How are you managing your time? Are you waiting for breaks in the day to appear to tackle your projects? Do you constantly feel interrupted or in a start-stop pattern of work flow?
For most people, this is probably a daily occurrence. All it takes is one email or phone call to bump you out of your zone.
This was also an issue of one of my clients looking to maximize his productivity and efficiency. He found that during his day, he would start a project that needed two hours and would get interrupted half way through with an emergency. After putting out the fire, he would return to the project, but without the same energy and focus leaving him feeling frustrated.
“What should I do?” he asked me.
We looked at his overall schedule on a normal weekly basis and focused on the average time spent over a week in percentages in different categories:
Company Meetings - 20%
Employee One-On-One Meetings – 20%
Technical Troubleshooting – 20%
Project Time- 40%
Once we had the percentage, we were able to see that on a daily basis he only had about 2.5 hours a day to work on projects. He was stunned to see how much of his day was redirected to non-project work, but understood based on his management responsibilities.
Then we looked at average flow of his day as most meetings were pre-scheduled and reoccurring at the same time. After sketching it out, we found a potential solution. Between 10am and 1pm, he typically felt a slowdown from outside demands.
“What if you could schedule your project time the same way your meetings get scheduled?”
“But what if someone needs me?” he asked.
“What would happen if one of your team members was super focused on a project and you needed them for something?”
“Well they would wait until they had a natural break to call me back.” he responded. “So, I can do what everyone else on my team does?”
“Why couldn’t you?”
It was like a switch had been flicked. He could set up his schedule to get his team members and his own needs met.
I have a meeting with him later today to see how his two weeks on his new schedule went and I’ll let you know how it went.
What can you take away from this?
1) Look at your time as a whole over a longer period of time to determine your average time spent
2) Highlight the priority activity that isn't being served
3) Map out an average day and identify the natural dips of time or where you could build a gap.
4) Plug it into your calendar and keep the standing meeting with yourself and that activity
5) Shift your mindset - by serving yourself, you are better able to show up for your team
Yesterday we had a session and the new scheduling tool was a big hit! Once he knew how much time it took to get tasks done, his anxiety decreased dramatically and his feeling of power as a leader soared.
He admitted it was tedious to think about tasks by the minute, but overall it helped him project manage his day. He also found, by blocking his time out, he could delay a non-critical response until he had a natural break in the process.
When we first addressed the issue of time management, I asked him on a scale of 1-10 (1-low, 10-high) how he thought he was doing. Three weeks ago, he said 3. Yesterday he said 7!
After our discussion, four steps emerged from this process:
Step 1: Get the specifics. If you don’t know the specifics, the task is too obscure or large. Chisel it down to steps you can accomplish and know how much time it will take.
Step 2: Plug it into a bigger picture calendar. Use an app or online calendar to do so and make sure you check your calendar before agreeing to a new project or task.
Step 3: Stick to the plan. There’s no point in spending all of that time planning, if you’re not going to get any use out of it. Following your calendar as if the project blocks are scheduled meetings with another colleague.
Step 4: Communicate your wins and boundaries to colleagues. When everyone gets on the same page and is consistent with respecting time, it can open a door of trust and collaboration while decreasing stress and anxiety.