You’ve got actions and tasks flying at you from all directions right? You always seem to be the go to person for anything and everything. Your organiser gets full on a daily basis and you often don’t know how you find the time to get through the day. Sometimes you are working longer hours, giving up your tea breaks, dropping meetings or conversations to chip away at that list.
I was exactly the same, asking what are some strategies for time management, then I started to read various literature on how to be more effective at managing my time, started to experiment with various techniques and started to find I had more time to spend on the things that mattered, that made me more effective in the workplace.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ― Michael Altshuler
We all have 24 hours in day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. But do you ever wonder how some people have time to fit these things in or seem to have much more time than you? Keep reading because I promise if you apply some of these techniques below you will start clearing time from your busy schedule.
Understand where your time goes
The first step, you need to go into fine detail what activities you complete on a daily basis and I even mean listening to Pete from accounts moan at you for 5 minutes about the state of the canteen for the third time that week or printing off paperwork for your supervisor to use. What we need to understand is, where do all these tasks sit in terms of importance for you.
One of the first, and probably one of the best, business books that I read, which I will also touch on in being proactive, is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. He devised a simple table in which you can categorise all of your tasks, this is set out into 4 quadrants.
Once you have created your list of activities, have a go at putting them into these 4 quadrants. Ideally you should aim to working in as much of quadrant 2 as possible as these are the biggest benefits you will reap. You are more likely than not going to have many quadrant 1 tasks and if your work is anything like mine you will struggle to ever get rid of all of these tasks as day to day crisis commonly occur that require your input.
Mainly though, the aim of this activity is to reduce or even eliminate the tasks and activities in quadrant 3 and 4. How? Well, firstly you must have courage.
‘Courage – the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery’
Without courage you will never be effective at time management. This is the courage to say no, courage to let meaningless relationships wither, courage to politely request they need to speak to someone else, courage to stop working on a lost cause, courage to delegate. Courage rather than analysis should dictate how you prioritize your activities.
What to do with the activities that don’t lie in quadrant 2
- Stop talking to time wasters
- Let ineffective tasks lie
- Don’t waste your time scrolling through pictures of someone else’s dinner on social media
- Ask yourself whether you are making meaningful contributions to meetings you attend (I dropped many of these)
- Direct your spare time to quadrant 2 don’t fill the time with unnecessary activities – can you get ahead with tomorrow’s work?
- Understand what you can delegate down or even up
One of the most effective ways to reduce the activities in your diary is to say no. Not just say no for the sake of it or because you don’t really want to do it. We all need to complete tasks which aren’t to our flavour. There are good and bad reasons to say no. In Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit, he outlines some great questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to take on or even drop a task.
- What projects do you need to abandon or postpone?
- What meetings will you no longer attend?
- What resources do you need to divert to the Yes?
- What expectations do you need to manage?
- What relationships will you let wither
- What habits do you need to break?
- What old stories or dated ambitions do you need to update?
- What beliefs about yourself do you need to let go of?
There should be a systematic approach to your decision to say no. Not just for sake of it or because you don’t particularly like someone or you were stressed and overwhelmed. You could also miss out on an opportunity. So here are some good and bad reasons to say yes and no.
Delegation for leaders
During my continuous improvement black belt training I was introduced to something called the Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum of leadership. While researching this theory, it also showed a great tip on how to free time up in our busy schedules.
The more of a subordinate leadership style that you can accommodate, the more time you can spend in quadrant 2. As you start to delegate and abdicate some of those activities in your diary, you will start to free your time for other activities. Me and you both know its not just that easy to start delegating tasks out to your subordinates. This where coaching, mentoring and training comes in and why you will notice a theme in my posts in how much I value engaging with my team to bring them to a higher level of operation. So it may take time at first, but again there are never any quick fix mastery techniques that will allow you complete a soft skill. It takes time.
So list all the tasks and activities you do on a daily basis, segregate them into the 4 quadrants, have the courage to change how much of quadrant 3 and 4 you can eradicate, ask yourself exactly why you are completing some of the tasks you already have and say no to the ones which don’t tick the boxes for you.
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Thanks for the feedback Ian 😀
A well written piece and easy to read, I look forward to further contributions Dan
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