Managing Time and Workload
Time is precious. How carefully do you spend it?
You pick up the phone.
And your best client or your boss speaks those terrifying words: Do you have time to…?
The question is terrifying because of the consequences of a wrong answer. Nobody wants to say no to an opportunity, and nobody wants to agree to do something if it means adding another day or two to the week.
If your boss or your client asks if you have time to do something – or how long it would take you to do something – you need to be able to answer with confidence. Should you say yes? Should you say no? Should you ask for help?
The only way to know for sure is to track your time and your commitments, including:
• how long it takes to do the things you do
• what you’ve already promised to do
• when you’ve promised to deliver
• what you can do later
• what you can do more efficiently
• what you may not need to do at all
To track time, it helps to look backwards. The simplest guide to how long something will take next time is how long it took last time. Begin the process by recording how long things take. And be sure to track everything. You can keep a perfectly adequate set of records with pen and paper, but technology offers some powerful alternatives, from spreadsheets to familiar programs like MS Outlook to time-tracking software.
Tracking will tell you how much time, for example, you spend in telephone and face-to-face conversations or in meetings and appointments. PMC facilitator Samantha Biron encourages clients to keep meetings to a minimum, and says that stand-up meetings tend to be more productive and shorter. Ask yourself if you’re meeting because it’s Friday morning, or because it will be a good use of everybody’s time.
Most people use electronic calendars to track meetings, but take Samantha’s advice: use your calendar to track and plan activities, and take back control of your day. You will find it empowering – and probably surprising – to learn how long things actually take.
Because if you don’t know, it will be difficult to respond to those incoming requests with confidence!
Tracking your time will make it possible to reorganize your day and to manage other people’s expectations. Document your activities and accomplishments and take particular note of what energizes you and what leaves you feeling drained. You may find that even minor tweaks to the way you organize your day can make a world of difference.
And if colleagues drop in and steal your time, consider removing the guest chair. Samantha says, “your office must be comfortable for you.” Making it comfortable for visitors may be cutting into your productivity.
What’s the most important thing you can do with your day? Take charge of it.