Lesson 6 – Time Management

The Four D’s

Do, Dump, Delay, and Delegate

Do it Now

Do you spend a lot of time looking for things? Research tells us that the average person spends about 10% of the day looking for documents. If that were so, you could gain 5 weeks a year just by getting your retrieval methods under control!

Handle the little things that reduce concentration and cause anxiety, like the clutter on your desk and the incomplete jobs. This is the opposite of prioritising. Do the quick and dirty tasks NOW! The crises in our lives are often the result of not handling the little things or not reacting to a niggling feeling that something is wrong. Ignore the little toothache and you wind up with a root canal.

Another technique is to handle the worst things first. We create more stress and anxiety, and waste more time and energy, over the things we least like to do. Why not just do them?

Try the salami technique: break things down into small steps and get started. That is how we eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

Dump

Get rid of things you don’t need. This will take some practice and a hard-nosed approach if you have a tendency to hang on to stuff. If throwing it out is too difficult, give it away, or ask someone else to throw it out for you.

Delay

Occasionally we have legitimate delays, for example, if we are waiting for somebody else to get us information or complete a task. However, if you have deadlines, pass on deadlines to others as well. Don’t let someone else’s lack of planning short-circuit your deadlines.

Delegate

Don’t waste your time doing things that somebody else can do, especially if they can do them better than you. Save your time for those things which you are uniquely qualified to do.

In The Creative Edge, author William C. Miller defines five levels of delegation:

  • Tell: “Based on my decision, here’s what I want you to do.”
  • Sell: “Based on my decision, here’s what I want you to do, because…”
  • Consult: “Before I make a decision, I want your input.”
  • Participate: “We need to make a decision together.”
  • Delegate: “You make a decision.”

You must find ways to delegate, no matter what your position is. Learn to clearly define who is to do what and let go. There are five steps to the delegation process:

1)    Explain why the job is important.
2)    Describe what is needed in terms of results (not how, but what).
3)    Give the person the authority they need to do the job.
4)    Indicate when the job needs to be completed and get agreement.
5)    Ask for feedback to ensure a common understanding.

The Story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got mad about it because it was Everybody’s job. Everyone thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody blamed Anybody.

Case study – Sheila’s Dilemma

Three months ago, Sheila looked forward to her promotion to supervisor. After four years in the department, she was confident of her abilities, and she knew her staff was capable and experienced.

Today, Sheila isn’t so sure she was cut out to be a supervisor. There seems to be no end to her workday. During office hours her day is filled with assigning work and reviewing results. Also, there is a steady flow of visitors, and the phone rings constantly. In the evening, when she would like to relax, she has to take care of administrative matters such as reading mail, answering letters, preparing budgets, and completing performance appraisals.

Consider Sheila’s situation and think about the following questions:

  • Does she appear to be making effective use of delegation?
  • If her visitors are employees, how might she avoid interruptions?
  • Should Sheila consider establishing a quiet time when she would receive no calls or visitors? If so, when might be the best time of day?
  • Sheila feels she should assign all departmental work and review all results. Is there a more efficient way?
  • What other ways could Sheila gain more control over her use of time?

In frustration, Sheila asked her friend, Carol, for advice. She told Carol she was thinking about giving up her supervisor’s job. She said she just couldn’t face a career of working 60 hours a week. Carol listened and then said there might be another way: if the only issue was the time required to do the job, perhaps a review of how Sheila was using her time might help.

STING

Most people occasionally battle the habit of procrastination (putting off something you really want or need to do). And in spite of how good you are at setting goals, procrastination can sabotage your personal and professional life.

Here are five steps to take the STING out of feeling overwhelmed.

  • S: Select one thing to do.
  • T: Time yourself. Check the clock, give yourself an hour, and go for it.
  • I: Ignore everything else while the clock is ticking.
  • N: No breaks until your hour is up.
  • G: Give yourself a reward when the hour is up.