P2M7 Manage Your Time

A title of “Manage Your Time” is a bit of a cop-out forced on me by the need to keep titles short for my menu structure.

Think of this module as…

“How To Maximise The Impact Of And Use Of Your Time”

It’s not so much how much time you get that is important but what you manage to achieve.

Again this is the difference between input thinking – doing stuff – output thinking – getting results.

Why Your Use Of Time Is So Vital

  • We all have 168 hours per week
  • Money is abundant, time is limited
  • Money wasted can be replaced, Time wasted is lost forever
  • Your life is made up of an unknown but finite number of years, months and days  you use it a minute at a time
  • You can choose to waste your time
  • Or allow others to waste it for you
  • Or you can take control & your time well

We each have the same 168 hour per week, no more and no less.

But how people take advantage of the opportunities in the time varies enormously.

Keeping your body working by stocking up on the essentials of food, drink and sleep can vary significantly. Some people need eight or nine hours sleep a day. Others don’t need more than five or six hours.

Your family responsibilities also intrude into the time you’ve got for yourself and your business and these can be unfairly spread around.

And then there’s “you time” – the time you put to one side to enjoy life. That can be spent actively having fun or effectively wasted slumped in front of a bad show on the TV which you can’t remember the next day.

That leaves the time in your business – and how you use that time will make a huge impact on the success of your business.

The simple fact is that while money is abundant – there are ways and means that you can get more – time is limited. You can waste money, safe in the knowledge that you have the opportunity to get it back. Any time you waste is gone forever.

Whether you waste your time or use it productively comes back to the little decisions about how you will spend your next 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day.

All our work from your vision and mission down through your mindset, beliefs and goals, your strengths and your priorities come to affect your life in your decisions on how to use your time.

If you’re going to improve the way you manage your time, you’ve got to make better decisions and have the discipline and commitment to stay focused and true to your intentions.

The Rich & Poor Are Very Different In How They Think About Time

  • The rich spend money to save time
  • The poor spend time to save money
  • Do you have the balance right?
  • How much is your time worth?
  • Are you spending it wisely?

I can’t remember who I heard this from but it made me stand up, take notice and think about what I do with my time.

The rich spend their money to save time.

The poor spend their time to save money.

It’s a huge difference in thinking and especially with what you covered in working to your strengths. The difficult things are often particularly time consuming and they suck time away from where you can get the maximum results for your time.

This is back to input thinking and output thinking.

Think of a business owner you know. I bet you can almost hear him or her saying “I can’t work any harder. I’m already working 50, 60, 70, even 80 hours a week.”

There’s no output perspective – when did you hear someone say “I can’t achieve any more. I can’t work smarter.”

In Pillar 1 on Your Key Numbers, in What Is Profit, you looked at the value of your time and I told you the maxim:

“To earn more, you need to do more valuable work.”

Be honest with yourself. Are you spending your time wisely?

Could you justify what you do in a day to someone else – a super efficient business owner you know – without being embarrassed by the time that is frittered away and lost in low value activities?

To do more higher value work, you need to eliminate low value work through efficient systems and delegate or outsource those tasks that don’t pay well and especially those which don’t match your strengths.

To Create Change

  • You need to change what you do
  • To start some things you have never done before
  • To do more of some things you already do
  • To do less of some things you do
  • To stop doing some things you do
  • You need to create the space
  • Build new habits – 14 to 42 days?

The simple fact is that if you want to change your results, you need to change what you do.

To move towards doing things that will work well and to move away from anything that gives a poor return on your  time.

The Stop Start More Less Grid is one of my favourite techniques for getting clear on many different issues. In fact you can use it, in each of the different Pillars of Business Prosperity.

Stop Start More Less Grid

It recognises that the only way to get more done is to:

  • Work more hours; or
  • To use the hours you work doing more productive things.

Most business owners already work too long so the first option of working longer isn’t practical.

It’s not good for you and you may benefit from cutting down your hours, if you are going to regain your sparkle and enthusiasm for your business.

The Stop Start More Less Grid also recognises that if you don’t make space for new ideas and more emphasis on certain tasks, then they are not going to get done. The everyday grind of doing what you’ve always done will get in the way.

It is said to take between 14 and 42 days to create a new habit.

That’s consecutive days. If you slip back into the bad old habits, then you’ve got to start from scratch.

It probably won’t feel natural to start or end each day thinking about your work plan for the day ahead but if you do it, day after day, you’ll grow to see it as the sensible way to work to maximise the output and results from your working day.

Why Is Self Management So Hard?

  • Distractions and interruptions
  • Uncertain priorities
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Poor self discipline
  • Over-commitment – trying to do too much
  • Don’t recognise value of your time – calculate – “entrepreneurs eat what they kill”
  • No rewards – just more work

It would be a mistake to think that it’s going to be easy to wrestle control of your time away to where you can create the most value.

If it was easy, you’d already being doing it, wouldn’t you?

Let’s take a look at some of the hurdles before looking at what you can do to make life easier.

First, distractions and interruptions.

I’m writing this as the  World Cup 2010 is on and Wimbledon due to start next week. As a big football and tennis fan, I could allow myself to be distracted and keep checking on the scores. Even worse I could decide to watch a match and waste several hours. Distractions are what you let happen, usually because you are naturally curious and want to know what’s happening.

Interruptions come from other people, and happens where you allow them to impose what’s important to them at a higher level than what’s important to you.

It can come from uncertain priorities – although hopefully not after the last module on Setting Priorities – and happens if priorities are too high or too low.

If you look around and only see low priority tasks on your agenda, then you won’t have much motivation or urgency to get things done. You’ll be restless and be looking around for more important things to do… even if momentarily they just look more important.

Or if you’re over-loaded with things that need to be done, you might be jumping from one to another… trying to keep the plates spinning. Imagine what it would be like in an accidental and emergency hospital without a system of triage to identify where the time needs to be spent.

You might find it difficult to focus or concentrate for long enough to get the job done. It’s a sign that you’re bored, not motivated by the task and probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Sometimes it is a case of poor self discipline. You know what needs to be done but you can’t force yourself to do it.

You may struggle with self management of your time because you’re trying to get too much done and putting too much pressure on yourself. Intending to work eight hours a day and loading yourself up with fourteen hours worth of work is a recipe for disaster. If you do it, then you’re setting yourself up for a long and hard struggle. I have a problem in this area myself. I wish I was better at estimating how long jobs would take.

You may find time management difficult because you’re struggling to let go of the menial tasks and those that don’t suit your natural strengths. Calculating the money you want to earn per hour and comparing it to the value of the task is an excellent way to help identify the tasks you should be delegating, automating or stopping.

Self Discipline

  • Delay gratification until you’ve finished priorities
  • Changes in results need changes in actions
  • Change is difficult – requires commitment & determination
    • Why the results are important
    • How to do it
    • Belief actions will lead to success
  • Trust in yourself and win the trust of others

It’s time to look at self discipline in more detail.

Self discipline is doing what you commit to do when you promise to do it, no matter whether the promise is to someone else or to yourself.

No excuses.

You decide what you’re going to do and then you do it.

You delay taking a break or incidental pleasures until you’ve finished – surfing the web is an issue for me with my information hunting instincts and the need to know more. For others, it may be checking email or going back to Twitter or Facebook to see what your friends are up to.

This means chunking your day down into times and tasks short enough that you can maintain your discipline and then you reward yourself when you’ve met your commitment and finished the task.

It was the great scientist Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If you want to change your results, and your membership of Your Profit Club shows that you do, then you have to change your actions. Break away from the old habits and do the things which will move you to your goal.

It is tough.

Changing habits always is.

You need to know three things:

  • What is your goal and why the results are important – what it means to you and the people around you to succeed either moving towards a better situation or away from a problem.
  • You need to know how to do it. If you’re uncertain or don’t know, then it’s tough to be self disciplined on a commitment. If you a clear on the what, your subconscious mind will work away on the how and you’ll find plenty of guidance in Your Profit Club.
  • You need to believe that actions will lead to success.

If your goal is to increase the number of new customers to increase profit so you can take your family away on a special holiday, then you are a third of the way to having self discipline.

Until you pick your “how to achieve your goal”, you may be switching from direct mail to telemarketing to getting more traffic to your website through search engine optimisation. Thinking about each but never doing it.

Once you decide on direct mail as your preferred way to achieve your goal, you’re more committed but if you still hear that negative voice in your head “you don’t know how to write a great sales letter” or “your sales letter brought in zero responses – you don’t know what you’re doing”, then it is tough to have the self discipline to do it. You need to believe that your actions will lead to success.

Have a think about a self discipline issue in another area of your life – weight loss, more exercise, cigarettes, booze – and work out where the weak link in the chain is.

Is it in the goal and the results? Logically you can accept fit, slim people stay healthier and live longer but do yiou really want to make the short term sacrifice for the long term gain?

Or is it that you’re not sure how to do it? Eat less and exercise more – it doesn’t sound fun but the basic guidelines are clear.

Or you don’t believe actions will lead to success.I’d like to lose weight but I regards diets with suspicion and my self image is more the “slob on the sofa” than the marathon runner.

Just one more chocolate biscuit won’t hurt will it?

The pay-off for developing self discipline is huge.

You’ll quieten that voice in your head which holds you back. The more you lack self discipline, the more you’ll hear “It won’t work. You’ll give up before it’s done. Why waste the effort of even starting?” The way to stop it is to be self disciplined.

It does feel good. I get a little warm glow when I’ve forced myself to get something done and I enjoy my indulgent rewards because I’ve earned it.

You’ll like yourself more. Making commitments and holding yourself to them makes you feel like a nicer, more reliable person.

It will also strengthen your relationship with others. It makes life much easier to be with people who do what they say they will do.

Not 25% of the time. Not 50% of the time but 99% or more. Life gets easier with higher expectations and fewer nasty surprises.

Distractions & Interruptions

  • Time log – every change or 30 minutes intervals
  • Office
  • No interruption times – weekly meetings
  • Seats – remove, block access
  • Telephone – divert, use appointments
  • Email & social media
  • Schedule, limit responses & actions, organise
  • Desk – keep tidy, file, one touch system

Self discipline is about controlling yourself but it’s not enough. You’ve got to have the power and desire to stop interruptions.

First, I recommend you keep a time log. It’s a common time management technique and many people fight against it. “I don’t have time to write down everything I do.”

I find it a revelation and when I get particularly busy I start a time log.

It gives you intense focus on your time and where it is going.

Some recommend that every 30 minutes you write down what you are doing. I prefer to make a record every time I change activities. The start time of one activity becomes the end time of the other.

The telephone goes – write it down.

You check Twitter – write it down.

You remember you have to email a client – write it down.

I think you’ll be astonished at how the 5 minute jobs really take 25 minutes.

I rarely add up all the time differences except for chargeable time although I use a spreadsheet so the arithmetic is easy if I wanted to investigate where a particularly unproductive day had gone wrong.

I tried slimtimer.com which lets you track your time for free but every now and again I would forget to log off from one activity to another and I never found a way to edit based on estimates.

I believe you should have an office to give you peace and quiet to think and a chance to shut the door if you need to get on. A shut door is symbolic to both you and other people – you are not to be disturbed. It’s just as important if you work from home.

Because I work from home, I notice a big difference when Margaret is at home.

There are several other things you can do to control interruptions from your team:

  • No interruption times – when I was an accountancy student, the partners introduced a do not disturb period between 10:00 am and noon. The rule was understood by all and it worked. Rarely is something so urgent it can’t wait for a few hours.
  • Schedule weekly meetings with your employees who interrupt you most. I did this when I used to have a queue of people waiting outside my office to see me. Most of the interruptions were for things they wanted to talk about but they weren’t essential. By making it clear that  person had 30 minutes on a Thursday afternoon between 2:30 and 3:00, a list built up and then the person would prioritise to get the most from the 30 minutes.
  • Give your team some decision making discretion. If they understand your vision and values, they often know what you’re going to say so let them put it into action without asking.

If you do have some open door time, beware of the person who plonks their bum on a chair. You’re in for a long chat. I’ve known people take chairs out of their office or make them inaccessible without effort (which gives you time to say you’re busy).

The telephone can be a big interruption. It always seems to ring when you’ve hit a rich vein of inspiration.

  • You don’t have to answer it although it can be annoying if it rings many times. Turn off the telephone or disconnect it.
  • You can send it to voice mail and turn down the recorder microphone so you can’t hear the message being played back.
  • You can divert your telephone. Either to an employee to act as a gatekeeper or to a telephone answering service.
  • You can let it be known that you don’t answer the telephone or only take calls on a Friday afternoon. I don’t want to talk to prospective new clients until I’ve seen their Business Assessment and had a chance to think about their business and situation.
  • Make telephone appointments by email and keep to the commitment. Telephone tag where you ring and leave a message and then he rings when you’re busy and leaves a message etc is a huge waste of time and very frustrating. Especially if you spend a few minutes to prepare for the call before it happens.  With a telephone appointment, it becomes a scheduled part of your day.

Email is great. I love it because it can be written at a time convenient to the writer and read when convenient to the reader.

But continually checking your email or going to it when you hear the ping of new emails is a big distraction. Set times of the day to do it. Some time management experts say you shouldn’t check your email until lunch time so you can spend the morning working on your priorities.

I can’t do that – it’s just not in me. I get up early and check my emails while I’m having my first drink of the day. Then I check mid morning, lunchtime, mid afternoon, just before I finish and later in the evening. In some ways that is too often.

Each email risks moving you from your agenda to someone else’s agenda. It plays havoc with your priorities because it introduces lots of gratuitous activities – especially if you’re an information junkie like me.

It’s best to turn off your email program so you don’t get tempted to have a sneaky update.

When I was using Microsoft Outlook Express. I created hundreds of message rules which automatically filtered wanted emails into holding folders so I could look at them when I had the time. Every newsletter I signed up for had a folder and every client.

It meant I was able to focus in on my priorities – emails from clients, mastermind partners, then the general emails and the newsletters and updates.

The general stuff which went into the main inbox was mainly spam so I could look at it very briefly with my finger on the Delete key but it also included emails from people I didn’t know who wanted to build a business relationship with me.

It worked well but since I upgraded to Windows & I can’t use Outlook Express any more. I use Mozilla Thunderbird but I haven’t mastered how to set message rules yet.

Replying to emails is an interesting point. If someone sends you something on a one-to-one basis and it’s useful, I think you should acknowledge it to save the phone call asking “have you got it?”

Replies are best kept short although it can seem blunt so look for a balance based on who it is, their importance to you and the time it will take to write.

Social media has become a bigger potential time waster than emails – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and plenty of other networking websites.

It’s best to keep your time rationed. I used to waste a lot of time because people I followed tweeted some interesting stuff (remember my need to find out stuff) and I’ve cut back to Twitter with occasional use of Facebook and LinkedIn to confirm new relationships.

I use Tweetdeck to make sense of Twitter which lets me organise the people I follow into a series of groups:

  • Friends and clients – this is the first column
  • Mentions – where other people have retweeted one of my tweets or started a conversation with me.
  • Direct messages – these are private messages
  • Interests
  • Small business
  • Copywriters
  • Internet marketer
  • Everyone

It works well and helps to organise the random chatter into a way that makes sense.

If you use social media for your business, unless you have a deliberate marketing strategy which produces tangible results, I’d focus on using it to have little breaks or to fill in gaps – the five minutes before a scheduled telephone call for example.

The final interruption is the nagging that comes from your desk and all the paperwork that demands your attention. Some people swear by a clear desk policy and everything in its place. I  go to the other extreme although I’ve usually got a very accurate idea of where things are but a clear desk it’s not.

What matters is what works for you.

I’ve tried a clear desk policy but I can’t make it work.

Over-Commitment

  • Take responsibility – don’t be a victim
  • Priorities – estimate time needed – improve estimates & control
  • Triage – importance & urgency
  • Say No
  • Beware of the “monkey”
  • Perfectionism – good enough is good enough

Trying to do too much will kill your motivation to manage your time.

You’re trying to fight a battle you can’t win and then suffering the consequences.

You need to take responsibility for the actions you accept – refuse, delegate or outsource anything which doesn’t offer you a good payback.If you act like a powerless victim, then you’ll be run ragged.

This is why the Stop Start More Less Grid is so important – if you add fours hours worth of tasks into the Start and More segments, then where are those four hours going to come from?

Once you’ve established your priority tasks, you need to make an estimate of the time each will take.

One of the benefits of time logging your actions is that you create a control system

  • Estimated time = 3 hours
  • Actual time = 5.5 hours (and quality compromised to get it finished)

Either your estimate was completely wrong, in which case you need to know that for next time.

Or you found an unexpected problem which took a long time to fix – should your systems and processes be changed to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again?

Both give you more control but if you don’t log your time, you don’t know how long things take. You just get to the end of the day and wonder where the time went, apart from the 3 hour job you did.

It can be tough deciding priorities when you have a number of jobs that are important.

The phrase “highest and best use of your time” is meant to guide you based on your goals and the expected consequences.

In military hospitals in war zones, the medical staff are forced to operate a strict triage system to make sure they can do the maximum good in very difficult circumstances.

You’re not faced with life and death decisions but the principle is the same. If you earn more by doing higher value work you need to concentrate on getting the valuable work done and completed.

If you have an employee who is overloaded, encourage them to come to you for guidance on the priorities and help finding extra resources. A number of times when I was an employee I had to say that I could do A, B or C but not all three. Doing a bit of each days everything.

Suppose you did a third of each job before moving on to the next.

Your work would look like this

A B C A B C A B C

A is finished in time unit 7, B at 8 and C at 9.

With a clear priority A B C

A A A B B B C C C

A is finished after time unit 3, B at time unit 6 and C at time unit 9.

A and B are done faster and C isn’t delayed.

Saying No is good.

If you’re struggling to get more done, trying to do more is going to do more harm than good.

Imagine in the ABC example saying “can you do D as well?” while having A as the first priority.

It’s noise and distraction and is only going to make thing worse. If D has to be added, B or C need to be dropped.

Or D can be added to a list and reassessed later.

You’ve also got to learn to say No to your employees.

There’s a great concept called “the monkey” created by William Onken.

It’s when an employee managers to transfer their problem, part of their responsibilities to your shoulders. We’ll be discussing it later but accepting monkeys can drive you crazy while your staff have all the excuses they need to do very little.

Rocks In The Jar

  • Imagine your life as a glass pickle jar
  • And tasks as big rocks, pebbles and sand
  • If you start with the small things, with the sand and pebbles you find all the rocks can’t fit in
  • Put the rocks in first and the pebbles and sand fit around and you can even get water in
  • Stephen Covey “First Things First”

The best and most powerful metaphor for time management I’ve heard is a story I heard which features in Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First”.

Imagine your life as a pickle jar – it may seem a bit strange – but the important thing is that it has limited capacity.

And think of all the things you have to do – your tasks – as rocks, pebbles and sand. Some big and important (the rocks) and some small.

If you put the sand into the jar first and then the pebbles, you’ll find that you fit in the rocks.

One the other hand, if you put the rocks in first, the pebbles will fit in the gaps between the big rocks while the sand will fit in the gaps in the pebbles.

You can go further, if you take a jug of water – to represent really little things – you can pour some of that into the pickle jar too without causing it to overflow.

The moral of the story is to focus your time planning and management system on the big rocks first and fit everything else around them. Schedule the important tasks which move you forward towards your goals and vision and make yourself do them.

Your Time Management System

  • Find your natural working time unit – 20 to 60 minutes – intense focus – extend period gradually – use a timer?
  • 5 minute break – drink, exercise, fresh air
  • Most productive time of the day – reserve for important things
  • Create a routine – work, exercise, social, food
  • Learn to love learning – “university of the car”
  • Difference between being busy & effective

It’s time to build your time management system based on deciding what you are going to do and how you are going to work.

First I recommend you think in terms of your natural working time unit.

This is a period of intense focus where you focus on the task in hand and only the task in hand. No checking emails or getting up to have a drink. Think in terms of 20 to 60 minutes to get your head down and get on with it as you create time blocks.

You don’t want to be checking your watch every few minutes since that takes away your focus so get yourself a cheap kitchen timer to ring when your time is up or use an online service like http://www.online-stopwatch.com and set it to countdown for you.

When the timer goes, find a convenience place to stop and take a short break to stretch, grab a bit of fresh air or get a drink.

Then depending on your schedule and common sense, either carry on with that task or move on to the next.

Gradually increase your time unit until you get to 55 to 60 minutes. You’ll be impressed wit your self discipline and amazed at how much you get done by blocking your time like this.

Each of us has a natural cycle when we are at our best and most productive. I’m a morning person. Every since I was a student at University, I’ve found that I got my best work done first thing in the morning before others got up.

Others have their best time mid morning or in the afternoon or evening.

You need to decide when your best time of the day is and use it for your most important, most creative tasks. These jobs need the best of you.

It’s also a great idea to create a routine – of food and drink, exercise, work and social activities – so your body gets into good habits. I’m not a health and fitness nut but I do notice a link between how fit you feel and the energy you bring to bear in your time.

I also recommend you get into the habit of using the time you have as productively as you can.

I discovered audio learning with people like Nightingale Conant when I had a regular commute to a client two hours drive away. The radio drove me crazy, it was nice to have a blast of The Who and Deep Purple but I thrived when I had some intellectual stimulation.

You can learn a lot if you are in your car one hour per day, five hours per week, 200 hours plus per year. No wonder Brian Tracy talks about the “University of the Car”.

It’s time to…

Schedule Your Rocks

  • 2 or 3 important things to do in day – when done will make it a good day
  • Appointments – others & self – commitment
  • Estimate time and block in schedule
  • Best part of day but eat that frog!
  • No interruptions – you will start & finish
  • Consider timer – warning at 90%?
  • Reward yourself

Each day, I recommend you prepare a daily time plan of what you are going to do and how long it is going to take.

You start with your rocks.

Your two or three big, important (or urgent tasks) which when done will mean you’ve had a good day.

Use the time blocking or appointment system for things that you need to do regardless of whether it’s being done with someone else or with yourself.

  • 10 am to 11:30 am meeting with John Smith of ABC Printers – target £5,000 order
  • noon to 1:00 pm create staff bonus scheme for upsells
  • 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm review pay per click campaign and optimise keywords and advertisements around conversions

See these times as a firm commitment. If you get an interruption if you had a meeting, you’d say you weren’t available and reschedule. Do the same with your own tasks

Match the tasks to your daily pattern, doing any creative work when you are most creative. The only exception is if you have an “east that frog” type problem. In my experience it is best to get it out of the way to stop it messing up with how you feel the rest of the day.

You aim when doing these rock tasks is to work through without any interruptions. You start and you finish. If the task is bigger than your natural time working unit, stand up, have a stretch and then carry on.

Don’t give others a chance to impose their agendas on you so don’t go wandering around, check your emails or dive into the social media websites. Your focus is on getting the task done to the right quality within your allocated time.

A timer again works well since it stops you thinking “how much longer”. I sometimes find it useful to set the time for the 90% mark to stop the task developing into something much bigger than it should be.

Then when you’ve done your first rock, reward yourself with a little break.

It’s a little treat to say thank you for being so disciplined in the way you’ve controlled your time and got one of your most important tasks done.

Schedule Your Pebbles

  • Smaller tasks
  • Urgent things that you can’t delegate
  • Important
  • Fit around the Rocks – schedule on days – watch deadlines
  • Batch similar tasks – telephone calls, emails, paperwork

Once you’ve scheduled your rocks, it is time to fit the pebbles around them.

These are your smaller tasks which are less important for the future of your business and will include urgent tasks you can’t delegate.

I use a spreadsheet as my time planning system and I’ll forward schedule these tasks to days ahead (with a note of any deadlines) and then cut and paste from the day when I think i might do it to the day I will do it.

It’s a good idea to batch similar items if possible. If you’ve got three telephone calls to make and you haven’t fixed times, then do them one after the other. It’s the same with emails and any paperwork you need to do.

I may work 10 hours a day on average but I only schedule 6 or 7 hours work with my rocks and pebbles.

I know I will be distracted. I know I’ll have interruptions. I know I’ll want to indulge myself part of the day.

But I want to be clear on getting the 5 or 6 things I really want to get done, finished.

Your Sand

  • Fill in times – what do you feel like?
  • Keep a “to do some time” list
  • Add to in when you have an idea – recording it frees the mind
  • One touch system – calls, post, emails, interruptions –  do, dump, delegate or diary

Your final tasks to fit into your time management system are the equivalent of your sand.

This is your fill in times. For example I may have 30 minutes between coaching calls. Too long for a break but too short to start and finish a meaty task.

I take a relaxed view about these – if you’ve got your big important tasks done and some of the smaller important and urgent tasks then you can fill in your day with what you feel like.

Feeling chatty and you’d like to check up on some customers to make sure they are happy with your service? Then pick a few and give them a call. [This may be a rock task if you’ve had a service problem or you’ve introduced a new product or service.]

Feel in the mood for some training on getting the most out of social media? Then watch the video everyone seems to be raving about.

I recommend you keep a “to do sometime” list. When you get what seems like a good idea, write it down. Recording it means that it won’t get lost and it frees up the mind from stuff you’re trying to remember.

Your Staff & Time Management

  • More they do, the less you have to
  • Give time management training
  • Delegate – skills, resources, goal, deadline, priority, hold accountable, check progress
  • Meetings – great way to “look busy”
  • Agenda, right people, preparation
  • Start & finish on time
  • Keep focused on solutions & actions, minutes
  • Your business, your rules – you can break but you set the example

If you employ staff, then how well they manage their time and work activities will have a huge impact on your business success and what you find yourself doing in the business.

My advice is to give them time management training and I’m happy for you to use this module as your base. Most staff love to be trained since it shows you are interested in their success. The pickle jar with rocks, pebbles and sand makes a powerful demonstration of what happens if you don’t do the important stuff first.

If we take a quick look at delegation now although much more on managing people and tasks is covered in Pillar 7 Leading Your Team

Do’s of Delegation

Do delegate to people with the right skills to do the task  and don’t delegate to those who can’t do it unless you are happy to give the pre-task training and the during task support they need to complete it successfully.

Do make sure that the person you delegate to has access to the right resources either directly or has the authority to get the necessary resources.

Do delegate the goal and the purpose of the task. Don’t let your staff work in a vacuum of knowing what to do but not understanding why it is important.

Do set a deadline for tasks you delegate. You are still responsible so you want things done on time.

Do help clarify priorities. I’ve found that staff make assumptions and either think “Do this immediately” and take time away from a much more important task or “Do this sometime” and never get around to it because their day-to-day activities are allowed to fill up their days.

Do hold your staff accountable for tasks you have delegated (quality and time) and give feedback – good and bad – as quickly as you can.

If it is a big task you’ve delegated, then check progress. You may know it will take 30 to 40 hours while your staff member may be thinking in terms of a few hours so you’ve got very different ideas about whether something will be done by the deadline. Don’t just ask “How’s it going? Will it be ready for Friday?” (you’re staff will tell you what they think you want to hear). Demand to see proof of progress and how they intend to allocate the time to finish it.

Beware Of The Monkey

  • William Oncken Jr & later with Ken Blanchard
  • Your team member has a problem and comes to you for help and guidance.
  • Responsibility for the next step on tasks jump from team members to you.
  • “Leave it with me and let me think about it.”
  • “Boss, have you had a chance to think about it yet?” (your team member is holding you to account.)
  • You run out of time, team runs out of work

I loved the idea of “the monkey” when I first heard it and realised I was guilty. I was making my life tough while letting my staff have it easy.

The ideas were first developed by William Onken Jr and popularised in his book with Ken Blanchard “The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey.”

The monkey means responsibility for the next step or activity in a given project or task.

It happens when a member of your team comes to you and says something like “Boss we have a problem. I need to talk to you about it and get your advice.”

Since you realise that one of your roles is to help your team help you to achieve the purpose and vision of your business, you agree to the discussion, probably thinking that the problem is much smaller than those you’re currently wrestling with.

So your team member describes the problem and it’s not one with an easy answer.

You find yourself muttering those fateful words “leave it with me. I’ll have a think about it and get back to you.”

The monkey has jumped.

Your staff member has transferred his or her responsibility to you and they don’t have to give it a moment’s extra thought because you’re going to come up with the answer, you’re going to make the decision and you’re going to tell them what to do.

The more monkeys you pick up, the more you run out of time while your staff run out of things to do.

Managing The Monkey

  • Employee brings problem and at least one solution to you (may solve on own)
  • Alternative solutions
    • From employee – gain confidence
    • From meeting – either of you
  • More research needed into problem or solution
  • Agree ownership of the next task

You need to have a better system for managing the possibility of a monkey jumping.

If a staff member has a problem, then it should be their responsibility to think of at least one solution. This makes them take more responsibility for the work and the results of their work, keeps them interested and may mean that they can solve their problem on their own. if so, the monkey goes away without any risk of it jumping on your shoulder.

If the employee steps forward with a problem and at least one suggested solution, it may be fine. They just want the extra confidence of having checked with you, the boss, and they gain from the experience. Solving challenging problems is very satisfying which is why games, crosswords and puzzles are so popular spare time hobbies.

You may not like the suggested solution but your feedback will be a learning opportunity. You may have spotted a flaw in the logic or there may be knock on effects elsewhere.

As you talk, alternative solutions may come to mind from either of you and the next step can be agreed there and then.

If not, more research is needed into either the problem or potential solutions. Your task is to agree who is going to be responsible for doing that research – unless there is an exceptional reason, that person should be your employee who knows more about the task than you do – and agree a time to report back.

The jumping monkey problem is avoided in the vast of cases.

Oncken’s Rules For Monkey Management

  1. Describe the monkey – identify and specify the next step
  2. Assign the monkey – lowest level suitable for its well-being
  3. Insure the monkey
    1. Recommend then act (unaffordable mistake)
    2. Act then advise
  4. Check on the monkey – schedule check up, chance to praise, early warning if sick

William Onken Jr developed some specific rules for managing the monkey.

First you need to identify and describe the monkey (the next step) so there is no ambiguity or uncertainty.

Second, assign responsibility for the monkey to the lowest level of employee who can handle it. Some jobs need to be done by the business owner/CEO or senior manager but others don’t.

Third you need to insure the monkey to make sure the solution doesn’t cause bigger problems than it solves. There are two basic kinds of tasks. Those that need your approval before they go ahead because the problem or consequences are serious. And those that can be done without your direct say so, but because you want to make sure things are dealt with, you want to know after the event that a solution has been found and is working well.

Finally you need to agree on how the monkey will be monitored before it is solved. Good progress gives you a chance to give praise while you get an early warning if progress isn’t as it should be.

What To Do

First create your Stop Start More Less Grid to identify what you do that you need to cut out or reduce. Keep in mind the wealthy spend money to save time while the poor spend time to save money.

Second, find a way to control your interruptions. They are an easy excuse not get get stuff done and especially the “pseudo work” activities. They are the things you can almost convince yourself are work but they’re not productive.

Third understand the dangers of over-commitment and learn to manage the monkey.

Fourth get into the habit of scheduling your time each day and be fair to yourself. Get the important or unpleasant tasks done first.

Fifth help your staff to manage their time better. A disorganised person surrounds himself with chaos and it infects everyone around.

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