THANK GOODNESS IT’S MONDAY
IT’S TIME FOR SOME
COMMON-SENSE TIME MANAGEMENT
Wasn’t one of your 2010 resolutions to get more value from your time? Good!
So I can save a big hunk of time from the get-go and simply make the observation that, if we would start by applying some of the better time management principles that we’ve read and heard about from the beginning of time, we might have a solid foundation to build on.
Or maybe not.
Here’s a big catch: We’re all human, and with that “humanness” comes fallibility. But a great deal of the “classic” time management advice doesn’t seem to take that into account. It doesn’t allow room to be reasonable with our expectations for ourselves or others.
Human beings are not automatons – mindless, emotionless mechanical beings who perfectly carry out every task or order like clockwork. And we don’t perform at our best when we’re treated that way.
So let’s invest the rest of this TGIM time in reviewing and challenging golden-oldie thinking and investigating some strategic alternatives.
TGIM Time Challenge #1: Fast action pays off. We’re reminded time and again that it’s important to be decisive, keep meetings short, keep the ball rolling. Doing things quickly supposedly saves time.
Let me tell you a story: An executive in one of our client firms, desperate to do all these things, trained himself to be as brief as possible in meetings and abruptly cut through discussions with curt remarks like, “Get to the point” and “What’s your problem?”
By doing so he apparently saved time. But, as it turned out, he and his coworkers often had differing ideas of what had been decided and what would be done after a particular meeting.
Result: Fast action can slow results. Because of miscommunication, resolutions would inevitably become garbled and confused down the line. In the end the exec would spend twice the time that had been “saved” straightening out the mess.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Be clear about being clear. Stay alert for times when rushing the decision-making process might backfire. Be more intent on reaching sound decisions than with quickly dispatching meetings and the like. Take a little extra time, even when you’re sure you’ve reached the end and everyone concurs, to recap — and hear others recap — for the benefit of all, “Who will do what, when.”
TGIM Time Challenge #2: Priority vs. Interest. Many time-management experts place great emphasis on doing things in order of priority. And, as a rule we would all agree it makes sense. Between watering the garden or putting out a raging fire, the right “priority” choice for the person with a hose in their hand is clear.
Sometimes it’s better for people to do what they’re psychologically ready to do, even if it’s not the highest priority item. People are more interested in doing better, and therefore actually do better, when they’re able to follow their own “normal” routines rather than always being or feeling forced to do things strictly in some prioritized order of importance.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: All things being equal or almost equal, don’t force priorities onto the daily routine. Do what’s most interesting when it attracts you.
Added point: If you have the power to layout the agenda for others, allow them as much set-your-own-order leeway as possible, unless you can give them a compelling, high priority reason to do otherwise.
TGIM Time Challenge #3: Efficiency isn’t always “efficient.” Stopwatch toting time/motion study champions – the so-called efficiency experts – extol doing things in the most time-economic manner possible.
Sometimes doing things a little less efficiently is far more enjoyable and more beneficial in the long run.
Let’s take another “meeting” example: One exec we know could easily cut the time he spends in meetings, probably by half. But he usually doesn’t want to. He enjoys talking and listening. Although it seems less efficient, he feels he gets a more nuanced sense of what’s going on with his staff and in his company and that he’s a better leader and decision maker for that.
Added benefit: His employees like the relaxed atmosphere too. And without “this meeting will end in a half-hour, precisely” pressure, they feel free to raise issues that might otherwise go unaddressed.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Enjoy your time. And use more of your time for the things you enjoy. As Einstein pointed out, it’s relative. He really said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute.” I may not comprehend the math and the physics of relativity but that makes sense to me.
TGIM Takeaway: Good time management principles are not immutable laws that apply equally to every situation and every person. As a group we are all so varied that few prescriptions can cover everyone at all times. So, in the quest to maximize the value of your time, realize that principles are neither absolute nor infallible and apply them with commons sense and tact.
The only true test is to find what works for you over time. Experiment, then – providing it doesn’t waste the time of the others you interact with — go with what works for you.
Time to test that Einstein wisdom. I’ve no doubt about the stove part, so I’ll skip that. It’s on to part two.
Alexander Publishing & Marketing
8 Depot Square
Englewood, NJ 07631
P.S. “Time flies like an arrow … Fruit flies like a banana.” Julius Henry Marx (1890 – 1977) — the inimitable Groucho – is alleged to have said that.
P.P.S. You might also want to take a moment now to investigate some of the additional Secrets & Strategies in the Best Year Ever program. A key component is the section Got Time? Prioritize & Maximize Your 24/7/365. Click HERE.
GEOFF STECK leads Alexander Publishing & Marketing, a company he formed in 1986. The core AP&M mission: To create and publish leadership, sales mastery, self-improvement and workplace skill-building resources and tools. The focus: Areas such as business communication, staff support, customer care and frontline management. Geoff also puts his corporate and entrepreneurial experience, independent perspective, and skills as a catalyst to work for other firms (ranging from multinational corporations to more modest operations), not-for-profits, and individuals who have conceived or developed programs or initiatives but are frustrated in getting them implemented.