Whenever I ask anyone in business how they are, the answer is nearly always that they are busy, tired or juggling too many priorities. No-one ever says they are calm, in control or underworked! The reasons for this, as everyone dashes off to the next meeting with their eyes glued to the latest message on their smartphone, will be the subject of another blog (when I have time to write it).
How any of use our time is of course a matter for us. If you are a leader or manager, however, then we can’t afford to be so insular. The thing about time management for managers is that how we use our time directly affects the ability of our team to do their job.
Typically, 70% of a manager’s time can be described as ‘unplanned’. That’s a bit of a problem for a person whose job is supposed to be all about organising and planning the work of others. Traditional time management solutions tend to be about avoiding interruptions by finding increasingly eccentric ways of keeping people away: some I’ve come across more than once include saving time by holding our meetings standing up, or putting time limits on people’s contributions; putting ‘do not disturb’ signs on your office door as you sit down to meet a deadline; or working at home to avoid interruptions.
Some of these tactics may work in the short-term to recover from a backlog of work, but they are counterproductive. While we’re doing all this not only is our own work piling up but our staff are probably having problems, or ideas, or experiences that they need to share with us. So they are left wondering what to do, or feeling frustrated because we don’t have time for them. They are waiting for information or permission or involvement. Only we’re not available to work with them because we’re trying to avoid interruptions (in other words, trying to avoid them).
There is an alternative, and it’s this: if we stop trying to keep parcels of time in which we can do our work and focus on being a manager instead. If we don’t have time to manage we’re not managing! So find ways to involve your team in your work, at the highest level they are capable of. Share your objectives with them, ask for their input, get them alongside as you deal with the strategic thinking necessary to achieve your team or company goals. Accept that they will need your time and embrace the fact by making sure that the time you spend with them is useful, developmental for both of you and aimed at strategic essentials such as planning, preparation, coaching, delegation, idea generation and evaluation.
That way you’ll still be spending 70% of your time with them but it will feel very different and be more productive for everyone. Your team will gain confidence, spend less time waiting for you and more time contributing.
When I was given my first Director level position I was also given a PA. I thought that was pretty cool until one day she asked me if she could have a word. Actually, six: “You are making my job impossible!” She was supposed to be organising me, but she couldn’t do it because I kept my own diary, didn’t keep her informed of my ‘to do’ list and kept doing things myself, and not as well as she could do them. So we arranged a weekly half-hour meeting that gave her all the information she needed to ‘manage’ me. I became more effective and she was finally able to do her job. My time management had a real impact on hers.