The Ugly Truth About Time Management


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Let’s talk about time management. It’s a sticky workplace problem to solve — primarily because it requires being honest with ourselves to get a solid grip on the issue. We all go through cycles when work feels “out of control”. However, there are strategies that could have prevented the lion’s share of that stress. Where time management is concerned — it seems that we can turn out to be our own worst enemies.

1. It’s Your Problem
The bottom line? No one else is going to value your time if you don’t. You have to teach others (and yourself), through words and actions, that your time is valuable. That may sound as if I’m characterizing all your of coworkers and clients as disrespectful. It’s not that. They simply have their own work lives to worry about, and you need to worry about yours. If you feel someone is taking advantage, be honest and let them know you’ve spent as much time as you possibly can to help them. Point them in the right direction for more guidance. Be polite but firm. You’ll find that after you go through this once or twice, the process will become easier.

2. Cut the Cord
Here’s the thing — a time-management problem is usually not a time issue – it is a task issue. Specifically, you are not sorting through your work life and deciding which tasks really matter. This is like keeping old shoes in your closet that you really don’t wear, but continue to take up valuable space. Sometimes you have to give useless tasks the old “heave-ho.” Do you compile a report that nobody utilizes? Attend a weekly meeting that isn’t beneficial or necessary? Write the eulogy and cut the cord. It’s up to you. Choose or lose.

3. Playing Favorites is a Must
You hate prioritizing. Of course you do! Everyone does. But the number one priority to respect is your own calendar. Just remember that multitasking doesn’t work. Focusing on a single task, without interruption, is critical. If you need a release valve in your schedule for tasks that pop up, set up time each Friday (or any plan that works) to connect the dots and tie up loose ends that develop during the week. Tell people politely, “My schedule is tight at the moment, but I’ll have time to explore that on Friday.” During this designated “catch-up time” you can consider ad-hoc requests and communicate responses.

4. You’re a Control Freak
I know this excuse: “I don’t like to delegate.” But if you are a manager (or aspire to be one), the fact is that if you don’t know how to delegate confidently, you will have trouble moving forward. Why? Because you won’t have the time to be a real leader. Chances are, you don’t trust other people to do the job as you would do it. I know. I’ve heard that excuse as well. But a surefire way to build resentment is to show your staff that you don’t trust them. You have to give up a little control and “mine” some time for the “big picture.”

5. Excuses Won’t Work
If you have a scheduling snafu, ‘fess up as soon as you realize there is a problem. Recently I waited for a scheduled appointment with a specialist. After an hour, a nurse came out to ask if anyone was waiting for Dr “X.” After identifying myself, she let me know it would be at least another hour to see the doctor, and asked if I would like to reschedule. They explained that the reason for the delay was that there were late additions to the schedule…but apparently they were on the books before I walked in the door. They didn’t bother to call or text me and give me the option not to wait. If you are running behind or forget a commitment, take ownership as soon as you realize there is a problem. You’ll have a better chance of salvaging the relationship.

Time is a valuable commodity. Use it wisely, and you’ll fuel your career.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

This post was originally published at Talent Zoo.

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16 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Time Management

  1. Hello Dr. Gottschalk,

    First of all, Great Blog!! I’ve been learning so much in the short time I’ve been following you. You hit the target each time with your topics. I read other blogs but some are a little “artificial” whilst your articles are much more “realistic” and pragmatic.

    This article really hit home; actually, I found it quite painful to read because I feel I fall into each of the five points you cover. I won’t bore you with details but there are too many home truths that I qualify for. The worst part is knowing where I’m tripping up and still falling into the same traps everyday. :(

    Of all the time management problems I encounter the biggest obstacle is saying “NO” to people. It is my worst fault and the most difficult to overcome. Sometimes it feels impossible to organize emergencies, especially in my job where everything is time-critical. I try to get people to think for themselves but then I worry if they are able to work out their own problems (often they can’t) and in the end I spread my assistance out very thinly in order to tackle all the emergencies.

    In the end my best answer to the problem is to state that there are not enough hours in the working day to do my job effectively. In one of my blog posts I even went as far as to try to figure out where a typical employee’s time is wasted in a working day with the result that we should be making better use of our time at work. It was a cry of help for want of a better solution even if it probably made me unpopular…it is difficult to change the Status Quo.

    I can only promise to try to divide and conquer the problems in the ultimate quest for a fulfilling and efficient working day.

    Regards,
    Enzo

  2. Enzo thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    I am a bit “no nonsense” in my approach to coaching. To best help both individuals and businesses – I find honesty to be the best route – even if it is, at first, difficult to hear.

  3. This is a great post about the things that really need to be done to get a grip on your time again. The point about no one will value your time if you don’t even value it yourself, and the point about learning how to delegate really rang true to me. These are great points of advice and really lay it out there on ways to get a better handle on this tough topic.

  4. Thanks for this post. The thing that always strikes me about time management is that most of us know this stuff already and yet don’t implement it. It is not rocket science either is it! I find in my work that quite often people have deep seated beliefs that they’ have to’ or ‘must’ do certain things which get in the way of implementing time management.

  5. You are so right – no rocket science here. But, to be on the cutting edge, and do your job well you have to almost become “ruthless”.

    Thanks so much for reading. Please pass on the advice – but only if you feel your time will be well spent.

    Marla

  6. Pingback: The Art of Getting Things Done Weekly Links #13 – Saying No, Communicating, and Doing Less | kanban2go blog

  7. Hi Marla,
    A great article, thank you. I find when I’m working with clients, that your first point is so important. If they don’t value their time, how can they expect anyone else to? I love your emphasis on brutal honesty too – why produce a report that no-one reads? Sometimes a good hard look at what we’re doing and how it fuels our forward movement is needed.
    I often ask myself, is what I’m doing today moving me towards my goal? If not, then why am I doing it?
    Really enjoying your writing, thank you,
    Sue

  8. Great article Marla, it is informative and you’ve got some point. I my personal experience I indeed agree that multi tasking doesn’t work. I believe that staying focus on tasks is the key to get things done. Another good thing to do is in order to manage time when working on tasks is to set an estimated amount of time, which helps you limit wasted time. It is what I also do at work using Time Doctor to track time accurately. Discipline is my key that I can finish tasks on time and meet deadlines.

  9. Absolutely agree. Actually, there is no such thing as “time management.” It’s a myth. We don’t manage time but 2 times a year (in the NE US, anyway), and that’s “spring forward and fall back.”

    Everything else is priority management, decision management, action management, and setting boundaries, and saying “no” to others to say “yes” to us.

    This latter issue is a self-esteem issue people need to come to grips with!

  10. I worked on a process improvement team where we didn’t use the term “time management,” but rather, “priority management.” Looking at the process in terms of priority rather than minutes helped identify what really provided value. Great article!

  11. Pingback: 3 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Single Hour...To this end, take a hard look at how you’ve been spending your time by completing a calendar audit. - First Sun Consultation

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