( Personal Time Management for Busy Managers Continued..... )
The absence of Personal Time Management is characterized by last minute rushes to meet dead-lines, meetings which are either double booked or achieve nothing, days which seem somehow to slip unproductively by, crises which loom unexpected from nowhere. This sort of environment leads to inordinate stress and degradation of performance: it must be stopped.
Poor time management is often a symptom of over confidence: techniques which used to work with small projects and workloads are simply reused with large ones. But inefficiencies which were insignificant in the small role are ludicrous in the large. You can not drive a motor bike like a bicycle, nor can you manage a supermarket-chain like a market stall. The demands, the problems and the payoffs for increased efficiency are all larger as your responsibility grows; you must learn to apply proper techniques or be bettered by those who do. Possibly, the reason Time Management is poorly practised is that it so seldom forms a measured part of appraisal and performance review; what many fail to foresee, however, is how intimately it is connected to aspects which do.
Personal Time Management has many facets. Most managers recognize a few, but few recognize them all. There is the simple concept of keeping a well ordered diary and the related idea of planned activity. But beyond these, it is a tool for the systematic ordering of your influence on events, it underpins many other managerial skills such as Effective Delegation and Project Planning.
Personal Time Management is a set of tools which allow you to: eliminate wastage be prepared for meetings refuse excessive workloads monitor project progress allocate resource (time) appropriate to a task's importance ensure that long term projects are not neglected plan each day efficiently plan each week effectively
and to do so simply with a little self-discipline.
Since Personal Time Management is a management process just like any other, it must be planned, monitored and regularly reviewed. In the following sections, we will examine the basic methods and functions of Personal Time Management. Since true understanding depends upons experience, you will be asked to take part by looking at aspects of your own work. If you do not have time to this right now - ask yourself: why not?
What this article is advocating is the adoption of certain practices which will give you greater control over the use and allocation of your primary resource: time. Before we start on the future, it is worth considering the present. This involves the simplistic task of keeping a note of how you spend your time for a suitably long period of time (say a week). I say simplistic since all you have to do is create a simple table, photocopy half-a-dozen copies and carry it around with you filling in a row every time you change activity. After one week, allocate time (start as you mean to go on) to reviewing this log.
We are not looking here to create new categories of work to enhance efficiency (that comes later) but simply to eliminate wastage in your current practice. The average IEE Chartered Engineer earns about 27,000 pounds per annum: about 12.50 pounds per hour, say 1 pound every 5 minutes; for how many 5 minute sections of your activity would you have paid a pound? The first step is a critical appraisal of how you spend your time and to question some of your habits. In your time log, identify periods of time which might have been better used.
There are various sources of waste. The most common are social: telephone calls, friends dropping by, conversations around the coffee machine. It would be foolish to eliminate all non-work related activity (we all need a break) but if it's a choice between chatting to Harry in the afternoon and meeting the next pay-related deadline ... Your time log will show you if this is a problem and you might like to do something about it before your boss does.
In your time log, look at each work activity and decide objectively how much time each was worth to you, and compare that with the time you actually spent on it. An afternoon spent polishing an internal memo into a Pulitzer prize winning piece of provocative prose is waste; an hour spent debating the leaving present of a colleague is waste; a minute spent sorting out the paper-clips is waste (unless relaxation). This type of activity will be reduced naturally by managing your own time since you will not allocate time to the trivial. Specifically, if you have a task to do, decide before hand how long it should take and work to that deadline - then move on to the next task.
Another common source of waste stems from delaying work which is unpleasant by finding distractions which are less important or unproductive. Check your log to see if any tasks are being delayed simply because they are dull or difficult.
Time is often wasted in changing between activities. For this reason it is useful to group similar tasks together thus avoiding the start-up delay of each. The time log will show you where these savings can be made. You may want then to initiate a routine which deals with these on a fixed but regular basis.
Doing Subordinate's Work
Having considered what is complete waste, we now turn to what is merely inappropriate. Often it is simpler to do the job yourself. Using the stamp machine to frank your own letters ensures they leave by the next post; writing the missing summary in the latest progress report from your junior is more pleasant than sending it back (and it lets you choose the emphasis). Rubbish!
Large gains can be made by assigning secretarial duties to secretaries: they regularly catch the next post, they type a lot faster than you. Your subordinate should be told about the missing section and told how (and why) to slant it. If you have a task which could be done by a subordinate, use the next occasion to start training him/her to do it instead of doing it yourself - you will need to spend some time monitoring the task thereafter, but far less that in doing it yourself.
Doing the work of Others
A major impact upon your work can be the tendency to help others with their's. Now, in the spirit of an open and harmonious work environment it is obviously desirable that you should be willing to help out - but check your work log and decide how much time you spend on your own work and how much you spend on others'. For instance, if you spend a morning checking the grammar and spelling in the training material related to you last project, then that is waste. Publications should do the proof-reading, that is their job, they are better at it than you; you should deal at the technical level.