Reject Busy-ness

Time management in our overbooked, sound-bite world has almost become an empty buzz phrase.  Workloads are intense and expectations only grow.   I know that you have had at least one conversation recently with a coworker, friend or family member when you mentioned your crazy (or insert your own adjective here) workload.  But how much thought have you put into what makes it that way and what parts you can control?  Here are some questions for you to ponder.

What’s on your to-do list every day?  How much of it do you get done?  What are your major distractions?  How much control do you have over your day?  How much of that control do you abdicate?  Do you know how to prioritize your activities, what parameters should be applied?  Can you provide an accurate estimate of how long each of your regular tasks takes to complete?  Do you know what your high priority tasks are, based on department and/or company goals?

You are thinking to yourself, it isn’t my responsibility to think about this stuff, I just do what is put in front of me.  Think again if one of your objectives is to be an effective knowledge worker (and I assume it is since you are reading this post).  While it isn’t necessarily your responsibility to answer all of these questions above (unless you are the supervisor), it is your responsibility to answer some of them and to have enough details to intelligently discuss the remainder with your supervisor so that you can arrive at the correct answers together.

Accountability is a word that is heard quite a lot these days in most businesses and also a word that makes most employees groan.  But it is actually to your advantage to make sure you understand how your company defines accountability for your role.  Knowing the definition of accountability means that you will be certain to provide the value that you want to provide and is therefore part of your time management effort.

Identify your time vacuums

When are you just busy being busy?  (Were you starting to wonder when I’d tie in the title?)  What do you do that takes you longer to accomplish than it should, be honest you do have these things.  Maybe you have coworkers that use you as a crutch.  Maybe you have trouble finding all the items that you need to complete tasks (see ‘Chaos is a Style’).  Maybe you are taking on tasks that would be better completed by someone with more suitable competencies.

Whatever your time vacuums are, you need to be honest with yourself when you are listing these.  You don’t necessarily have to share these with anyone, unless it will help you to find a resolution.

Identify when the time spent exceeds the priority of the activity

There have been times in the past when you spent exponentially more time on a throw away task while the really important task on a short deadline sat waiting.  Ask yourself why?  Was it easier to do the low use task?  Notice I’m not saying simpler or harder task.

For instance if you have a list of accounts that are your responsibility, do you know which of these accounts are considered high value by your company?  Knowing this will allow you to set priorities based on high to low value accounts.

Identify when you are at your optimal performance – this is the time to schedule your high priority activities

Are you a morning person, better by mid-morning, ready to go after lunch?  More specifically, do you manage certain types of tasks better at certain points of the day?  Know yourself and leverage this optimal performance time to knock things off your to-do list.

Planning / Prioritizing

So now you need to take some action to apply your thoughts so far to help clear up your desk.  Using your preferred method – memory, written list, electronic aids you make a list of what you intend to accomplish that day, such as these broad categories below:

Emails

Periodic tasks

Regular tasks

Phone/Returning calls

Ongoing projects

Planning for next day, rest of the week

The next step is to prioritize the specific tasks that you have entered into the categories on this list.  Here is one method that I have seen, but using a method of your choosing gives you a greater chance of success:

Use letters first – A, B, C

Add a number after the letter – 1, 2, 3

So, as an example, your highest priority items will be As.  These should already have a timeline and deadline which most likely is near.  Items without set timelines or deadlines become C items.  If you have 3 ‘A’s, then you would decide which is A1, etc.

Remember once you promise, you have to deliver so under promise and over perform.

© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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