Do you want to get more from your time? Complete more? Achieve more? Avoid procrastination and move the needle?
We’re starting a new series about working well. Looking at what to start, what to stop and how to reclaim some time – let’s go!
The following is a list of things that may ‘waste’ our time, with some possible causes and suggested solutions.
Not all of these will be relevant to you. If you can recognise yourself in some of them – try the solutions and then reassess.
Importance of the activity incorrectly identified
- Take a three-day time log to see where you’re spending your time
- Analyze the tendency to take on things others could be doing and Delegate more of these tasks
- Say no when appropriate
- Develop the habit of asking yourself, “What was the result of the activity I just completed?”
This is often coupled with –
A Lack of priorities and planning
- Set objectives, priorities, and deadlines in four critical time frames
(daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly)
- Focus on your top priorities and ignore/stop doing the bulk of activities that contribute nothing to your objectives
And also related –
Responding to the (truly) urgent
- Distinguish the truly urgent from the important
- Balance your short-term objectives (planning is great for this)
- Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” before responding to an urgent situation
Setting unrealistic time estimates
- Recognize that everything takes longer than you think!!
(“Murphy’s Second Law”)
- Identify characteristic underestimates, then add an appropriate cushion to all critical estimates (20 to 50 per cent)
- Limit your response to the real demands of the situation
- Stay uninvolved if others can handle it
Overly ambitious with an inordinate need to achieve
- Control your ambition to fit your abilities and situation. Ask yourself what you are trying to prove (and to who).
- Be realistic and keep perspective. Stop overworking and stressing yourself out
- Recognize that if you unrealistically attempt too much, you may not achieve anything
- Determine what you really want to achieve and focus on that
- Learn to live with the fact that you may have regrets no matter what
This may stem from –
Desire to impress your boss or client
Don’t get me wrong – this is important! Just keep it realistic.
- Discuss what your boss / the client really wants
- Recognize that long-term success is more important for you than short-term impressions
The “yes” man – overly cooperative
- Stop saying yes just because you want to be appreciated
- Recognize the difference between being cooperative and doing others’ work
- Learn to say no without offending
- Use your own priorities as reasons and offer alternatives when appropriate
Stretched too thin – Understaffed
- Do a feasibility study with a time log to demonstrate that additional help would be cost-effective
- Lower standards to what is reasonable.
- Allocate time frames more closely.
In this age of written digital communication as standard over face-to-face contact or even conversation – communication confusion happens. Here are our top tips to avoid these:-
- Clarify and agree on the importance and priority of activities, call out time estimates and agree on deadlines
- If things aren’t going to plan – communicate in a timely manner, don’t leave it to the last minute
- Recognize that experience, training, and environment create different backgrounds for interpreting communication. Adjust your communication style if needs be.
- Get feedback to ensure understanding. Take corrective action as needed.
- In oral communication – develop and practice listening skills
- Use the correct channel of communication
So you’ve decided to delegate – well done! Here are some common pitfalls, and – how to avoid them:-
- Insecurity/fear of failure
Recognise that this is possible and accept risk as inherent. Accept mistakes and learn from them.
- Lack of confidence in others
Train your delegate and develop trust. Check-in and use progress points and reports for control.
- Giving unclear, incomplete, or confusing instructions
Ensure that you give clear, complete, unambiguous instructions. Ask your delegate to repeat back to check their understanding.
- Can do the job better and faster yourself
Lower your standards to what is acceptable, not your own level of performance.
Train your delegate and give them the opportunity to improve.
- More comfortable “doing” than managing
Recognize that practice leads to success, which leads to comfort.
Remember the job of the leader is to lead, not do.
- Expect everyone to know all the details
Recognize that this should not be expected of someone who has delegated responsibility for handling tasks not overseeing the whole process or system.
- Failure to establish appropriate controls & follow up
Establish plans, schedules with details, progress reports, and monitoring of deadlines.
Manage expectations and delegated responsibilities.
Emphasize goal-accomplishment, not methods and procedures.
Measure results, rather than activity.
Check progress in a timely manner to take corrective action.
- No one to delegate to
Hire a VA! 😉
There can be an expectation to be constantly available – after all, we all have multiple channels through which people can contact us 24/7. How we respond to this though is all up to us. Avoid disappointment by setting firm boundaries:-
- Have a plan
Determine your availability and make this information available – e.g. email signature, website hours, voicemail message etc
Arrange appointments to suit your hours.
To terminate face-to-face visits or Zoom calls –
Go to the home or office of others. Meet them outside your home. Stand up upon entry and keep standing.
Preset a time limit.
Foreshadow the end (“Is there anything else before I leave?”).
Stand up and walk to the door.
- Check your ego!
Don’t overestimate the importance of your availability to others.
Distinguish between being available for business and for socializing.
Plan social visits.
- Be less visible
In office – Modified open door; quiet hour; screening; hideaway.
Home office – “Do not disturb” mode to achieve flow and deep work
Limit face-to-face – Explain that you will both have more time to devote to the project if the client “drops off ” material in a predetermined physical location such as a slot or a box to receive documents.
Many people struggle to say no, however, to take control of your time this is a must!
Here are some pointers on why we struggle, and saying no with grace.
- Desire to win approval, acceptance
Recognize this possible trap! If the desired results are not achieved, you may lose instead of gaining respect and ultimately feel resentful.
- Fear of causing offence
Develop techniques of saying no without offending.
Examples: “Thanks for the compliment, but I’ll have to decline.”
“Sorry I can’t, but let me offer a suggestion…
- Recognise that you have capabilities in demand
Recognising your assets makes your ability to say no even more imperative.
Refuse to spread yourself too thin. Concentrate your efforts.
- False sense of obligation
Recognize the prevalence of this cause and examine your reasons for this feeling. Discuss it with family, friends, and associates.
- Not knowing how to refuse
Listen to the request.
Say no at once if appropriate or ask for time to respond.
Give reasons. Suggest alternatives.
Don’t be too sensitive.
Sometimes no excuse is better than a poor one.
Think of acceptable excuses ahead of time.
The best excuse is your own priorities. Keep these visible on your daily plan.
- No time to think of an answer or excuse
Count to ten before saying yes / Give yourself time / Delay response
- Lack of objectives and priorities
Others will determine your priorities for you if you don’t have your own.
Then, whatever you achieve will be determined by your environment, not by you.
- The thoughtless assumption by others that you will say yes
Recognize that you have likely encouraged this assumption by never saying no.
Learn to say no, especially to inappropriate or thoughtless requests or those that will make you feel bad if you assent.
- Inability to say no to a client
Say no by showing the list of agreed-upon priorities.
If the client insists, you may choose to acquiesce, but renegotiate deadlines as needed.
Whew! That’s a lot to think about.
Look for our next instalment soon! In the meantime – I’d love to hear what resonated with you and what changes you’ll make.