No one manages time – all you can manage is yourself. Forget CRM systems, task managers, on-line calendars and Filofaxes. They’re useful tools, but they don’t address the fundamental issue. What are you actually doing in work? Do you suffer from: email overload; too much work accumulates for you to take time off; things don’t get done properly if you don’t do them yourself; other people ‘slack off’ while you carry the load? Are you indispensable? Are you frustrated or fulfilled? Here are some time management tips to help you on your way.
Well, I’ve some good news and some bad news. First – you are not alone. However, one of the biggest contributors to your problem is yourself. Let’s start with some research so you can see the kind of company you keep, and then we’ll mitigate the situation with some simple tips on time management.
Salary.com surveyed over 3,200 people from February to March 2012 to investigate what they do at work when they’re not working productively. The survey focused particularly on social media (SoMe) activity, but guess what – when people answer questions about ‘wasting’ time at work, SoMe comes well down the list. Here’s how respondents rated their own wasted time:
- 47% attending too many meetings
- 43% dealing with office politics
- 37% fixing other peoples’ mistakes
- 36% coping with annoying co-workers
- 22% busy work
- 20% returning pointless work emails
- 18% surfing the internet/SoMe
- 14% dealing with bosses.
Ouch – we all recognise these activities. We’re doing an awful lot of ‘stuff’ that’s not really contributing to getting the job done. That said, what can we do about it?
We can CHOOSE and we can FOCUS. To what extent do I control ‘time wasting’ activities in my workplace? I may be required to attend meetings that I regard as unproductive, but do I choose to stir-up office politics, or take it upon myself to heroically save the day when other people mess up. Perhaps I hide behind busy work or surf the web for a new job when I should be working on my current job. Do I sneak a peek at my Facebook page or search for a giggle on YouTube?
No one is 100% productive 100% of the time, and positive social interaction is vitally important in the workplace. The challenge is to look in the mirror and recognise when we avoid the uncomfortable or difficult tasks in work by doing other things that deep down, we know are excuses. Instead, we can choose to focus on the tasks that really contribute.
Next time you feel overwhelmed, just S.T.O.P. Step back, Think, consider your Options, then Proceed.
Step back, Think, consider your Options, then Proceed.
Write down all the things you have to do – big, small, fire-fighting, long-term or trivial – put them down in the order they occur to you. Then, consider each one according to the following criteria:
- Urgent & Important (MY big issues)
- Other people’s issues (urgent, but not necessarily important)
- Busy work (not urgent and not important)
- My long term goals (not urgent, but important)
Write the number beside each task on your list. Ask yourself, “do I HAVE to do things or do I CHOOSE to do them?”
Look at your list and see how much relates to YOUR big issues, and YOUR long term goals. What tasks do you avoid? Is there a common theme? Are you spending too much time on 2s and 3s? Could they be delegated? Mark the ‘To Do’ list with a D (D is for delegation – not Dumping).
Schedule each task in your diary. The diary is your action COMMITMENT. If an issue or crisis arises tomorrow – ask ‘Why am I doing it? Does it add value? Do I have to do it? Is it my choice?’
The diary represents a fair day’s work. When you get it all done – stop!
If the task feels too big – break it down into manageable chunks. If it’s physically or emotionally distasteful – focus on the end result! Do you anticipate failure? What is the worst that can happen? Is that acceptable?
It’s a bit of a truism, but, when we choose to focus on the more important things, we get more done. So why not follow this simple prescription?
- Write down EVERYTHING I need to do
- Prioritise it 1-4
- Decide WHEN I am going to do it & put it in my DIARY (including prep time)
- Do It
- ACKNOWLEDGE completion
(If I’m NOT going to do it, take it off the list.)
Spending time on other people’s issues or the wrong things, only adds to feeling of overwork, frustration and stress. Instead, manage your tasks to fit your priorities. If you still feel the need to look up the recipe for the perfect chocolate brownie, make sure you bring some in for coffee break.