Tag Archives: time-management

Moments Matter

A Three-Part Strategy to Effectively Leverage Your Time

By Jill J. Johnson, MBA

Most people manage their time by treating each of their priorities as if they have an equal weight. They do not. When you are developing your time management strategy, you need to break your time down into three different categories. These types of time include routine activities, project-oriented activities and crisis situations. Each of these types of time has a different impact on your productivity and your daily focus.

Developing a clearer understanding of what type of time you are dealing with allows you more options for developing a strategic approach to how you focus your daily priorities. Initially, break down your key areas of focus by evaluating the urgency and significance of your primary activities. This is followed by an evaluation of each of your major responsibilities to assess which type of time it involves. Then consider the amount of time that will be necessary to effectively complete each of them. This strategic focus will help you develop a more proactive approach to managing your overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, responsibilities.

Neglecting Routines Creates Chaos

Routine activities involve responsibilities you can anticipate. Activities falling under this type of time include those with an automatic or regularly occurring deadline. This may be preparing quarterly reports, tax filings or actions you need to process on the first day of each month.

Unfortunately, most people procrastinate on assignments that have a routine deadline. They wait until the last minute to begin working on them. Then they rush to pull together the needed information. Waiting until the very last minute to focus on routine activities ends up compressing the completion time horizon. The frantic rush to meet the known deadline often results in missing critical elements, errors, or a lack of quality work. This adds pressure and unnecessary stress.

Routine activities are not surprises. Don’t treat them as such. Carve out the time you need in your schedule and make sure it adequately reflects the time necessary to completing these assignments. If these activities require research or advance preparation time, your schedule must allow ample time to work on them in advance. Shorten or eliminate all non-essential meetings as you get closer to a deadline. Set up alerts with a reminder of your impending deadline. Then send alert notices to others who have critical information or essential insight you will need.

Taking a strategic mindset to approaching routine assignments encourages you to complete your preparation work as far in advance of your deadline as possible. The key is to dedicate the time you need into both your planning process and your schedule. If it is a new responsibility for you, budget time into your calendar to accommodate your learning curve.

If the routine activity is something you only engage in periodically, create cheat-sheets with screenshots and notes to yourself on issues you ran into and how you solved them. These notes can be a huge time-saver the next time you complete this activity.

Managing Projects Requires a Precise Plan

The second type of time is project time. Projects are often complex activities with a defined expectation for deliverables or a date of completion such as a major event. With projects, there many moving parts and multiple deadlines. Projects may also include the involvement of a variety of other team members or vendors.

The challenge with most projects is they often have long time-frames which allow those involved to push off key responsibilities because the completion date is perceived to be far off into the future. Participants focus on day-to-day fires and do not worry about the project until there is an urgent rush to meet a deadline.

Effectively managing project-oriented time requires developing and following a clearly established plan. There are a variety of formal project management methodologies you can follow. The key to each of them is to determine who are the other people who need to be involved and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each. Internal deadlines need to be clearly determined for all of those involved and direct responsibilities must be clearly delineated. Break your project activities into smaller components and more manageable parts. Engaging in interim checkpoints on a periodic basis allows you to stay up to date on the progress being made on a project. These checkpoints provide the opportunity to determine if you have adequate resources deployed to the right areas so you can meet the deadline.

Another strategy you can implement to manage project time is to engage in front-end loading. This means completing or beginning work on a significant number of components of your project when you are first assigned to it. By front-end loading your work, you will begin to identify challenges in obtaining a resource or needed information. This intensive work at the beginning of your project provides you with more time to resolve any glitches before they put your project completion at risk.Dedicate the time you need into both your planning process and your schedule. Click To Tweet

Expect the Unexpected

A crisis is an unexpected situation requiring you stop everything you are currently focused on to address the situation. When a crisis occurs, your entire focus shifts your priority to resolving the problem or the aftermath of an unexpected event. This could be a fire, data breach or the death of a key employee. You shift from any other activities to solely focus on the issues associated with the emergency.

The biggest challenge when dealing with a crisis is you often do not have advance warning that something significant will happen. Few organizations adequately prepare for a disaster. Then when something significant hits, everyone scrambles trying to figure out what to do. It is difficult to think clearly to establish essential priorities when your adrenaline had kicked in and everyone is in a highly emotional or pressurized state of mind. Just make sure you are not treating routine activities or missed project deadlines as a crisis.

Prepare a disaster plan for the types of crisis your enterprise is most likely to experience. When you have the luxury to prepare in advance, you and your team are more likely to have a clearer frame of mind to identify what the focus of your priorities must be to develop a clear framework for rapid action in an emergency.

Final Thoughts

When you begin to consider demands on your time as being different kinds of time, you can shift your focus toward optimizing your priorities and activities. This more process-oriented focus of your thinking on productivity will help you better prioritize your actions. Then you can more effectively avoid time-wasting activities and ensure you are focused on getting the desired results for the energy you spend.

Jill Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Work With Intention: The Three Components of Performance Time

By Brian MoranBrian Moran

Everything you want to accomplish in life requires an investment of your time, so when you want to improve your results, you must consider the fact that your supply of time is limited.

Even in this era of innovation and technological advancement, time, more than any other resource, is the limiting factor. Let’s face it, everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. Even more vexing is the fact that the supply of time is completely inelastic. No matter the magnitude of demand, the supply is fixed. Moreover, it’s perishable. And yet, time is perhaps the most squandered of all personal resources.

To become great, you must choose to allocate your time to your greatest opportunities. You will have to choose to spend time on the difficult things that create your biggest payoffs. To be great you will need to live with intention. This will require you to be clear on what matters most, and then to have the courage to say no to things that distract you. You will need to guard your time intensely, delegating or eliminating everything possible that is not one of your strengths or does not help you advance your goals.

To be your best, you must intentionally align your time and activities with your strengths and your unique capabilities. When you do, you will also experience a new and ever-increasing level of performance and satisfaction. To achieve this level of performance will require that you carve out time for the strategic—those actions that are important, but not necessarily urgent. Strategic activities don’t typically have an immediate payback, yet they create substantial returns in the future. To stay focused on your strengths, you will need to manage your interruptions and keep the low-payoff activities to a minimum.

In spite of the priceless value of time, many people engage each day on its own terms. In other words, they satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented; spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving much thought as to the relative value of the activity. This is a reactive approach in which the day is controlling you thus preventing you from performing at your best.

The key to successful time use— intentional time use—is not trying to eliminate these unplanned interruptions, but instead to block out regular time each week dedicated to the strategically important tasks. We call this Performance Time and find that it is the best approach to effectively allocating time that we have ever encountered. Performance Time is an easy-to-use system that allows you to operate like the CEO of your business and life by spending your most valuable asset—your time—with intention. It utilizes a simple time-blocking system to regain control of your day and maximize your effectiveness.

There are three primary components of Performance Time: strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks.

Strategic Block: A Strategic Block is a 3-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled in advance. During these blocks you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no e-mails, no visitors – no mental interruptions. You focus all your energies on the preplanned items – the strategic and money-making activities. Doing so concentrates your intellect and creativity and produces breakthrough results. You will be astounded by the quantity and quality of the work you produce. For most people, one strategic block per week is sufficient.

Buffer Block: Buffer Blocks are created to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day. Almost nothing is more unproductive and frustrating than dealing with constant interruptions, yet we’ve all had days when unplanned items dominated our time.

A Buffer Block allows you to take what would otherwise be inefficient activity and make it more productive by grouping it together. In this way you can handle each item expeditiously and move through the list with some momentum. This allows you to stay focused throughout the day on the important activities.

For some, one 30-minute buffer block a day is sufficient, while for others, two separate one-hour blocks may be necessary. The power of buffer blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive so that you can increase your efficiency in dealing with them and take greater control over the rest of your day.

Break-out Block: One of the key factors contributing to performance plateaus is the absence of free time. So often, entrepreneurs and professionals get caught up in working longer and harder. This approach is an energy and enthusiasm killer. To achieve greater results what’s necessary is not more hours. On the contrary, often it is more free time.

A Break-out Block is a minimum 3 hour block of scheduled time that is devoid of any work related activities and thoughts. It is time set aside to rejuvenate and replenish. Use this time for fun. Enjoy the hobbies in your life. Spend time with family and friends. Play golf. Go shopping. Get some exercise. Go fishing, or sailing…whatever you like to do that is non-work related. You need this time to rebuild your reserves and to open yourself up to fresh ideas and perspectives.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If we take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.”

Everything that we achieve in life happens in the context of time. The reality is that if you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance. While it’s true that we control our actions and not our outcomes, our results are created by our actions. It stands to reason that the actions that we choose to take throughout our day, ultimately determine our destiny.

To realize your potential, you must learn to be more mindful about how you spend your time. Living with clear intention goes against the powerful natural tendency to be reactive because it requires you to organize your life around your priorities and consciously choose those activities that align with your goals and vision. When you use your time intentionally, you waste less of it and spend more of it on your high-value actions. Intentionality is your secret weapon in your war on mediocrity.

The key to successful time use is not necessarily in eliminating unplanned interruptions but in regularly blocking out time for the important activities. Just gaining control over a few hours each week often has a dramatic effect. Learn to use your time with greater intention and you will not only be more effective, but you will also feel a greater sense of control, less stress, and increased confidence. Try Time Blocking, it works!

Brian Moran, President and Founder of Strategic Breakthroughs, has amassed over thirty years of expertise as an executive, coach and consultant. Brian realized that most people don’t lack ideas but struggle with their effective implementation. His new book, “The 12 Week Year” is a powerful guide to creating results through Focus, Commitment and Accountability! Brian is a recognized expert and speaker in the field of leadership and execution. To learn more about Brian Moran, please visit BrianPMoran.com.

Workout Wisdom For The Workplace

By Eileen McDargh

Eileen McDargh

The dictionary defines workout as a “physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.” Sounds just like our workplaces where effort is expended to provide either a product or a service.  Look closer at a gym and one can learn seven lessons in leading self as well as others for performance improvement.

Lesson #1 –  Everyone needs a baseline: How can you track improvement if you have no idea what is your current capability or baseline? In a gym weight is but one measure of physical ability. You also consider body fat, inches, how many repetitions of a specific exercise and more.  The truth is, you might not lose a pound but become stronger and leaner by muscle development.  What are at least three different baselines that would be good benchmarks for improvement? For example: What is your current number of client contacts that you make?  What is your current level of quality reports you generate?  You get the idea!

Lesson #2 –  To get results, you must vary your routine: I see gym members who have been coming for months and yet there is no sign of any improvement. What I discovered is that their bodies plateaued and the muscles simply remember the exercise and is no longer challenged.  We can do the same thing in our work. There’s comfort in the familiar but there is also little room for improvement.  How might you change your “routine” and try a new way of getting a task completed?  Perhaps you’ll even discover that your routine contains activities that can be discarded or given away!

Lesson #3 –  Plan your hardest work for your optimum time: Everyone has a time of day in which they feel most alert and engaged. To the degree that you can put your most difficult work within YOUR best time slot, do it. I am pretty darn useless after 6pm but I can rise and shine in the early morning which is also my exercise time.

Lesson #4 –  A workplace workout buddy keeps you honest: Think of this as your accountability partner. In a gym, a trainer serves that role: watching, recording, and assisting with specific exercises. In the workplace, many of us serve as coaches to senior level executives. These executives need someone to “keep them honest” and focused. We can all find and use an accountability buddy.

Lesson #5 – Know how much time you can take off without losing your “tone”: It’s a hard fact of life but stop exercising and within three weeks, our bodies lose muscle tone. Doesn’t seem fair and yet, the same thing is true of work. Stay out of the business for months, and it will be harder to jump back in. Whether you are on sabbatical, seeking a new position, or waiting for an employment contract, stay engaged. Read. Network. Practice. Unless, of course, you have decided to retire and move to Fiji.

Lesson #6 –  Be clear on exactly what you can really do: Try as hard as I might, there is no way my body will do a split, a handstand, or a cartwheel.  I watch one man who can move his feet like greased lightning in a kick box routine that would have me tripping myself and everyone next to me. However, I am strong with weights, cardio step, and climbing mountains.

In the workplace, what do you honestly know is not within your forte and never will be? If cold calls make your skin crawl, then learn how to ask for referrals from people whom you already know.  If you are interpersonally intelligent but math leaves you clueless, don’t apply for an accounting position.

Lesson #7 – Strength, endurance and flexibility are all important: Just as these three qualities are a hallmark of a good workout program, so too are they critical for effective career development.  Strength of character and a will to learn provide a breeding ground for success. Endurance allows you to be in the great game of work for the long haul. Without flexibility, rigidity steps in and many an organization has vanished because of outmoded thinking, dated systems, and legacy procedures. What are you doing to grow in strength, endurance, and flexibility?

Workout wisdom truly works out in today’s global, 24/7 world.

Since 1980, Hall of Fame speaker Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter.  Executive Excellence ranks her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development.  Looking for help with work and life challenges? Visit www.eileenmcdargh.com today!