Time Management

Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. - Warren Bennis, Ph.D. "On Becoming a Leader"

 

 

Time Management

Time in the organization is constant and irreversible. Nothing can be substituted for time. Worse yet, once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. Time keeps getting away and they have trouble controlling it. No matter what their position, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up. Yet, time needs to be effectively managed to be effective.

On the other hand, you can become such a time fanatic convert by building time management spreadsheets, priority folders and lists, color coding tasks, and separating paperwork into priority piles; that you are now wasting more time by trying to manage it. Also, the time management technique can become so complex that you soon give up and return to your old time wasting methods.

What most people actually need to do is to analyze how they spend their time and implement a few time saving methods that will gain them the most time. The following are examples of some of the biggest time wasters:

  • Indecision - Think about it, worry about it, put it off, think about it, worry about it, etc.
  • Inefficiency - Jumping in and implementing instead analyzing and designing first.
  • Unanticipated interruptions that do not pay off.
  • Procrastination - Failing to get things done when they need to be done.
  • Unrealistic time estimates.
  • Unnecessary errors - You do not have enough time to do it right, but you have enough time to do it over?
  • Crisis management.
  • Poor organization.
  • Ineffective meetings - See Meetings.
  • Micro-management - failure to let others perform and grow.
  • Doing urgent rather than important tasks.
  • Poor planning and lack of contingency plans.
  • Failure to delegate or delegation of responsibility without authority.
  • Lack of priorities, standards, policies, and procedures.
     
The following are examples of time savers:
  • Manage the decision making process, not the decisions.
  • Concentrate on doing only one task at a time.
  • Establish daily, short-term, mid-term, and long-term, priorities.
  • Handle correspondence expeditiously with quick, short letters and memos.
  • Throw unneeded things away.
  • Establish personal deadlines and ones for the organization.
  • Do not waste other people's time.
  • Ensure all meetings have a purpose, have a time limit, and include only essential people.
  • Get rid of busywork.
  • Maintain accurate calendars; abide by them.
  • Know when to stop a task, policy, or procedure.
  • Delegate everything possible and empower subordinates.
  • Keep things simple.
  • Ensure time is set aside to accomplish high priority tasks.
  • Set aside time for reflection.
  • Use checklists and to do lists.
  • Adjust priorities as a result of new tasks.

 


Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account.

 

A Simple Time Management Plan

Effective time management is crucial to accomplishing organization tasks as well as to avoiding wasting valuable organizational assets. The following nine rules from Managing Your Mind (1) will aid you:

  • Get Started - This is one of the all time classic time wasters. Often, as much time is wasted avoiding a project, as actually accomplishing the project. A survey showed that the main difference between good students and average students was the ability to get down to work quickly.
  • Get into a routine - Mindless routine may curb your creativity, but when used properly, it can release time and energy. Choose a time to get certain task accomplished, such as answering email, working on a project, completing paper work; and then stick to it every day. Use a day planning calendar. There are a variety of formats on the market. Find one that fits your needs.
  • Do not say yes to too many things - Saying yes can lead to unexpected treasures, but the mistake we often make is to say yes to too many things. This causes us to live to the priorities of others rather then according to our own. Every time you agree to do something else, another thing will not get done. Learn how to say no.
  • Do not commit yourself to unimportant activities, no matter how far ahead they are - Even if a commitment is a year ahead, it is still a commitment. Often we agree to do something that is far ahead, when we would not normally do it if it was in the near future. No matter how far ahead it is, it will still take the same amount of your time.
  • Divide large tasks - Large tasks should be broken up in to a series of small tasks. By making small manageable tasks, you will eventually accomplish the large task. Also, by using a piecemeal approach, you will be able to fit it into your hectic schedule.
  • Do not put unneeded effort into a project - There is a place for perfectionism, but for most activities, there comes a stage when there is not much to be gained from putting extra effort into it. Save perfectionism for the tasks that need it.
  • Deal with it for once and for all - We often start a task, think about it, and then lay it aside. We will repeat this process over and over. Either deal with the task right away or decide when to deal with it and put it aside until then.
  • Set start and stop times - When arranging start times, also arrange stop times. This will call for some estimating, but your estimates will improve with practice. This will allow you and others to better schedule activities. Also, challenge the theory, "Work expands to fill the allotted time." See if you can shave some time off your deadlines to make it more efficient.
  • Plan your activities - Schedule a regular time to plan your activities. If time management is important to you, then allow the time to plan it wisely.

 


 
 

The Big Picture

Keep the big picture of what you want to achieve in sight. Your check lists will have such items as: "staff meeting at 2:00" and "complete the Anderson Company memo" but, do you set quality time aside for the important tasks?
  • Develop a relationship with Sue who may be helpful to me in the long run.
  • Meet with all my workers on a regular basis. (It is your workers who will determine if you are a great leader, not you or your leaders!)
  • Study "you name the book" because in 5 years I want to be "goal."
  • Coach my employees on providing excellent customer service because that is where my vision is pointing to.
  • Set aside time for interruptions. For example, the 15 minute coffee break with Sam that leads to a great idea.
In other words, do not get caught up in short term demands. Get a real life! One quarter to one third of the items on your to do list need to contain the important long range items that will get you, your workers, and your organization to the best!

 


 
 

References

1. Butler, Gillian & Hope, Tony (1996). Managing Your Mind. New York: Oxford City Press.

 


  Notes
Created May 11, 1997. Last update - December 12, 2001.
Big Dog's Leadership Page
Donald R. Clark
donclark@nwlink.com