+Scott Watson

Monday, 13 August 2012

5 Easy Ways To Manage Your Time More Effectively

'EVERYBODY seems to want my time', was the rather frustrated statement from David, a very professional, and very popular Human Resources Director at a fast-growing digital agency.

David's frustration was borne from the fact that whilst he was the Director responsible for ensuring that the organisation's employees performed well at work, and maintained some form of work/life balance outside of work, he wasn't able to.  The reason?  He was just so popular, trusted, helpful and decent - people just couldn't seem to stay away from him.

So serious had the issue of balancing work and home life that his wife, who he said was one of the most understanding people he had ever met - had stopped understanding and started asserting her right to having a husband (and new father) with them at home - in mind as well as in body.

His wife, Dianne, had apparently claimed in a 'spirited discussion' as David put it, 'Even when you're at home with us, YOU'RE NOT AT HOME WITH US....you're at WORK.'

Haven't you had those moments when, after a(nother) hectic day at work, you get home, walk through the front door and think 'That's it, family time', or perhaps a more accurate thought would be 'What a day, but that's it until tomorrow.'  All well and good in theory isn't it?  But what about in practice?  You know, you're relaxing on the sofa, feet up, perhaps a cuppa..or a cheeky glass of your favourite white - just to wind down of course.

But while your body is relaxed and comfortable, your brain most definitely is not.  It's still thinking.  It's still wondering how you're going to hit that crazy deadline that was imposed on you (but you couldn't say 'NO' to your boss could you?), how you can fit all of those meetings in to your already crammed schedule, how you need to get back to your lovely colleagues who today were so lovely as to ask you the most damaging question that exists in organisations today.  You know the one, it's the one that's nearly always asked in a polite, friendly and on some occasions 'smarmy' tone - and often accompanied by a submissive, puppy dog smile that snaps your parenting instinct right into action. It's the old chestnut... 'Have you got five minutes?'  Recognise it?  Dealing more effectively with this question alone can save you an hour a day.  That's sixty minutes, three thousand six hundred seconds!

Here are some of the practical, easy to apply tools and techniques David implemented to not just help him manage his time, focus and priorities more effectively, but to re-educate an abundance of very decent colleagues on how and when he could be available to assist them.


Sounds quite a challenge doesn't it?  Especially when the person asking (and expecting) you to say 'Yes' is your line manager.

But rather than jumping straight in to the submissive mode of 'Well, I just can't', think of it in another way.  A way that will help you, and your line manager to understand what's really important here.

When you operate on an auto-pilot 'Yes' with your line manager, it could be because you believe you are expected to comply with an authority figure.  After all, if the task/meeting/report wasn't important - s/he wouldn't be asking you to do it, would they?  And here's the really important point to bear in mind on these occasions.

You're not saying 'No' forever.  You're saying 'No' for now.  Until you've understood exactly what's involved, required and timescales.  Of course, there are occasions when you should be saying 'No' forever - for example if there's a more suitably qualified colleague to undertake the task involved.  But if you always perform well, always say 'Yes' without question, clarification or understanding, YOU'RE GOING TO KEEP BEING ASKED!  Why on earth should your line manager (or indeed colleagues) consider asking somebody else to help them when you keep saying 'Yes' to every request and/or demand they make of you and your time?

Here's an easy way to create a few seconds thinking time in the middle of an authority based request or demand.  Don't just read the words, connect with the authentic meaning.

Boss:  I've just been called to a meeting and it is really important I attend.  It'll take all afternoon so will you make a start on the employee training record spreadsheet?  I've not managed to start it yet...I've been snowed under with so many meetings and projects.'

You Normally:  'Yes, no problem, I'll just get this piece of work finished and then I have two coaching sessions with members of my team booked in for an hour each and then a meeting with a manager about a team issue...but when I've done those things I'll get started on the spreadsheet.'

Madness eh?  Especially if your boss then asks you to re-prioritise your schedule, postpone the coaching sessions and use those two hours to make headway on the spreadsheet.  Two things to consider.  One - what message does your willingness to shove your two colleagues out of an agreed commitment send to them?  Two - why did you jump straight in to auto-pilot compliance?  You may think that you're being helpful, but in this instance you're not.  You're being extremely unhelpful!

See Prof. Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence' to see how human beings are generally 'hard-wired' to comply with authority.

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