Time management is one of the popular topics we train our client organizations at Learning Dynamics. Managers and senior executives recognize their teams need the training and individual contributors and first-line supervisors realize they need it. Many feel overwhelmed by the demands of the day. They find themselves reacting rather than planning, responding to the latest crisis rather than investing their efforts into achieving important, lasting outcomes. Here are some ideas that resonate with our training participants.
Understanding the Difference Between the Urgent And the Important.
Reactive approaches typically find us on the work treadmill, sweating and straining to keep up while never getting anywhere. Urgency created in a reactive environment can burn people out and leave them frustrated as their goals never get closer. Good leaders should recognize when their people are simply responding, putting out fires, rather than working toward important outcomes. Coaching by leaders can make a big difference.
Taking Time to Plan
Less experienced employees frequently admit to not having a plan for their day and week. Instead, they show up to work and deal with things as they cross their desks. This might be appropriate in some roles, but for many working in our knowledge economy, one in which companies hire people for their ability to contribute at a level above the rote and routine, planning based on priorities must be part of the roadmap to success.
Knowing When to Say “No”
A critical skill among successful time managers is the ability to say “no” to certain activities. Typically the frivolous and distracting, these are time-wasters that deserve no time on the professional’s calendar. Managers can help their people think about and determine which items can be removed from the schedule and workplace by looking critically at the low-value tasks that can be eliminated or pushed further down in the organization (or out of it altogether).
Keeping Everyone in Their Pay Grade
A good indicator of whether a person is functioning at his or her level – and hopefully above – is the occasional check-in with that person’s job description. Is the employee fulfilling her roles and responsibilities, or is she spending time operating at a lower functional level? Frequently, this situation is the product of poor planning and prioritization, and a supportive manager can have the coaching conversation to keep that employee focused on higher-value functions that will help her or him and the entire organization reach its goals. (It could also uncover the need for additional resources to allow your talented thought workers more time to do what you are paying them to do.)
The sad truth is that many young professionals have never been exposed to the ideas of planning and prioritization and have no idea how to do it. With a small investment of a leader’s time, this next generation of your company’s managers can be working smarter by focusing on important, high-value activities to drive results, rather than low-value tasks that just fill the day.
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