The time problem
It’s 5 o’clock and it’s decision time. You have worked hard all day and yet there’s more to be done before you can go home. What do you do? You could stay another hour or two and finish that outstanding report, or some of those other jobs you have been putting off, but really need to be done. Does staying late mean you are loyal and committed to the company? Or does it mean you are an inefficient procrastinator, who is poor at prioritising and can’t meet deadlines?
On the other hand, if you leave now, you will get home at a reasonable time, and be able to spend time with the family. But if you leave on time, are you a clock-watcher who is not a team player and is always leaving early or are you a highly organised and focused individual, who has the ability to concentrate on the important tasks, and balance the demands of work and home – an example to us all?
Law of Diminishing Returns
Research shows that the amount of time a manager works is not directly related to his or her usefulness to the company. Our effectiveness at work cannot be maintained over a long period without sufficient rest. For example, our state of mind is a significant factor in our ability to make high quality decisions, and this in turn is strongly influenced by our level of tiredness and physical well-being. We cannot escape the law of diminishing returns unless we take regular breaks.
We can, however, ensure we make best use of the time available. A recent survey by the Institute of Business Technology found that managers received 75% more information than they needed in order to do their jobs. Also, office workers pick up the same piece of paper 3 or 4 times before doing anything with it. The result for an organisation is paperwork can be handled up to 30 times before any action is taken!
We can make a contribution to improving our management of time by: –
- Only touching paperwork when we are ready to take action
- Scheduling blocks of prime time to concentrate on high value tasks
- Valuing our colleague’s time by checking they need the information we are giving
- Not interrupting colleagues’ concentration and instead scheduling mutually convenient times for discussions
No matter how much we do or how well we do it, at some point we have to answer the question: “How will I know when I’ve done enough for the day?” Maybe its customers seen, widgets produced or reports written. Yet imagine Shakespeare judging the quality of his work by how long he had sat at his desk and the number of words he had written.
What is being measured here is productivity and efficiency. But without a measure of effectiveness, you are measuring quantity, not quality; doing things right is not necessarily doing the right thing.
The 7 P’s
Effectiveness is the accomplishment of goals that contribute to the success of the organisation. It requires us to focus on what is important in the long term rather than what is urgent today. Highly effective managers are characterised by spending up to 80% of their time on the 7 P’s: –
- Pursuing new opportunities
- Promoting empowering relationships
- Preserving their own well-being
- Personal development
Becoming more disciplined about the use of time is learned gradually. However, be warned, it may seem like the moment you set out to change your working habits, your in-tray will swell to twice it’s normal size and a dozen ‘urgent’ tasks will arrive out of nowhere.
You could think of these as opportunities to test you resolve–to test your commitment to doing it differently. At times like this it can really help to take a moment to ask: “What can I do now that would have the greatest effect in the long term?”
Acting on the honest answer to this question will not only improve your effectiveness, it will boost your self-esteem and personal integrity… the foundation of true success.
Till Next Time
The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner