Time Management

by Di McLanachan

Time consumers: outside your control

If some of the ‘outside your control’ items rated a high score when you did the Time consumers exercise, have a look below for pointers to help you bring them within your control, where they belong.

  • Interruptions: are you laying yourself open to interruptions? See Time-wasting interruptions.
  • Waiting for information: maybe you are, but surely there’s something else you could do so you will have freed up your time for the moment when the information arrives.
  • Resolving/mediating in others’ problems: is this your job? If not, either keep out of it or get a new, recognised job description (with some of your old tasks re-allocated). You might also find some useful tips in the topics on Transactional Analysis.
  • Excessive work allocation: see The art of saying ‘no’.
  • Lack of communication: is this really outside your control? Perhaps you need to improve your Networking skills. Or maybe you need to look at Listening Skills and Questioning Skills. On the whole, if you are an effective communicator, people will communicate with you. Is it possible that if you spent a little more time listening, you would need to spend a lot less time trouble shooting?
  • Changing priorities: in the modern world, you need to be flexible. If you were better at Networking, could you be ahead of the game instead of desperately catching up?
  • Conflicting priorities: see How do I prioritise my workload?
  • Equipment failure/system slow to respond: if this is really taking up a dangerous amount of your time, then perhaps you need to be more assertive, and get it sorted! This won’t help your short-term problems, but it will change things in the longer run.
  • Disorganised boss: see Managing Upwards.
  • Bureaucratic procedures: OK, in some professions paperwork and bureaucracy can be genuinely frustrating time consumers. But take a look around you; are any of your colleagues better at dealing with the procedures than you are? If so, perhaps you can learn their techniques and attitudes; see Modelling.
  • Low staff morale: if staff morale is your responsibility, perhaps you need to look at Motivation.
  • Assisting untrained staff: coaching and training staff certainly takes time, but if it’s part of your job remit, it has to be worth doing well. In the longer term, well-trained staff should lessen your load.
  • Peer/staff demands: are you taking on other people’s monkeys? Perhaps you need to develop The art of saying ‘no’.
  • Seeking authorisation: could this be an excuse for not getting on with other jobs? If it’s really wasting a significant amount of your time, perhaps you need to be more assertive and deal with the issue.
  • Travel: this may be an unavoidable element of the job, but are you spending enough time planning your journeys to see the maximum number of people at one go? Could some travel time be eliminated through conference calling or delegating?
  • Others’ mistakes: see peer/staff demands, above.
  • Revised deadlines: see changing priorities, above.
  • Attending meetings: see Meetings for tips on how to cut down on time spent in meetings and how to make meetings more effective.
  • Receiving phone calls: are you making the best use of voicemail? If receiving phone calls is not your main task, voicemail may enable you to make (return) calls at a time of your choosing, and with adequate preparations beforehand, putting the calls back under your control and within a timeframe of your choosing; see Telephone Skills.