It seems that our lives are moving faster than they ever have. How often have we remarked to a co-worker about “how fast the time has flown by”, or hear someone say “Where did the time go?”
After training thousands of managers and leaders in the past 20 years, I have seen one common trend that seems to be spiraling downward for anyone charged with leading others at work: How to get more done in the day. This common thread impacts just about everyone in the organization, but it is especially impacted by managers, because of the influence they have on their teams. Not only is poor time management affecting a manager’s personal productivity… It is impacting their staff, their teams and the organization as a whole.
Challenges Managers Face Today
This entire problem is exacerbated by the world we live in today. Never, at any other point in human history, have we had as much communication technology as we have today. We get text messages coming at us, emails, tweets, Facebook notices, phone calls, voice messages. It’s all happening in present time. As a consequence, it is making everything Urgent.
Yet, for a manager to rise above the fray, they must ardently focus on the Most Important, Not Just Urgent Activities.
Why This is a Problem
It is truly staggering to learn about the extent of time management challenges today. Shirley Fine Lee (“the Meeting Wizard”) has compiled an extensive list. Below please find some of the more pertinent ones for managers:
- 20% of the average workday is spent on “Crucial” and “Important” things, while 80% of the average workday is spent on things that have “little value” or “no value”.
- A manager on average spends 3 hours each day on interruptions.
- When an interruption occurs, it takes 10-15 minutes to get back on track with your train of thought afterwards. Therefore 4 interruptions in a day can mean the loss of an hour in concentration.
- Most managers spend up to 10 hours a week in meetings, and 90% say more than half that time is wasted.
- Microsoft found that in the USA, 42% of people cited procrastination, 39% picked lack of team communication and 35% chose ineffective meetings among the top time wasters.
- 63% of the time, typical meetings in America do not have prepared agendas.
- A Wall Street Journal article suggested that following a detailed agenda and starting on time would reduce the time managers spend in meetings by 80%.
How Managers Make Matters Worse
The primary task of anyone in a leadership role is to Help Others Succeed. Yet, I simply don’t know how a manager can do that if they are not focused on the most important things they need to do to help their teams be successful.
On one hand, managers may express a need for “employees to be more productive”. Yet, be unaware how their own lack of time management skills can be hindering the productivity of their employees. Managers, themselves, may complain that they don’t have enough trained and capable people to delegate to. Or they may be a “working manager”, with their own work to do and that other “leadership stuff” is just added to their already full schedule.
Managers may unwittingly be sabotaging the productivity of their employees by some of their own poor time management skills, such as:
- Lack of Priorities: While many managers will pay attention to the organizational priorities that may be passed down to their department, they very easily get distracted and don’t focus on their most important leadership priorities to help their team achieve those goals. This means they are focusing on all the Urgent things that come up, instead of disciplining themselves to schedule time to do the Important things like planning and coaching their people to succeed.
- Avoiding a “to do” list: Many managers may not be using any kind of to-do list to help them plan to accomplish their most important activities. While daily “to do” lists can help keep track of activities to accomplish, weekly ones can be even better to help prioritize the most important action items for the week.
- Failing to Delegate: Many managers will find themselves overwhelmed because they have not learned what, how and who to delegate to. As a result, they are trying to do everything and find themselves doing the work that staff members should be doing instead.
- Procrastination: When a decision is difficult and/or a manager is not sure what to do, a common approach is to procrastinate on it. Then, as a result, a crisis will occur because there is not enough time to get it done. This can be especially frustrating for team members who must then rush to meet a deadline, with a much poorer quality of work as a result.
- Too many ineffective meetings: As the statistics above illustrate, there is great room for improvement here. For meetings to be effective, key guidelines should be in place and adhered to consistently. One other common problem is that many times too many people are invited who don’t even need to attend. Meetings should be held when a decision needs to be made, not when just information is to be shared. Other forms of communication waste much less time to just share information.
- Not Spending Enough Time to Plan: If a manager is constantly focusing on the Urgent activities, the Important things like planning and preparation lose their focus. As a result, additional problems are created and much more time is involved to solve them or do the work over.
Solving the Time Management Trap
When any leader of people is not managing their time well, the consequences include an abundance of wasted time, significant loss of productivity and increase in manager/staff frustration! Everyone impacted can feel burdened, discouraged and experience a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, it is a fixable problem. Here are some tips that might help you:
- First, diagnose what your unique time management challenges are. They could include things like Prioritizing, Planning, Delegating, Meetings, Procrastinating, etc. Target your unique challenges first. As any doctor would do, diagnose before you prescribe.
- Look for resources that best fit your unique needs. If you don’t have time to attend a one-day time management class, look for an online tool or virtual class that will best meet your schedule.
- Create a plan to target your unique challenges. Research what tips and techniques might help you in the areas where you struggle.
Productivity Tips eBook
This eBook is full of helpful time management tips and techniques that can provide suggestions for some of the the areas where you may struggle. It will address:
- 4 categories every activity will fall in
- 5 deadly traps impacting time on a team
- 8 tips for managing interruptions at work
- 5 steps for overcoming procrastination
Susan Cullen is President of Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc. She doesn’t just teach enhanced productivity and leadership, she lives it. She’s known for designing and facilitating targeting learning solutions that meet her client’s real-world needs, while becoming a trusted partner in the process. For over 20 years, Susan has developed a variety of classroom based, virtual and on-demand programs for leadership and management development. She is consistently a top Award-Winning partner with Wiley Publishing (publisher of the highly acclaimed Everything DiSC assessments and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team programs), and a co-author of the book “101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career”.
For more information to increase your personal or organizational productivity, please feel free to contact:
Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc.