Maximizing Personal Productivity

Maximizing Personal Productivity Part 2 – Developing a Process for Time Management Decision Making

Maximizing Personal Productivity - Time Management Decision Making

This blog is the second in a series on the topic of “Maximizing Personal Productivity”.  Part 1 focused on the importance of understanding that time is a fixed resource and There really is no such thing as “I don’t have time” – there is only “I didn’t decide to spend my time on that!”.  The mindset we need to adopt to be successful centres on choice – we have the power to decide how we spend our time, although it is clear that the choices may sometimes be very difficult.  In order to make good decisions, we need to develop a process that helps clarify which choices most closely align with what we really want to achieve.

There are two key steps to an effective process relating to how you spend your time.  They are:

Step A – Organize and Assess

This step is all about ensuring that you collect and organize all of the requests and opportunities to spend your time and you assess the requests in order to decide what you will spend your time on to provide the greatest return relative to what you want to achieve each day, week, month, etc.

Step B – Focus

This step examines best practices for maintaining your focus on the activity you chose to spend time on.  This step is critical to the maximization of personal productivity.

Let’s look at some important components of Step A – Organize & Assess.  There are two parts to the Organize & Assess process.  The first part involves dealing with incoming time-takers and the second part is all about regular planning.  For this blog, we’ll deal with the first part – managing incoming time takers – and leave the second part for my next blog.

Managing Incoming Work/Play Opportunities

One of the key challenges in managing how you spend your time is managing the volume of incoming work/play opportunities.  Emails, phone calls, meetings, client projects, regular job expectations and personal activities can create an almost overwhelming list of things to do.

To be effective, you need to do the right things right.

As a starting point, you need to have a system to organize all the incoming requests to identify “the right things”.  Choose a system or strategy that you like and can commit to.  Some people use electronic tools while others write lists in journals.  In the end, the best system is one that you are committed to.

Establish a Plan of Action Immediately

The purpose of the system for managing your incoming requests is to ensure that every incoming request for your time is either acted on now, acted on later,  delegated (to someone else) or dismissed.  This is where a tool to organize your list can help.  You need to capture all of the items you’ll act on later in one place so you can refer to them when it is time to act on them.

If you really want an air-tight system for managing future commitments, you need to put them on a list or calendar that you refer to every day.  The routine of keeping and referring to a list or calendar every day is critical to success.

We Often Confuse Urgent with Important

Stephen Covey will be remembered forever for his articulation of the concept of assessing urgency and importance when deciding how to spend your time.  We often confuse urgent with important.  The phone rings and you answer it because it is urgent.  On the other end of the line is a person selling air-duct cleaning, which for most of us is not important.  So, answering the phone was a waste of time.

To be effective we need to do things that are important and avoid doing things that are not important.  Important activities are those which offer the most value in reaching your goals.  We’ll reflect further on the concept of urgent vs. important in the next blog.  However, here’s how it works in the context of the initial filter listed above.

You read an incoming email and have four choices:

  1. Act on it now. You make this choice because it is important and you can deal with it in five minutes or less.  For activities like this, it is more efficient to just do it than to put it on a to do list.
  2. Act on it later. The activity is important and you need to do it at some point.  If you need to do it later in the day or within the next week, the best place to log this activity is in a specific time slot in a calendar.  Otherwise, put it on the to do list.
  3. Delegate it. The activity is important but it isn’t necessary that you do it.  You should target routine tasks that could be done by others.
  4. Dismiss it (delete it). You make this choice because it is not important.

Ok, that’s it.  Simple, right!?  Don’t confuse simple with easy.  The concept is straightforward but the execution is tough.  The next blog in this series will continue to explore the urgent vs important concept in assessing the decisions regarding how to spend your time and will look at a really simple way to think about priority planning.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Dave

David Town, ACC, CHRL, is a coach and facilitator of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on performance management and effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

Undertstanding Time Management

Maximizing Personal Productivity Part 1: Understanding Time Management

Undertstanding Time Management

Does it seem like you need to constantly check your smart phone and you feel overwhelmed by too many emails, too many texts, too many phone calls, too many interruptions and the feeling of not having enough time? Then you need to invest a few minutes of time to find out about “Maximizing Personal Productivity – How to Stay Ahead of the Curve”.  This blog is part of a series focusing on simple truths that will help you manage your workload more effectively and spend more time on the things you want to spend time on.

During this series of blogs we are going to explore the mindset and the process required to take control of how you spend your time. We’ll look especially at how to spend time on the things you really want and need to spend time on.

Time Management: Time is a Fixed Resource

Mindset, can be defined as “a set of beliefs or attitudes that a person holds”.  For decades the concept of personal productivity has been primarily labelled “time management”.  This has lead people to think of managing time as a resource in the same way you would manage other resources like finances.  The flaw in this comparison is that time is a fixed resource.  Money is not.  Financial management can involve borrowing extra money to spend now or saving money to spend later. There may be times when you have absolutely no money and no capacity to immediately get any.  Time on that other hand is not a resource to be managed in the same way finances are.  There is always time – it’s just that it is a fixed amount every day, and you have to spend it.

There is No Such Thing as “I Don’t Have Time”

Let me give you an example of how the mindset issue comes into play with leaders and managers who have very challenging workloads. When questioned by a boss or colleague why they didn’t do something that the other person expected them to do, the answer is often “I didn’t have time”.  This answer seems to somehow suggest that the problem is external to the person and is due to a lack of a resource.  If you don’t have any money, then you can use that as an excuse for not spending.  It is a lack of resource issue.  With time, you have 24 hours every day.  There is no such thing as “I didn’t have time”.   The reality is that you didn’t choose to take the time for that task.

“I decided to take time do something other than…”

Think of it this way, if your spouse asks you to pick up some things from the grocery store on your way home from work and you arrive home empty handed, it seems easier to say “I didn’t have time to go to the store”.  The more truthful answer is “I decided to take time do something other than go to the store”.  Although that answer could have you sleeping on the couch, it is really what has happened.  Now, if the reason that you didn’t decide to take time to go to the store was that you needed to complete a report for the CEO where you work, that – if not completed – could change the trajectory of your career, you may have an easier time explaining your choice to your spouse.

How You Spend Your Time is a Choice

The point in all of this is that how you spend your time is a choice.  If you want to maximize your personal productivity, you need to adopt a mindset that it’s all about how you choose to spend a fixed resource. It’s your choice.

When I present this scenario to clients, it often results in a response such as “my boss tells me what to do and I don’t really have any choice. I have to work at least 10 hours a day to get it all done.”  What I find is that when we explore decision-making process for spending time, the client has more discretion than they think.  There is always room for improvement.  However, in some cases the client really has taken on a job that has a volume of work that is so onerous that they feel you can’t do other things that are important to them.  In a situation like this, you need to recognize that the choice to stay in that kind job is ultimately what needs to be evaluated. It’s a choice.  Sometimes our big decisions lead to feeling like we have no control over the little decisions.

Develop this Mindset to Make the Best Choices

In summary, developing the mindset of “how I spend my time is a choice” leads to the opportunity to employ a process and strategy for making the best choices possible with respect to how you spend your time.  This will enable you to manage your workload more effectively and spend more time on the things you want to spend time on.

The next blogs in this series will offer insights into how to develop a process to make the best decisions regarding how to spend your time to achieve what is most important to you.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Dave

David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance Part 4

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

Previous blogs in this series answered questions about assessing performance and offered feedback principles that will enable the person sharing a performance assessment to “land” the message.  This blog will provide insights into the concept of “framing” a conversation and how it relates to landing the message.

Planning for a Performance Conversation

Planning for a performance conversation can dramatically improve the outcome of the conversation.  Recalling some of the principles from recent blogs in this series, a manager needs to use the FEED framework in their conversation planning.  FEED stands for:

  • Facts – start with facts
  • Expectations – review what is expected
  • Effect – outline the impact or “effects” of the actions taken
  • Dialogue – invite the other person to share their perspective

Determining the Theme of the Message

Either reinforcement of a desired behaviour or correction of an undesired behaviour, determining the theme of the message an important part of the planning process.  By establishing the theme of the message you want to “land”, you help keep things on track as the conversation evolves and create a way to measure if the conversation was successful.

Framing the Conversation

When you have outlined the FEED approach and established the message theme, you are ready to start the conversation.  You know what you want to say and why you want to say it, but the other person may be entering the conversation with little or no knowledge of your purpose and intent for the conversation.  This is where the concept of “framing” comes in.  When you provide a “frame” for the conversation, you provide context to the receiver that contains insights into your purpose and intentions.  Let’s look at an example of two different approaches a manager could take to invite an employee into a performance conversation.

Situation:

Judy, a good performer on your team has been leading a project and things have been going well.  At a meeting this morning, Judy made a mistake in the way she handled a situation and the outcome of the meeting was not what it could have been.  Judy did not make a career altering mistake, however the behaviour has enough impact that it warrants having a performance conversation with her to ensure that the undesired behaviour is corrected.  You have thought through the FEED framework and the message theme and have decided to give Judy a call to set up a meeting with her later today (if she is available).  Below are two different approaches to invite her into the conversation.

Approach #1

“Judy, this morning things didn’t go as planned in the meeting. Please meet me in my office at 3pm today to discuss the situation.”

Approach #2

“Judy, I know you have been working hard on the project and things have been going well.  At this morning’s meeting, there was a situation that seemed to not go as well as it might have.  I am committed to helping you achieve the success you are striving for in managing the project, so I thought we should meet later today to talk about what happened.  Are you available at 3pm today?  We could meet in my office to discuss the situation”.

Approach #1 does not offer much in the way of a frame for the conversation.  The challenge with this approach is that the employee could easily interpret the invitation in a negative context and could attend the meeting with a healthy degree of fear that is less likely to help them in their development in managing projects.

Approach #2 provides insight into the intentions of Judy’s manager and the desire to help them as a frame for the conversation.  This approach is much more likely to put Judy in the right frame of mind to be open to improvements when her manager goes to “land” their message and offer corrective feedback.

In summary, good planning can help with performance conversations.  Effective feedback requires you to develop a framework for delivering the message, identify the theme for the conversation and provide context – a frame – for the message to ensure your good intentions are clear.

The next blogs in this series will offer insights into how to deal with performance gaps and the prospect of confronting an employee with difficult feedback.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Dave

David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

two young business people discussing

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance Part 3

two young business people discussing

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations. Read more

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance

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Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  The last blog offered insights into how to assess performance and provide employees with meaningful information on how they are doing.  This blog will continue to explore the process of giving meaningful performance feedback. Read more

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance

Businessman supervising his female assistant's work on laptop computer

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

The previous two blogs offered insights into how to set expectations.  We will now explore how to assess performance and provide employees with meaningful information on how they are doing. Read more

Managing Employee Performance – Setting Expectations Part 2

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This blog is the third in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.   The previous blog offered insights into how to set expectations.  Context, clarity and degrees of freedom are key elements in the development of clear expectations.   This blog will continue the topic of how to set expectations with a review of goal-setting. Read more

Managing Employee Performance – Setting Expectations

Setting Expectations

This blog is the second in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations. The first blog emphasized the need for organizations to choose the most appropriate focus for performance management – the development of a relationship and work environment that enables the person to perform to the best of their abilities. Read more