May 5, 2014

Team Management

Live to work or work to live. Part 8. Time-consumers: how to find time reserves

By Alexander Sergeev

Live to work or work to live. Part 7. Information: how to manage the creative chaos

The press and television always highlight the irrational waste of natural resources. But time resources are wasted no less irrational. General disorganization, disrespect for human time consume hundreds of millions of man-hours per year. Each of us spends far more than one hour of precious time to overcome the empty, useless barriers, clogging our lives.

To change this, we must start with ourselves: find time-consumers, reduce time catchers, begin to use our irreplaceable capital more intelligently.

Timing

Let us first take a general method of dealing with any “time-consumers” – the timing, and then look at some typical time-consumers. Timing, accounting and analysis of time allows to make an “audit” of your time to figure out how it is actually spent.

Timing is not an easy task. Take any notebook and start to fix in it everything you do during the day. Refer to the notebook approximately every half an hour and record all cases up to 5-10 minutes.

At the beginning you will be constantly forgetting about timing. Do not hesitate, do not give up timing. Just start to fix cases when you remember about timing. Within days, the habit of timing will appear itself.

If you have a lot of small tasks, do not fix them. Do not fix the cases requiring less than five minutes. you Mark them with the tick in the margin. At the end of the day, count the number of ticks, multiply by two or three minutes – and you’ll get a quantitative measure of the most unpleasant and imperceptible “thieves of time”.

You should make timing during several days, but 3-4 weeks are more desirable. The very process of accounting is very useful. It creates a positive stress, generate a sense of time, which always tells you when your time is spent inefficiently.

Tracking performance

If you want to improve the structure of your time, reduce the cost of time-consumers, it makes sense to use quantitative measurer. Some measurers require timing, some of them can be used without timing. Let’s start with the first one.

Using timing the following issues can be obtained:

  • What amount (or percentage) of time you spend on long-term priority projects? (As a rule, it is about 20-30% of the time, it is desirable to increase this percentage to 60-70).
  • What amount of time you spend on doing tasks that could have been delegated? (This figure should not exceed 10%).
  • What percentage of the time you spend on time-consumers? (Indicator is often up to 50 %, it should be reduced to 10-20%).

In the evening, take a “portrait” of the day formed by the timing and mark the matters relating to the long-term priorities; those that could have been delegated; time-consumers. Calculate how much time you’ve spent on each category. Then the fun begins. You need to fix these indicators on the chart every day. Horizontally – weekdays, vertically – your figures, expressed in hours or minutes.

Once you have started to fix quantitative indicators, they begin to become better. Time-consumers begin to decline, while priority tasks begin to rise. The visibility of changes in indicators on the chart will encourage you to improve them further.

But rigid timing in the initial stage can cause difficulties. In this case, it is recommended to use the indicators, which does not require a complete picture of the day. For example:

  • The amount of time allotted for every priority project.
  • The amount of time on the “resource activity” – hobby, sport, walking, spending time with family and friends etc.
  • The duration of daily delays at work after the formal end of the working day.
  • The duration of communication with unpleasant people etc.

It is easy to notice that the first two figures recorded for the purpose of increasing; the latest two – in order to decrease. To fix this kind of indicators you do not need a continuous timing. It’s enough to record only work on the priority project during the day. At the end of the day this time is summed up and fixed in the same chart as the previous one.

Time in transport

One of the most common time-consumers is the time spent in public transport or car. We’ll offer you a few ways to optimize time spent in transport:

  • Read or listen to audio books.
  • Relax – if you really relax. Disconnect mentally from all the problems, turn on the player or digital recorder with your favorite music etc.
  • Choose new routes. Often we are going somewhere out of habit. Try to leave home half an hour earlier than usual to go another route. Successful people often follow non-standard way.
  • Learn. For example, learn language. Carry cards with new words: on the one side place a foreign word, on the other – translation.
  • Think about a specific list of issues for consideration, make notes in a notebook, not to lose valuable ideas.
  • Make calls. If you are traveling in your own car, taxi or bus, you can use this time for outgoing calls.

Time in business trip

Business trip is a great “kairos” to work effectively:

  • A lot of time in plane or train without distracting phone calls, peeping colleagues, refrigerator with food, TV etc.
  • “Mobilization Mode” (a strange city, living outside home, rigid planning of meetings) adjusts to effective work.

It is important to use a business trip wisely. We suggest some simple guidelines:

  • Identify and use the “kairos” and plan the cases connected with the place of business trip.
  • Plan to work in transport. It’s good to work on long-term priorities in plain or train.
  • Plan to work in the evening. For example, a typical scenario of stay: dinner, a half-hour walk, half an hour of reading book. In a long trip use the solarium, gym, swimming pool etc.

Do not assume that things will go according to plan, be ready for anything.

Having been on a business trip in any city, make a “city card” in the Outlook. It may include:

  • Contacts of permanent counterparts (phone numbers, addresses).
  • Coordinates of hotels.
  • Phone numbers of food delivery services, tickets etc.
  • Currency Conversion, important prices.
  • Useful notes.

It takes a few minutes, but it will save a lot of time for you or your colleagues during the next trip, especially in the case of force majeure.

Technical force majeure

Computers, fax machines and cars break down. This kind of force majeure can take quite a lot of time.

The first step to control force majeure is flexible planning.

When equipment is out of service, it is a great opportunity to disassemble papers. Yes, you can’t ring up customers database, execute a contract or make a presentation in Power Point. But do you need a computer and printer to think? You can also use this time to make especially unpleasant phone calls.

Backup your information. In well-managed companies IT- department regularly backs up all corporate information. Be sure to back up documents to a floppy or USB- flash drive. It is desirable to duplicate contact and background information on paper – in case of problems with computers etc.

Do not consider yourself smarter than millennial experience of the mankind be ready in advance.

Organization of meetings

Meetings can also be time-consumers. One meeting is 5, 10, 20 man-hours, depending on the number of participants. Not to turn a meeting in a time-consumer, follow evident, but not simple rules.

1. Determine the format of the meeting and do not mix different formats in a single meeting. Typical formats are:

  • Brainstorm. Objective: To solve the problem creatively. Rules: first “generate ideas” and only than criticize them.
  • The planning session. Objective: To coordinate the activities of the team members in the current situation, to supply people with the right information, to respond quickly to the current problems. Rules: “Write down a brilliant idea or a strategy introduced during the meeting”. The rigid order (sequence) of speeches, the presence of a written standard list of questions is desirable.
  • Strategy meeting. Objective: To discuss the prospects for development, to take decisions on large-scale, long-term issues. Rules: Clearly defined and prescribed criteria of decision-making (prioritization) is desirable.

2. Determine the number of participants. The leader responsible for decision-making and a secretary responsible for time-keeping, retaining all the thoughts and constitution of the final report.

3. Determine the list of issues for discussion. Begin with the priority ones.

4. Determine the duration of the meeting and assign a person responsible for timing.

5. Organize the environment, equipment and distribution of information materials.

6. Use schemes. Visual memory has a higher capacity than verbal one. Therefore, all of the issues discussed at the meeting should be materialized.

7. Fix and send the decisions. Be sure to return to the Protocol at the next meeting. If the results of the meeting are not fixed – the meeting did not exist.

How to find time for time management

First rule: use any free time for it. For example:

  • In the smoking room – argue with a colleague at $ 100 that in the next 3 days you’ll make a written overview of your long-term goals.
  • In traffic jam or while walking – think over your goals for the next few years.
  • At the reception  – use 15 minutes of waiting for the head to prescribe these goals in a notebook. Win $100.

Second rule: create a clear rhythm of increasing personal effectiveness. It’s better to spend on time-management 15 minutes daily than do huge amounts of work irregularly.

We recommend three simple principle of time management rhythm:

  • Daily – disassemble papers on the desktop, mail in the “Inbox”, tasks in the Outlook etc.
  • Weekly – introduce a new technique of time management.
  • Quarterly – Make a “disciplinary week”, during which follow all the rules of time-management.

And most importantly remember that investment in time-management – is not a cost but an investment.

Eighth step of creating personal TM system

Use techniques to identify and reduce time-consumers.

Summary of recommendations:

  • Introduce rigid timing within 2-3 weeks.
  • Form 2-3 indicators of performance and track them.
  • Plan filling time spent in transport.
  • Plan an alternative scenario in case of technical force majeure.
  • Use technology of organization of meetings.
  • Use any free time for time-management.

Live to work or work to live. Part 9. TM-bacillus: how to convey the idea of time management to other people

 

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