ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Time Management

Parkinson's Law:

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Diamond's Addendum:

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion PLUS 10% !

As managers we often control-direct-dictate how others use their time. Unfortunately we can not control-direct-dictate our own time nearly as well. And most of us won't improve our time management for one simple reason - we don't want to enough to change our habits.

Consider our FREEDOM as manager/owners. Control is at the heart of time management. While we as owners have many more pressures on us than do our employees, we still have a freedom that they don't - we can do what we want to do. This freedom is exercised every time we play golf during working hours. Why can't we exercise it ass well to organize our time, control it and prioritize our efforts to maximize our efficiency? Because control is a scary thing. We may often prefer to "go with the flow" even though we don't get our own priorities accomplished.

What if we want to break these habits - are their ways available to us? Certainly! Try and tailor the following techniques if you really want to start controlling your time. And, if you slip once in a while, don't worry - just return to the control techniques and recover:

1. Time Logs - No progress can be made without statistics to support or alter your "gut feel" estimate of time use.

A. Identify the top 6 - 8 functions that you perform (i.e. meetings, customer service, company relations, personnel problems, etc.) First, guess the percentage of your time that you currently spend on each function. Then, in a second column, write the percentage of time you should spend on the function.

B. Maintain a detailed time log by noting the function or function code in a calendar or Day Timer (TM) for everything you do for at least two weeks.

C. Collate the results and compare the actual time used by function to both your initial guess of time use and to your desired time use.

You'll notice two things from your time log:

1. You have a list of "Time Thieves" which probably include (but are not limited to) telephone calls, social visits, communications problems (someone else's) urgent needs, delegation failure, etc).

2. You have a problem saying "NO" to other people.

Identify the Time Thieves and write a plan of attack to eliminate them. Practice saying "NO" and scheduling an alternative time more convenient to your schedule.

2. Always use automated or manual hour-to-day calendars.

3. Create a 'To Do' list every morning that reminds you a) of the things you have to/want to do, and b) the priority of each item to you.

4. Determine whether you are Time Driven or Task Driven. If you are time driven, schedule your time in controllable bite-sized segments to accomplish your To Do list. If you are task driven, close you door, refuse calls and refuse interruptions until your higher priority task is either done or at an impasse. Break for interruptions and then close yourself off for your next priority.

5. Stop Procrastinating - Only workaholics enjoy procrastination because it usually causes more work in the long run. The procrastinator feels that work is never done because he rarely gets around to finishing it. The procrastinator is not pitied because he has so much to do. He is pitied because he so rarely accomplishes anything. How do you stop procrastinating?

A. Do some things that make you happy every day. Make this one of your priorities. If you can't find anything that makes you happy, take a Dale Carnegie course and raise your self esteem.

B. Know your limitations (we already think we know our abilities). Delegate those things that others do better than you (or enjoy more). Analyze all your causes for procrastination and practice "Reductio Ad Absurdum" This philosophy asks that you consider the very worst that could happen to you if you did something (or didn't do something) that your inner voice tells you to fear. These fears never stand up to detailed analysis.

C. End procrastination by doing something - anything - no matter how minor, to begin or progress the task ahead of you.

THINGS TO DO -- OR NOT !!

A. Avoid urgencies (unless they're your urgencies). Issues that take on sudden urgency are often less important than other priorities. End your firefighting days.

B. Recognize that being busy is a far cry from being productive.

C. Make deadlines (for yourself and others) - make them realistic - pad them by 10% - 20% for a reality check.

D. Use Meetings - Don't let them abuse you.

* Agendize every meeting

* Develop a start and end time

* Make meetings scheduled for under 15 minutes standing meetings - no chairs

E. Avoid memos when a call will suffice

F. Develop an attitude of calculated neglect - let seemingly unimportant things slide unless they re-cur - then handle them.

G. Practice selective trashing - If you feel something is probably important but you can't figure out what you need it for, throw it away. This should take care of 80% of your paperwork. If you need it in the future, you will most likely be able to get it again from the same source (i.e. the insurance companies).

Now - if you've thought of reason after reason why you can't follow these guidelines, place this article on top of the "things I ought to reread and/or do someday" pile and call me for another copy when you get frustrated enough to decide to regain control of yourself. If you're ready now - call us and we'll help you implement these Time Management principles for you and for your staff.