Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m not the most structured and organized of people. Like many managers I’ve got multiple roles – some I enjoy, others are a “necessity”. At the end of last year I was, quite frankly, ready for a break. Over the holidays I walked the dogs and reflected on the causes and possible solutions – and, like many of us, I’ve resolved to make a few changes this year. Drawing on the techniques we share in some of our seminars, these are two concrete time management tips I’m going to focus on going forward, and I know from past experience that they’ll make an impact. Maybe they can support you too.
Time management tip #1 – Talk with people about how they communicate and interact with me
Identifying why I seemed to be so busy was a first step. I then split these reasons into “time sins” , “time thieves” and “time wasters”. Time sins are things I do to myself, for example getting easily distracted, poor planning etc. Time thieves are things that others do which mean I’m not as effective as I could be, for example sending me too many emails when a phone call would be more effective, not preparing for a meeting which means everyone loses time, pushing problems up to me that they can and should be dealing with themselves. Time wasters are those things that just happen and are out of my immediate control e.g. delays caused by traffic, IT issues etc.
I’ll address time sins in the tip below – but in my case time thieves are also clearly a problem. So, going forward in 2015, I’ve resolved that, as and when time thieves reappear this year, I’m going to take (or make) the opportunity to talk with my colleagues. I’ll try to understand how they see things and why they are working like this, explain how I see things and then together agree to build new routines and habits. I know that time thieves won’t just disappear by themselves unless I talk with the “thief” directly. These conversations won’t always be easy but having them is important.
Time management tip #2 – Eat my frogs
Do you ever have that feeling that you just don’t know where to start? Everyone procrastinates at some time, and Brian Tracy’s “eat that frog” technique is an approach I’ve relied upon time and time again when things are getting a little too crazy at work and I don’t know where to start. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this…
Your alarm goes off, and you roll over, turn it off and rub your eyes. Another day has begun and it’s time to get up and get ready to go to work. However before you get out of bed you sit up, reach across to your bedside table and pick up that big glass jar you keep next to you. You unscrew the lid, put your hand in and pull out … a frog. A living, croaking, slightly slippery frog. You then open your mouth, push the frog in, and start to chew it. Bones crunch, you resist the temptation to throw up, and then you swallow it. You then get up feeling relieved that this dreadful task is over. That was probably the worst thing that’ll happen to you all day .
Got your attention, right? Obviously this is a metaphor – eating frogs doesn’t actually help you become more effective. “Eating the frog” is a metaphor for doing the task that you’ve been avoiding, delaying or ignoring – and doing this task first thing! Most of us start work with the same comfortable routine. We get into the office, start up our computer, talk with a colleague, grab a coffee (and perhaps even read the news online) and then open and read our emails. Eating your frog means the very first thing you do when you get to work is that task you’ve been avoiding, delaying or ignoring. It could be a task that you’re nervous about tackling a task that you just don’t enjoy doing, or a task that you just don’t know where you should start. But before you open your emails, before you allow yourself the luxury of perusing the morning paper, before you even start chatting with a colleague – you do the thing you don’t want to do (for me this could typically be an administrative task). Once you’ve got your frog out of the way you’ll hopefully then spend the rest of the day being more effective, feeling more effective and focussing on other challenges.
These are 2 approaches I’m going to commit to. How about you? What tips and tricks do you have to share? How will you make sure that you are effective in 2015?