Do these time management habits sound familiar?

It is always interesting to me to observe how others especially managers manage their time. For example, when I was young in my career, I can remember one manager, who had a habit of trying to handle 3 things at once. I would be in his office trying to carry on a conversation and he would pretend to listen as he shouted another direction to his assistant and answered his phone at the same time. Another manager and one of my all time favorites used to get up out of his chair at exactly the same time each night to leave. I was in my 20’s and this was my first big job. My peers and I never would go home until the boss went home. He was about 6 feet 8 inches, and every night, when he was leaving, he would look over each cubicle to say goodbye. He was not the most organized manager. His desk was covered with pink message slips (this was before voice mail and e-mail) and you could barely tell what color his desk was. One night, when he was leaving, he looked over my cubicle wall and saw me sitting there with one piece of paper. I always preferred a clear desk and liked to work on one thing at a time. He stopped and said, “It looks like we need to give you more to do” as he left. More work! This was the last thing I wanted. So I got this idea. The next night, just before he was going to leave, I took my garbage can which was filled with the papers, coffee cups and other stuff from the day. I dumped it all on my desk. As my boss looked over the cubicle, he stopped this time and said, “Wow, it looks like you had a productive day!” and he left. I think I kept this process going for a few weeks just to show I was busy! Some managers still confuse activity with being productive! I had another manager, who although was at work all day, but it seemed he didn’t get going until around 4 p.m. Sure enough, each day around 4 p.m., he came walking down the hall wanting to meet everyone and give each person more work! We usually did everything we could to avoid him finding us in our cubicles at this time of the day. Some managers think that everyone else works the same ways they do!

The most common time management mistakes managers make

I have found in my career that people will tend to do what they like and what they are good at. I have also observed that people do things which are easy and don’t take much time. I have seen many managers who respond well to crises and emergencies. I have had my fair share of managers who seemed to wait until the very last minute to plan anything! It seemed for these managers only a deadline worked for forcing some work to get done. It always amazed me, how many people work based on the first in and first out principle. These people just work on things based on the order of arrival! Finally, the most common management mistake, which I have observed, is that a person will work on demands from others and someone else’s priorities vs. what was planned for the day.

What is time management?

We all have the same amount of time each day – 24 hours. The difference is how we use this time. Time management means to be aware of several factors. From a management perspective, it is always being aware of your own short and long term priorities, daily capacity, and how to leverage your own time. In management, each day is a challenge, and it seems like there is never enough time. Time management is exactly what it sounds like. Managing your own time vs. allowing time to manage you!

How does the best manager use time wisely?

The best manager takes time daily to plan. The daily tasks are taken from a master list, which is a reflection of a greater strategy or plan. The best manager is careful not to schedule more personal work then his or her daily capacity is. It is important to carry a list and focus on deciding the result of which activities that day will return the most leverage. It means that you need to focus on achievements vs. what you would like to do. The best manager doesn’t allow for interruptions (e-mail, phone, or small talk) when working on A priorities. Having a place for everything is also important. The best manager does one thing at a time, but several trivial things simultaneously. Make use of those extra few minutes while waiting for other activities to clear things off the list. Work on the most important items during your peak times of the day. The best manager doesn’t procrastinate and keeps track of time always! It is important to always set deadlines as this helps one to prioritize daily. The best manager doesn’t have time to worry; the more, worrying is not a good use of time! The best manager schedules personal time to relax. Finally, using a system is helpful to keep organized and it is more important to use a system that one feels comfortable with.

How to teach and role model great time management methods

I used to hold meetings late in the day and sometimes standing up! This gives a greater sense of urgency to the meeting as people want to finish and go home. Set a time limit for meetings and ensure everyone knows their role at meetings. This helps to reinforce good time management principles. Just following simple practices like being careful to not over schedule the day and learning to delegate can help one to keep on top of the most important tasks. Finally, I have learned over the years to not let papers sit around. Learn to handle paper once reviewing, and then either throw it away, file it, or take action. Many successful time managers use this philosophy.

Educating the workforce on time management

Invest the time to teach people how to keep their workplace neat, organized, and free of clutter. Reinforce the importance of daily planning and following up. Prioritization is a great strategy to get the most leverage out of one’s day. Teach people to use a system to plan, organize, and carry out their tasks daily. These are lessons which will last a lifetime.

The magic of time on your side in management

While we all have a certain amount of time each day, the best managers know how to move time over to their side. As a result, the most important things get done, and it seems like there is plenty of time left.

Learning summary and next steps

What system do you use to manage your time? How does the culture behave where you work with regards to time management? What could be improved? What do you need to do more of to help better manage your time? What should you do less of? What small steps could you take today to become a better manager of your time?

Craig Nathanson

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