Saturday, July 14, 2007

Management Part 3: Time Management - Scheduling Blocks of Time

One of the most common failures of managing time is finding that you do not have enough time for all of the things you want to do in a day. A simple step toward improving this is to schedule blocks of time in your calendar. If you are responsible for a weekly update to your boss, then block out the appropriate amount of time to complete the task the same day of the week each day of the week. For example, every Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. you are unavailable (with the exception of an emergency) while you complete your update. This approach to all of your reoccurring tasks is the first step in controlling your availability. Your employees will become used to this and respect it but you need to stick to it. If you are "on the floor" for most of your job you should schedule office time. For example, if you are a retail manager and you walk the floor most of your day you don’t have time to be in your office. However, you do have "office work" that must be completed. If it takes you 1.5 hours per day to complete this you could let the staff know that you will be in your office every day at 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. completing this work or every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. You should experiment with the days you schedule being in the office until you find the best balance.

Another tip is to pad your meetings. Unfortunately when you are in management you do not call the shots and are subject to meetings that run over their scheduled time because upper management has the same problem. Pad extra time to your meetings so if they run over you do not throw your entire day off. If you find you are done on time this is some extra time for you to catch up on email, voicemail or start on projects early. Another reason to pad is you cannot control everyone else’s time. Adding 15 extra minutes to scheduled meetings gives you some cushion if someone else is late. If you pad you will be able to start your next meeting on time and not be late. This can help maintain a professional appearance to prospects, potential employees and co-workers.

There are many tips that can help with managing your time. The above tips I believe are the most important in a management position and can make an immediate impact in your daily routine. You need to control your availability and schedule activities that you are responsible for. You need to carry this over to meetings with your employees so you send the message that you value their time as well as your own. I.e. schedule reviews and team meetings – don’t do them on the fly.

My last word of advice on this topic: If you are saying to yourself, "I have tried this and it does not work" or "my job is different and I don’t have time to be in the office", then you probably did not stick to it long enough or you did not customize it until it fit your needs. One common negative reaction to installing this into your work routine is your employees will not embrace it with open arms. Your employees are used to your current behavior and change disrupts their workday if they don’t see value in it. Take 20 minutes and have a team meeting explaining what you are going to do and how it will benefit your employees and yourself.

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