- TIME MANAGEMENT
- TIME WASTERS
- PLAN YOUR TIME
- TIME SAVERS
- MODERN TOOLS FOR EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT
- MYTHS OF TIME MANAGEMENT
- HEALTH AND TIME
- SALIENT FEATURES CHAPTER WISE
- ANALYSE YOUR TIME
- TIPS ON TIME MANAGEMENT
- TIME MANAGEMENT QUIZ
- Multiple choices with diagnostic feed-back
- PUBLISHERS NOTE
“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them”— Dion Boucicault
Since we plan to plug time leakages, we can first identify some of the common points of time leakage:
3. Lack of delegation (over- centralization)
4. Lack of organization/planning
5. Lack of self discipline
6. Day Dreaming/Gossip/Perfectionism
7. Unproductive Social Functions
8. Misdirected conferences/meetings
9. Inability to say ‘No’
We can all add to this brief list, based on our own experience. Meanwhile, it may be worthwhile to examine each of the above time wasters in greater detail.
TIME WASTERS – PROCRASTINATION
“Procrastination is the thief of time” goes the old adage. Few people can resist the urge to put off doing something till later – thus leaving it undone. Kabir exhorted us to do today what we would do tomorrow, and then go and do it now. NIKE sports shoes tell this Generation Next to JUST DO IT. The important thing is to make a start, overcome inertia. Set yourself deadlines, and then reward yourself after a job is done… the ‘feel-good’ factor at work. It becomes a habit, a good one. May be we can banish procrastination if we dissect it, and analyze why many people procrastinate:
1. Useful activity but dislike it
2. Having fun now, will do it later
3. Afraid of failure (too scared to start climbing the mountain)
4. Fear of success (complacency; fear additional burdens of success i.e. promotion, responsibilities, loss of friendships/relationships)
5. Confrontation (“I’ll do it when I want, not when others want me to do it”— paranoid reaction)
6. Perfectionism (“It has to be 100%”) – linked to © above
7. Assertiveness (“If I act now, I shall reveal my weakness/dependence” – inferiority complex).
8. Control (“immediate compliance will undermine my importance, people will start taking me for granted”)
9. Inertia (too lazy to attempt it)
10. Insecurity (“I need more data, more consultations”)
11. Inflexibility (“I lose my option to act differently later on”)
Applying the above factors objectively to ourselves will help us to reconcile ourselves to our own shortcomings, and kindle awareness to avoiding these pitfalls in future – saving time in the process.
TIME WASTERS – INDECISION
This is a major time waster, also known as the policy of drift.
Victims of this malady feel time will take care of things,
an attitude often disastrous for organizations
and suicidal for careers. It is better to take a rapid,
reasoned decision, as this leaves sufficient time to
amend it if events prove it needs modification(s).
Snap decisions, without proper thought and assessment
of pros and cons, of course, are not advisable. Strong managers never hesitate to change their minds, as they have no other considerations apart from organizational wellbeing. This approach is particularly useful in crises (both avoidable and unavoidable).
LACK OF DELEGATION
An over-centralized, bureaucratic system will invariably mean a slow decision-to-implementation process,
however, cannot be delegated, and delegater must creatively monitor delegater, and own mistakes as his own.
TIME WASTERS – LACK OF organization / PLANNING / PRIORITIES
At all hierarchical levels, simple aids to better organization e.g. roll-over daily task lists (undone jobs carried over to next day’s page), long-term objective lists, checklists, diaries, weekly planners etc., can go a long way to getting tasks disposed of quickly/systematically. A well-planned and executed today means a better planned/executed & stress-free tomorrow, without attempting too much too soon.
TIME WASTERS – UNPRODUCTIVE SOCIAL FUNCTIONS
High dignitaries unable to resist the call of social invitations inevitably find little time for family, are left with
unwanted social contacts impinging on office time, suffer from lack of sleep/stress etc
Ability to delegate/prioritize would enable many a dignitary to recapture lost hours, and invest them better at home, office, health club or golf course.
TIME WASTERS – MISDIRECTED CONFERENCES/ MEETINGS
Anyone who has attended a badly organized meeting or conference knows the frustration of time wastage.
Meetings are often held without a clear purpose/incomplete agenda; people arrive late, there are numerous Interruptions, no clear decisions emerge, and minutes (if any) are circulated late. Hundreds of executive man-hours are lost. Better written/oral communications, and strong reporting systems, can obviate the need for frequent meetings.
TIME WASTERS – LACK OF SELF DISCIPLINE
This can result in too many/too long phone calls, daydreaming, gossip, (the bug of) perfectionism, diverting office time to personal work. It is necessary to curtail the tendency to view the day as one’s own rather than paid for
by the employer…in return for results.
Hallmarks of a well-run office/establishment are:
Early disposal of work on daily basis. Nothing pending
Routine going smoothly – little fuss and chatter
Calm and uncluttered, filing not picking up
Follow up and feedback meticulously in progress
Obviously high level of self-discipline of staff
High morale/esprit de corps.
TIME WASTERS – INABILITY TO SAY ‘NO’
This will cost the sufferer heavily for needless burdens thrust onto him/accepted by him, especially subordinates exercising upward Delegation. This will result in over-work, poor time management, stress etc
TIME WASTERS – INTERRUPTIONS
Incoming telephone calls and drop-in visitors can steal valuable time. Convey that you are hard pressed for time, try to reschedule through appointment / callback route.
An effective secretary can play an invaluable role here by screening/giving appointments, calling back etc. For those without a Secretary, an answering machine can be a good alternative in this respect.
PLAN YOUR TIME
Planning by objectives
“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”—–John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“It is not enough to be busy, the question is, what are you busy about.” — Henry David Thoreau.
Planning is an essential prerequisite to action. It helps us to mentally organize ourselves, plan each stage of an operation towards a pre-set goal with deadlines at sub-stages, and saves blunders caused by trial and error.
Sets out below are seven simple steps to help you plan your time and successfully accomplish your objective.
STEP 1: SET AN AIM
This should be enunciated clearly and unequivocally, and should be realistic, short and/or long term [short term objectives should normally lead to long term aims] quantifiable, and match your aspirations and personal value systems. Different facets of your life can have different objectives/long term aims, often running simultaneously in a prioritized manner.
You manage time successfully if you can do the right thing at the right time and at the right place.
STEP 2: SET OBJECTIVES
Analyze your long-term aim and break it into a number of short-term objectives (which by themselves can be short-term subsidiary aims). Set time schedules for achieving each objective, the sum total of which will be time set for achieving the long-term goal/aim.
STEP 3: WORK OUT KEY RESULT AREAS (KRA’S)
To meet objectives, Key Result Areas (KRA’S) are listed out. Quantifiable results in these KRA’S will spell out success in achieving objectives. KRA’S are not actions; action is taken to produce results in KRA’S which impinge upon achievement of the objective. So list out actions/tasks necessary for success in KRA’S. Prioritize as you think best.
STEP 4: PLANNING OF TIME
Divide your daily time calendar in such a way that Time Blocks are carved out to deal with different tasks, whether those pertaining to KRA’S or routine.
Allocate prime time to priority areas, giving routine work other time slots when fullest concentration is neither necessary nor possible. Every moment spent or planning saves three in execution. Undertaking a project without a plan is like driving cross-country without a route map.
STEP 5: TIME BLOCKS
Each individual has his own ideal span of attention, but it usually varies between 20 to 100 minutes depending upon job complexity. It takes about 30 minutes to get settled in, and after 2 hours concentration, we need a break or suffer drastic fall in efficiency. This knowledge can be applied to al situations where people interact, whether in conferences, intimate interviews or brainstorming sessions. But ensure interruptions are taboo when there is concentrated, prime time activity.
STEP 6: RECORDING OF TIME
Complaints from executives about shortage of time may reveal, on studying time logs, a totally different picture: the time wasters (Chapter Two) were in evidence. We can use time logs ourselves to see exactly where time leaks are occurring (see format of Time Log) and prioritize use of time for greater effectiveness.
STEP 7: TAKE STOCK OF TIME SPENT
Rolling to-do lists: Before starting work (or on previous evening) list out your tasks on a pad, score them out as they are done one by one. Review the leftovers, and carry them forward to next day; list (write ‘2′ against such items, to denote 2nd day on your rolling list) along with fresh items as they crop up. This habit ensures important tasks are not inadvertently skipped, and tells you how you utilized your day/hours/minutes.
1. Use/initiate appropriate feedb1ack systems (formal/informal) to keep yourself posted of progress in activities / KRA’S with subordinates
2. Use feed back system to keep your boss similarly informed.
3. Work out timings backwards to ensure punctuality – e.g. if you are to catch a train leaving at 6 p.m., start list at 6 p.m. and list out, with times, all steps involved up to then, keeping adequate cushion for contingencies. You’ll never be late again.
4. Maintain a Time Planner; highlight deadlines/engagements. Use short intervals between appointments to read mail, return a phone call or any other brief/trivial activity.
“To choose time is to save time” — Francis Bacon
Junior executives often find themselves at the cutting edge of the action, constantly interrupted by phone calls, visitors, subordinates, boss’s summons etc. Important/priority tasks tend to take a back seat. In such a situation, there is no alternative but to tackle them during a ‘Quiet Hour’ at home. A small sacrifice for satisfaction, relief from stress, and greater effectiveness.
KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET (KISS)
This applies almost universally, whether in stating a problem, giving feedback to Management, or discussing anything with specialists. General MacArthur had ordered that no written orders/instructions should exceed one fool’s cap page. We can learn to do an Einstein and E=Mc2 for any situation.
TIME SAVERS – DAY’S WORK
Complete daily tasks on daily basis. Pending work piles up into unmanageable mountains, leading to stress and greater backlog. Management prefers to retain those who perform both daily as well as long term assignments. Pinpoint delays and eliminate bottlenecks. Prioritize daily work as under:
1. Important and urgent tasks
2. Important with no urgency
3. Not important but urgent
4. Routine work
TIME PLANNING CHART
In the following pages of this chapter, we will encounter our familiar Time Wasters, and, in examining these time leaks in greater depth, see how best we can plug them.
TIME SAVERS – CONFERENCES/MEETINGS
Meetings, both formal and informal, are the most common way of communicating in the workplace. They are as ideal for delivering specific information to a select group, as they are for eliciting data/feedback from a target group. They are double-edged weapons: if not arranged properly, this time saver could turn into a time waster.
1. Meeting should have a clear purpose. Ensure there is no better way of achieving that purpose
2. Only invite those whose presence is essential. Specialists may be invited to briefly air their opinions and depart.
3. Item specific, time-bound agenda to be circulated well before meeting, to ensure participants come thoroughly prepared. Priority items to be discussed first. No deviation from agenda should normally be encouraged.
4. Venue should be, as far as possible, conveniently located for all participants, to save travel time/costs
5. Start meeting, on time, don’t summarize for latecomers.
6. Allow no telephone / other interruptions; cumulative costs can soar when a room full of highly paid executives have to wait
7. Decisions should crystallize into minutes, to be circulated within 24 hours, clearly listing action points, person whose responsibility it is, and deadline.
8. Well planned meetings serve a host of useful purposes other than decisions on agenda: personal evaluation, peer/senior level bonding, team spirit, conflict resolutions, information gathering, resource sharing etc.
TIME SAVERS – RELAXATION
Peter Drucker has himself said that “ to be effective, the executive must be fresh and energetic. He must therefore, learn to relax adequately and wisely”. Recognizing the need to avoid stress (100 million working days one lost yearly in the UK due to stress-related problems), many employers in the UK, USA, Japan, and Germany have made paid vacations compulsory.
Relaxation rejuvenates a tired mind and body, restores the elasticity and vigor essential to sustained creative effort. The subconscious mind often takes over and furnishes great ideas/inspirations even during enforced rest. Sir Walter Raleigh, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote their magnum opuses while in solitary confinement. Colloquial wisdom is on target when it teaches “ all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
TIME SAVERS – RIGHT TIME
There is always a right time to do anything – Time management means doing the right thing at the right place
and at the right time. Timing is everything, whether it is hitting a tennis ball, timing the ignition spark at the correct instant in your car, or proposing an innovative idea to the Boss. An idea too far ahead of its time is an ineffective as an idea that comes too late.
TIME SAVERS – ONE JOB AT A TIME
Prioritize on your pad / roll over to-do list, and go through tasks one by one. You can leave jobs needing heavy concentration for a “Quiet Hour”, whereas lighter tasks can always be tackled during lulls in routine. Just keep busy with an eye on you to-do list, and try to do all you can within the precious span of the day’s work.
TIME SAVERS – ONE VISIT IS WORTH TEN REPORTS
A variation of Confucius’ “One picture is worth a thousand words”. There’s nothing like an on-the-spot site visit to get a clear picture. Generals, Prime Ministers, VIPs do it all the time.
TIME SAVERS – TIME SAVED IS TIME GAINED: CONTROL SYSTEM
A variation on the theme of “ a penny saved is a penny earned,” “a minute saved is a minute earned” is particularly apt, knowing human nature. A nap by the watchman, an extra minute by the Water Cooler, that long lunch break or that stretched phone call over tea can total up to a lot over a year. Movement registers for worke
TIME SAVERS – LAY DOWN PRIORITIES
Whether its ABC Analysis in inventory control or the Pareto Principle, every housewife knows that 20% of the household budget items consume 80% of the cash. She concentrates all her bargaining/haggling powers here. Similarly, 20% to 25% of executive prime time accounts for 75% to 80% of results.
TIME SAVERS – MODIFIED PARETO’S PRINCIPLE:
If selected 20% activities are controlled, results are out of all proportion to efforts expended. Banks, advertising agencies, travel agents, in fact most service industries are alive to this fact. Delegation frees Top Executive time for concentration on these crucial 20% factors, and good follow-up/feedback systems enable them to retain control over delegates.
TIME SAVERS – PRIORITIES
Therefore, prioritizing becomes essential at all levels of the hierarchy. If each worker prioritizes, overall results will strain towards 80% achievement barrier. It is necessary to be constantly alert about slipping back into investing time in non-priority areas AT THE COST OF PRIORITY AREAS. Priorities can change with time /age, but priorities always exist.
TIME SAVERS – AIDS FOR TAKING TIMELY DECISIONS
Experienced managers take quick decisions based on long experience and/or intuition/gut feel. But complex decisions can be made easier by applying a few techniques (which most of us use in an informal way):
(A) Comparing options
(B) Pros and Cons method
(C) Cost vs. Benefit method
1. Decide on AIM OR GOAL
1. List out various methods / paths to that goal
2. List out their respective strengths/restraining factors
3. Evaluate the methods one by one
4. Decide on the method having overriding/maximum advantages
5. Re-evaluate after project is completed, to assess quality of decision taken.
PROS AND CONS METHOD
This method is very useful when there are conflicting requirements: it makes you aware of all factors, negative and positive, which impact on the aim, while at the same time throwing up strategies to achieve that aim. It could involve a decision whether to continue working after motherhood, or it may help one decide to work on the East or the West Coast.
TIME SAVERS – ORGANIZE YOURSELF
TIME SAVERS – LEARN TO DELEGATE
1. Work is done/decision taken by person having ‘full picture’; is better placed to tackle the problem/
2. Delegator can always add a further dimension of refinement, since he’s always available as supervisor.
3. Delegate develops his skills
4. Work/Decisions done at cheaper pay level – good for the organization.
5. Manager can concentrate on planning, not execution
6. Managers can play ‘enabling’ role, not ‘doing’ role (which is a lower-level, lower-paid area)
7. Delegation motivates
8. Saves time
TIME SAVERS – STANDING OPERATING PROCEDURES AND CHECKLISTS
Complex tasks can be broken into a minutiae of detail, which become cumbersome to remember every time a task is repeated. Here, detailed checklists not only list out each step one after the other, providing relief to memory, but also ensure no step is missed out. Standard operating procedures are similar conditioned responses to a variety of anticipated situations (e.g. fire drill) so that in an actual event, no thought, only action is required.
TIME SAVERS – REDUCE TRAVEL AND WAITING TIME
Many successful executives tackle meetings/overdue/
paper work during long journeys, passing the time
profitably and avoiding boredom. Conversely, they often relax
by taking slower modes of transport i.e. rail, arriving
refreshed/regenerated at their destinations. Creative
ideas also flow during such relaxed journeys, which
give ample time to think/plan.
TIME SAVERS – MODERN TECHNOLOGY
Converging technologies have accelerated communications/travel, whether the Internet, fax, photocopier, Satellite/Cellular telephones, Concorde, Metro Tube etc. For every demand an ever-faster lifestyle makes on us, technology provides an answer to help us cope.
MODERN TOOLS FOR EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT – FLEXITIME
This concept was first introduced in Germany in the late 1960’s. Office workers can follow flexible timings of coming into work, with some common hours, say 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. when everyone is available in office for concerted activities. This enables workers to organise official/personal responsibilities conveniently without any loss of efficiency, spares peak-time loads on office/transport systems, and ensures better utilization of office space/systems.
Time Management – MYTHS OF TIME MANAGEMENT
The Common Fallacies
“Ah, the clock is always slow;
It is later than you think.” –Robert William Service
“So much to do, so little time” – Last words of Cecil Rhodes
Time, being an abstract concept, has several myths associated with it. Eight such myths are enumerated below, for you to ponder:
MYTH NO. 1 – TIME IS ALWAYS SHORT
We can run short of time if we did not plan well in advance, started late or used our time ineffectively. Falling short of achieving unrealistic goals (biting off more than we can chew) can also produce this feeling — as in the case of Cecil Rhodes (after whom Rhodesia was named).
MYTH NO. 2 – WE CAN ‘SAVE’ TIME
No one can condense time: if a particular job needs 24 hours to accomplish (e.g. setting of cement), nothing can reduce it.
MYTH NO. 3 – TIME FLIES
Perceptions about the passage of time can vary from one person/situation to another person/situation. It can appear to fly for a well-organized, busy accomplisher, and it can appear to drag for a procrastinating, disorganized ‘time-passer’. “A watched kettle never boils” is an earthy truism.
MYTH NO. 4 – TIME IS AGAINST US
There are no friends or enemies for Time – it is neutral. Those who harness it properly know it is a good servant; those who do not, realize it is a bad master.
MYTH NO. 5 – ALL SUBORDINATES ARE INEFFICIENT
The real-fault lies in poor selection, placement, training and man-management, inability to delegate. All these factors are responsible for this illusion.
MYTH NO. 6– OPEN-DOOR POLICY SAVES TIME
The much-touted open-door policy, result of an over-reaction to the criticism of a closed-door, bureaucratic policy, can be a vicious time waster if over-done. Be open to subordinates, but curb approachability by setting clean boundaries of specific time/place. Beware of the corridor button-hollers who expect snap decisions at the water cooler. Exceptions can be emergencies, war-like situations etc.
MYTH NO. 7 – PLANNING WASTES TIME
Nothing could be further from the truth. This myth is propagated by the cowboys on the staff who have little respect for the bowfins and advocate that “we just go in there, guns blazing, and wipe them out.” Suicidal.
MYTH NO. 8 – OTHER HUSBANDS RETURN EARLY
Propagated by bored housewives who themselves are poor time managers, who can’t have enough time to spend, so want to spend their husbands’ time as well! In any case ‘early’ or ‘late’ are subjective opinions. But even if a husband spends a little more time at the office than his peers, it can show his commitment to both family and employer. It is the quality of time spent with family that really matters.
Time Management – HEALTH AND TIME
Health is wealth
Someone once said “ he lost his health getting wealthy, then lost his wealth getting healthy.”
Prevention is better than cure.
100 million working days are lost in UK due to health reasons. Health means before quality / quantity of output, fewer missed deadlines and time/money saved. Employers and Governments are deeply conscious of this fact, and furnish whatever medical, recreation and rejuvenation facilities they can reasonably afford, to meet these aims. Each and every one of us can be more aware, and take regular exercise, whether swimming, walking, yoga or planned exercise/aerobics, to maintain health and overcome stress.
A balanced, nutritious diet, eliminating junk foods from the shopping list, ensuring intake of filtered water, and regular personal regimen of hygiene are important.
The ancient Greeks and Indian sages knew the intimate connection between body and mind – “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Meditation techniques have come out of ashrams into the Boardroom, and the values of positive thinking and aerobics are discussed in the same breath. Choose the system of medicine which has the least side effects and maximum efficacy, but prevention is better than treatment.
Time Management – Health and Time – STRESS
A word on stress would be appropriate here. Being overstressed or under-stressed has a big impact on our ability to be effective and in control .Optimal stress enhances our performance, but negative stress (caused when either supports or constraints are out of balance) gives rise to a host of physical and emotional symptoms such as headaches, stomach upsets heart trouble, irritability, anxiety, anger, paranoia, feeling of powerlessness, etc., making us difficult to tolerate.