Prioritizing and Managing Time and Workload more effectively
In the fourth of our series of dealing with some of the key issues commonly addressed during Executive Coaching Sessions and Leadership and Management Development Programmes, we look at how to prioritize and manage time and workload more effectively.
If you ask most executives what they would like more of, the response is often ‘time’. At Natural Talent ahead of any related Training or Coaching Sessions we ask clients to identify why they often find it difficult to plan, organize and manage their time effectively. Some of the reasons include:
- the sheer volume of work, emails, phone calls and interruptions
- we wait until a deadline approaches before we really get moving!
- we work on the basis of ‘who shouts loudest’, for example the person who is persistent gets attention, regardless of what they require
- we tend to tackle the small jobs before larger ones
In order to enable senior managers to free up time to plan and operate more strategically and align the workforce with the strategy and key objectives, we also examine how strategic thinking and organisational change can affect the planning process. In addition we look at how to address risks and review the most practical project management techniques.
To be able to improve planning, organizing and time management skills it is important first to change your attitude and behaviour, then start to utilise different approaches, tools and techniques, including the 10 Point Plan:
1. Analyse how you currently spend your time:
Use Time Logs or ‘phone apps to identify what you do in a ‘typical’ day and week; identify time wasters and start to address those. One manager discovered 3 hours each day she ‘lost’ on internet sites and social media; another realised he watched 3 hours of TV each evening and replaced that time by doing charity work and DIY.
2. Spend the maximum amount of time on what is important, not urgent, using the updated Ti-Mandi Window:
Some of the tasks which are most critical for success and yet commonly neglected include strategic thinking, deciding direction, project planning and scheduling, research, networking and building more effective working relationships, identifying a need for change, and reviewing and developing the strategy.
3. Manage interruptions, disruptions and any unproductive activity:
On average a manager is interrupted every 7 minutes. Planning, organizing and managing meetings, phone calls, emails and travel time more effectively can create time for strategic thinking. Most successful executives use their travel time to make calls, answer emails and read or prepare documents. Effective managers can be seen to avoid pointless routines or activities, reject ‘fire fighting’ mode, and constantly challenge habitual systems, processes and procedures.
4. Make lists of priorities and keep them updated:
It’s proven that senior managers are more effective if they focus on 5-6 key priorities with SMART objectives and a maximum of 3 associated KPIs. They should keep asking themselves: What needs to be done to keep moving in the strategic direction?
5. Finish one task before starting another:
If you stick to a scheduled, prioritised ‘To Do’ list, this should be easier to accomplish than it sounds.
6. Plan and Prepare and regularly block off time in your diary to Plan and Prepare
Use Outlook or the many new apps available to remind you of when to leave ‘task mode’ to plan and prepare, working ‘on’ the business not ‘in’ it.
7. Don’t procrastinate – JUST DO IT NOW!
Remember Parkinson’s Law: ‘A tasks perceived importance and complexity will grow in direct proportion to the time available for it’s completion’. In other words, if you put something off it starts to appear more difficult than it really is. Brian Tracy’s advice ‘Eat that Frog’, based on quotations by Mark Twain, recommends doing the hardest task first in the day so that anything else appears easier.
8. Build in 10 – 30 minutes ahead of tasks/external meetings/journeys:
If you do this you will find you create time by arriving earlier, your stress levels will lessen, and you will appear very much in control.
9. Plan for any likely crises:
Identify key areas of uncertainty and plan suitable responses; assess the likelihood and impact of potential crises and establish processes and procedures to follow. Be proactive and always have a Plan B.
10. Remember Pareto’s 80/20 Rule: 20% of effort delivers 80% of results:
This reminds you to identify and focus on the 20% that matters. Despite following the 10 Point Plan, if something in your schedule does slip, then make sure it’s not part of that important 20%.