have to work late or let others down?
- Crises that are the result of your own or others’ lack of planning or procrastination?
Time can be both a commodity and a currency. Once consumed, it is gone forever. As a currency, some time is worth more than other time depending on how it is spent. You can’t recover spent time, but you can get a return on time well invested. When you convert experience into wisdom, you can get more time later. But few people are good at reflecting on experience and extracting the lessons – converting experience to wisdom.
As ‘creatures of habit,’ people are capable of good habituation (which delivers efficiencies) but all too often, repeat inefficient and unhelpful habits, with diminishing returns. Lack of insight (realization…self knowledge….reality checks etc) sustains this.
Ask yourself three important questions:
- What are your current habits costing in results? Efficiency? Health? Happiness? Relationships? Reputation? Leverage?
- What are you prepared to change to have more of what you want and less of what you don’t?
- Who is really in charge – you or your habits?
Working with people recently in this area revealed these common themes:
- Blocks of unproductive time – get clear about where time goes and then ring fence quality time to work on value-adding tasks. Allocate/ schedule time for “A” (most important) tasks BEFORE they become urgent, leaving you on the back foot.
- Procrastination often happens due to uncertainty about how to begin something. Develop good quality thinking to start and complete challenging, complex tasks. Mindmapping is a timesaver to get started on complex tasks and tap into your reservoir of superior thought. (Like anything else, it requires repetition to form a habit.)
- Interruptions – you have a plan but can’t stick to it. That should only be an excuse for the first three weeks in a new role. Thereafter, your plan matches your reality (or it’s not really a plan but a dream.)
- Crises or extraordinary events – see point 3. Manage crises preemptively. You should only be surprised once with a crisis.
- ‘The boss’ commits you to what you can’t deliver. Manage demands so you can do what needs doing, not just for your role but for collective impact. This means negotiating, give-and-take and quality agreement-making. If this is not a sound skill and good habit, put it at the top of your work-ons list. (If the boss keeps shoveling stuff onto you and it gets done, don’t blame him/her for what you’re teaching.)
- Delays because of disorganization – develop and maintain great work habits or you will see time disappear into a bottomless pit of confusion and frustration. Both are extremely energy-sapping and energy is an asset in demand management.
- Assumptions – communication is not defined as sending an email. Invest time upfront to get clear agreements or you will needlessly repeat the same task. People will not go out of their way to read your mind.
- Doing everything yourself: do you envy others who seem to have time? They are generally good at co-opting resources from elsewhere. (You may be one.) Instead of closing the door on them, look and learn. But remember, a delegated task will only save you time if the task is set up correctly and parameters are clear. A little time invested upfront will save a LOT of time later.
The good news is it can take as few as three weeks to change a habit. The rewards that come from a new (good!) habit will keep you committed. Instead of getting buried by demands and shrinking your capacity out of fatigue and frustration, focus on expanding your capability to handle increasing demands. Your success is a function of what you can achieve within a fixed time budget.
Remind yourself that tiME management is really ME management. Focus on YOU and you are half way there.