The CEO is always in meetings. The VP is out of the office. The Director is dealing with strategic plans. The Manager is putting out fires. The Supervisor is shooting from the hip.
It seems as if no one has time to really do the job as well as they had hoped
Everyone is overworked today. The demands on the job outweigh the demands of the job. But finding the time to execute your job responsibilities IS a critical skill. Time is a precious commodity, and to grow talent, develop leaders, teach others, mentor, train, and lead by example, you need to manage how you use it. The best managers at every level in an organization spend a significant amount of their time developing others. That means that the best managers know how to organize their time and prioritize their tasks.
I know – the client is important. The boss expects this right away. Your employees however, are why you are a manager (unless you manage a project and not people)! If you are the professional who often stays late, brings work home frequently, and still goes from one crisis to another with little time to plan, coach your people and leverage their talent, it may not be the job.
It might be you.
Emergency room workers are always in crisis mode. The focus of the job is on the ill and injured who come through the door. It can be impossible to plan from one minute to the next, let alone from one day to the next, because an emergency is by definition a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence requiring immediate action.
Yet even the folks in the emergency room develop staff, complete reports, stock supplies, meet with others for training and consultations and understand that their job is made up of all of those things, not just the people who enter in need of care.
So what can you do?
You can step up and master the skills that allow you to excel as a manager.
List It – The well known ‘to-do’ list keeps track of the things that are important to get done. It’s an itemized record of your intentions. Without one, you are depending on your memory. In addition to listing what you need to do and want to do, prioritize the list so that you are taking care of the most important things first. Large tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks – specific actionable steps insure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
Align Actions with Goals – Goals provide the destination that you are aiming towards. Knowing where you want to go is a critical step in aligning actions. It’s useful to know what tasks get you where you want to go and what tasks might lead you down a path that isn’t important.
Just Say “No” – Some people take on too much. Too many commitments can lead to stress and poor performance. You don’t have to over commit to prove you are terrific; you just have to complete things successfully, and on time. If you are the type of person who says ‘yes’ first and regrets it later, learn the phrase “Let me check and see if that will be possible.”
Delegate – Do the things ONLY you can do and leverage the talent of others. Delegation does require time (planning, motivating, meeting, teaching, training, coaching, and follow-up) but that’s a huge part of the job of being a manager. Don’t let yourself become, as one client describes it – “the single point of failure.” (I recommend the HBR classic Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey by William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass).
Recognize Distractions – Emails, the folks who knock and open the door at the same time, asking for ‘just a minute,’ unexpected phone calls, and hallway conversations can steal precious minutes that add up to a large chunk of time. Know what pulls your attention off its focus and learn the discipline needed to take charge. You can even plan time for such activities each day, but with more control.
Know Your Biology – Are you a morning person? Do you get a burst of energy at 2:00 pm? Schedule tasks to coincide with your energy levels. High value or creative work is best done when your juices are really flowing. Return calls and check mail when you are not so energized.
Stop Multitasking – Doing many things at once may make you feel like you are getting a lot done, but studies show that multitasking produces more errors. Tasks get done, but they are not done well.
Try the Procrastination 10 – Give yourself ten minutes to begin a task that you dread. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get things underway.
Take a Break – Marathon sessions are not good for the body or the mind. Break things up with a rest or alternative activity for a short amount of time. Set a time and allow yourself a walk, an errand, a snack, or phone call. Even 5 minutes every 2 hours is enough to provide a bit of a rest.
Plan for Real Life
We all work in our own emergency rooms. Step up to the job and run yours right.