Why is it so hard to manage our time? There are any number of time management courses, tools, tips and techniques available and yet we really struggle.
How many of you out there reading this, really should be doing something else that is far more important but thought “ooh that looks like it might be helpful, I’ll just have quick look and see what it is about?” Well, listen, thanks so much for visiting but really, go get that thing done and pop back, go on off you go.
Oh you’re back! Welcome good to see you again. Did you get it done? No? Well, the thing is neither did the other people, they kept on reading too. That is what happens when you get distracted. Distractions are one of the biggest problems we face when it comes to managing our time. There is always something better to see or do and we cannot help ourselves. The antidote to distraction is discipline, plain and simple, but that can be easier said than done. Those people out there who are completely disciplined get lots done, on time and to a standard. Yey! good for them! Really, very good. But how do we cultivate discipline? Lets look at some time wasting distractions shall we? Things that get in the way, and some useful habits to adopt that can nurture discipline that bats them away.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Time Management.
1. Social Media. Complete pain in the arse, yet essential. It makes us lose focus on tasks and drags away into its virtual clutches so that we spend our day looking at video clips of pets doing crazy things, people in funny situations and best of all, plates of food. Dealing with this is easy and whilst not recommended permanently, going into your ‘settings’ menu on your phone and turning of notifications and updates will certainly help. It only takes a second and can buy you a lot of time otherwise wasted not only answering them but also waiting for them. Yes, that’s right, people can often be found staring at their phones just waiting for an update. Tragic.
2. People popping by for a chat and a ‘catch up’. Bloody hell I hate that phrase, ‘catch up’. People love to drop by, and whilst there is nothing wrong with the occasional yack at the desk, in fact it can be motivational, as well as team building, too much of it, hinders work. My top tip for dealing with people who do this was given to me by a wise man (thanks Gerry) years ago and it has served me well. Whenever someone drops by and I need to get rid of them I simply stand up. By doing this, it sends a message that you are busy and in a polite way, not welcome to stay too long. People tend to pick up on this and get to the point quickly. It also stops them perching on the edge of your desk too, another habit I hate.
3. Perfectionism. Polish polish polish to a nice high shine, and then polish it some more. Are you this person? the perfectionist doesn’t know when to stop and the constant refining stops them from moving on. Often the source of this can be attributed to university days where word count was at a premium for dissertations and reports. When writing these things, a need to constantly edit and refine the writing is required to make maximum use of the words. This then becomes a habit and is then found to infect projects moving forward. The trick is establish when good enough is just that; good enough. Fit for purpose, does it do what it was meant to do, is the extra polishing and refining superfluous? Does it add extra value by doing it? If not, stop it, you hear me, stop it!!!
4. Procrastination. Putting things off. Well part of me wants to say “stop messing around and just get on with it!” but this is supposed to be helpful so I won’t. But I did. Whatever. There is always something more interesting and exciting to get on with, and when we prioritise our to do lists we often choose the tasks we want to do rather than the tasks we should do. By putting things off, we only expose ourselves to more pressure by pushing up the clock in terms of deadlines and quality. So seek out and engage the famous model showing urgency and importance (you can look it up) and make more informed choices. If you don’t like it, then try this. When faced with a task you want to put off, play a game of consequences with yourself. “What would happen if I don’t get on with this now?” the answer will certainly give you a steer in the right direction.
5. Meetings. I wrote a blog called Meetings : Another Excuse to Warm a Seat and it contains some great tips and techniques on dealing with these ALMIGHTY WASTES OF TIME. So much time is spend sitting in meetings, it is a wonder anything gets done. How many of you have sat in meetings wondering why you are there? or drifted off into your own little world while some ego driven maniac delivers a monologue? I get it that some meetings you cannot get out of, but my discipline on meetings is absolute. First and foremost, if you get invited to a meeting ask for the agenda, so you can at least find out what it is about and who is attending. No agenda? Then you are in for a pretty shitty meeting with no structure and probably no outcome either. Weekly team meetings can get like this. Next, find out if you actually need to be there. If yes,see if you can just attend the part where you contribute? Saves you having to sit through the rest of it.
6. Duplicating work. Do you find yourself often doing the same things over and over again? You need templates in your life! Whilst labour intensive to set up, they will reward you a hundred times in saved hours. If you deal with suppliers and customers who get sent the same message, set up a template. If you have to send reminders to people, set up a template, service level agreements, set up a template, sending client proposals should always be created from a template build from a list of generic information points and then tailored to the client. Template people!! Templates!! You can find them in Word on a PC and Pages on a Mac and mighty useful they are too.
7. No Self Value. If you do not value your own time and value how can you expect anyone else to do the same? Result? People will dump all their crap on you. You can easily work out who doesn’t value their own time and worth. They have a problem saying ‘No’, they will always try to be the good person, and always put other people before themselves, sometimes at the cost of themselves too. Doormats! When other people spot these poor saps, they home in on them like sharks, all smiles that don’t quite reach their eyes, with promises of great ‘opportunities’ which is their way of saying, “Do this shitty job I cannot be bothered to do.” The best way to combat these people is to make your schedule, to do list, work flow etc very visible. By doing this, it gives them evidence that you are busy and encourages them to look elsewhere. Evidence is really important here. To a ‘dumper’ no list equals nothing to do. Look out below!! Other great techniques include wearing headphones in the office. If you are permitted to do this, it is a great way to get rid of people, especially when mixed with the ‘dumper’ who just drops by, and you now know how to deal with those too don’t you?
There are so many different things that can help with good time management, but to be honest simple discipline and focus is all that is needed. In some companies too much autonomy is given and little emphasis on ownership and deadlines, it is no wonder that Time Management training is so popular. In all honesty you have to question the effectiveness not of the employees who appear to be poor at managing their time, but of the managers. Many managers do not know how to delegate effectively or set objectives that are meaningful. Instead they rely on people just getting on with things, but then grumble when things don’t get done. Why don’t things get done? Because they didn’t check in on people. I do not mean micro management, it is about effective task management and understanding capabilities. I was talking to a client recently who was explaining that some managers expect their teams to just ‘know stuff’ almost by osmosis! These are not managers, these are people who are wearing badges with ‘manager’ on them and this is where training should be applied as a corrective and developmental intervention.
If you currently need help with time management in a no-nonsense way or would like some development either with your teams or with your managers, then please get in touch by emailing me Simon firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for reading this blog I appreciate you taking the time.