time management

December 21, 2010

10 Things for Managers To Do With a Spare Hour

There are those times when you’ve got your management act together when you reach those ‘One Minute Manager’ (Ken Blanchard) moments.

In the first book of the series (there are lots of great follow-ups), our star manager ensures that he’s able to spend a fair bit of time gazing out of the window because all the plates are spinning perfectly, with the minimal of intervention.

So, when you’re in that place with your management performance, what to do?

Here are ten ideas that you might want to consider when you are able to devote a spare hour to any activity you choose. The list is, of course, not exhaustive and you will have some favorites of your own.

That said, if you never have time to spare, taking a look at some of these will help you make that time, because the outcomes they will tend to produce will be constructive in magnifying the available time you have.

So, what’s not to like about these?

1. Pick an item to delegate – finding something that you permanently do NOT need to do yourself is a good first step. Second is to find someone who genuinely will benefit from doing that task. Thirdly, take the time to explain why you are delegating to them and the outcome you are looking for (don’t necessarily tell them how!).

2. Say ‘thank yous’ – just get out there and catch your people doing something right and thank them for it. This one is really simple and extremely productive.

3. Take an alternative view – ask yourself what would happen to a situation if you took exactly the opposite course of action than you have a current tendency towards. Just wonder about it a little.

4. Go and listen – get into easy conversations with your people and spend much more (90%) of the time in the conversation listening and work at just 10% of hearing your own voice.

5. Ask for help – go seek someone else’s help with a problem you are challenged with.

6. Ask for feedback – simple as it says – go off and ask someone on your team how you did with something recently. Listen to what they say, discipline yourself to NOT make excuses, if it isn’t positive. Just listen, absorb and thank then for their honesty. Feedback is a gift.

7. Be nosy – go poke around where your people work – not with personal stuff, but find out what they’re working on and ask questions that will help them tell you more about it (and then listen a lot – of course!).

8. Take a walk – yep, it’s time to ‘leave the building’. Spend a little time (you have an hour I’m giving you, right?) and go for a walk. No, there’s no catch!

9. Ask a customer – work out a way to interact with a customer or client informally. It might be a chat on the shopfloor. It might need a phone call to a random client. Whatever, just go for it and – you got it – listen!

10. Ring yourself – as a final challenge to your customer/client service, take a chance and ring into your own business, ask for yourself and test the experience. You will find it a revealing and, hopefully, a rewarding experience, even when you find out that your line is engaged!

How much fun is that? Instead of filling that hour with other ‘stuff’, you qualify all of these activities for that very productive ‘Quadrant 2’ as defined by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Important and not Urgent.

All the more valuable and value-creating because of that.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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October 10, 2010

Keeping Sane – Influencing What You can

Life is busy. We have many things on our plate – too many most of us would say. And at times it can seem overwhelming.

So often there are issues we face that challenge us, often many times a day – and frequently shift our perspective, making what are relatively trivial issues magnified, such that they can easily consume us.

Much of what happens in our lives can be adjusted by the choices we make. So often a choice we make is a choice that we might make almost unconsciously, especially where we decline to make a difficult one, because the consequences of making it might be tough.

Then there are the times we spend considering and wringing our hands about circumstances over which we have no choices at all, because there are no actions we could take that are within our sphere of influence.

So we waste much of our time thinking about things that are completely outside what we can change, whatever we do.

We spend time there because it’s less controversial to be there, rather in the thick of issues where we can make real differences to our lives, because it’s easier to whine about external, uninfluenceable issues, than it is to face into areas that we could challenge.

But doing that is hard. So we bottle it and spend time blaming the rest of the world.

Sometimes, the people we associate with in our lives – and particularly where we manage others, the employees we have in our teams – lay on us their problems and issues they have in their lives that they cannot control, making their lives so seemingly awful.

The tactic here is to ensure that we encourage them simply to focus on those issues where a difference can be made and spend as little time as possible in those places where we can’t. And we do the same with our issues too.

Then we create more space to be much more productive and effective and take control, rather than waste our available time in that hole where we can – if we choose – wallow about what the world is doing to us.

As managers, we can model our ability to focus only on areas we can influence to our people too, encouraging them to be much more relevant with their thinking and then actions.

Above all, remembering that it’s a choice.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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November 5, 2009

Managing Time – It’s Up To You!

Those who are successful with managing their time often discipline themselves, especially at the start, sometimes by setting up their own time management goals.

This helps to change unproductive behaviors to be much more valuable. By initially focusing on getting rid of the most time wasting activities and then setting very specific goals on being constructive with time, effective managers often create much more space for themselves.

Reviewing progress towards effective time management goals will help track how successful the efforts have been.

There are plenty of tools to use for effective time management these days, from precise software or other proprietary tools. You could even simply just write down what you want to get done and what you are going to do with your time and see what that brings you.

By prioritizing goals and tasks for the day the most important tasks are likely to be done properly. Determining which tasks are crucial to be accomplished and which ones can be done another time – or even better, delegated, it’s possible to make much more out of the available time.

Once a routine for tasks is established, sticking to it becomes very productive indeed for managers.

Try setting time limits for certain tasks such as reading and answering e-mails during your day and using organized office systems, because by being able to access information easily, it will become easier and easier to save plenty of time.

And if you find yourself waiting for an appointment, there’s always time to catch up with your Blackberry.

Then again, now that you are so organized with managing your time, maybe you could just relax, safe in the knowledge that for once, at last, you really do have a little time to spare.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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October 19, 2009

Finding the Time with Red Circles

Ask any manager and they will tell you one of the biggest challenges they have, is the time that seems to always be filled.

A manager’s life is, indeed, a busy one.

The opportunity is to understand exactly what is important enough to occupy your time, and what really isn’t.

There are vital activities in a manager’s life that often get shunted to the back of the queue.

So often, these are the activities that are the ones that actually are critical to success.

These are activities like coaching, developing individuals and team, planning, relationship building and more of the like.

Managers find it tough to make time for these because there is always so much ‘more important’ stuff to do!

Yet a small investment of available time in each week will make more progress in reducing that level of urgency in some of your less productive activities.

It’s just a question of how!

That ‘more important’ stuff just isn’t that important in the big picture, it is, for some reason more demanding – some might say ‘urgent’ – and it needs to decrease.

So, take out a red pen, check your diary or your calendar, find one hour (you need to be withdrawn from your urgency addiction slowly!) and circle it.

This is your hour for the non-urgent and yet vital times in your week.

In week two, find two hours, with an initial target of 4 hours a week.

The red circles are impenetrable times where you find a quiet spot and get on with the bigger work you do.

Not the impositions on your time that are maybe someone else’s problem; nice things to do; fire-fighting and more.

When you show the courage and focus to make this investment in yourself and your development, you will quickly reap the benefits.

Filed under Blog, Managing Me by Martin

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December 1, 2008

Time Management A-Z For Anyone!

Allow time for keeping your desk tidy

Build large projects up slowly, with one doable task at a time

Choose your team members effectively

Delegate everything that someone could do at least as well as (if not better than) you

Exercise for 30 minutes every day (sharpens brain activity)

Find people who are great at the jobs you hate and let them have fun!

Gather all the information you need before you start a project

Handle each piece of paper only once

Introduce flexible working and lead from the front – do it yourself too

Jump around tasks much less – do one thing at a time

Keep some time for yourself each day, just to chill

Lock your door when you want to concentrate

Meetings must be focused and produce value for everyone

No” always creates space in your day

Open up delegated tasks by telling them ‘what’ you want and leaving them alone to work out ‘how’

Prepare a contingency plan when things don’t work out

Quit doing anything that is not 100% effective (or value-creating)

Recognise and reward the good work of others

Set SMART goals

Talk less, listen more

Unclear communication wastes more of your time than anything else

Take holidays without fail

Worrying never did anyone any good

Xerox ideas from anywhere and use them where you can

You must learn what’s important and what isn’t (not always what you think…)

Zero in on whatever (or whoever) wastes your time

Filed under Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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