Lesson 9 – Time Management

Managing Your Workload

Case Study: Mary Marvelous

One day, Mary Marvelous was seated at her desk working on a project when her boss, Dianne Delegator, requested a couple of minutes of her time.

Dianne began the conversation by congratulating her for being selected as the person who had been chosen to develop the new health insurance policy. She explained that she was giving Mary this opportunity because of her extensive experience and management skills.

Dianne continued to explain, “We require a new health insurance policy for retiring employees who qualify for the special pension fund. A recent change in government policy requires immediate action. Normally, this type of change would require approximately eight months, but we have to have our policies in place in four months. We may also require a preliminary report within three weeks in order to update the government.” After a brief pause Dianne said, “Get back to me if you have any questions on what has to be done.”

On the way back to her office Mary felt proud and enthusiastic. She was happy that the boss was finally beginning to recognise her skills and abilities. When she arrived back at her desk and had a moment to reflection this new assignment, reality hit. She remembered the large number of projects already in progress. She sat down and wrote down a list of existing projects. Then she added “Employees’ Health Insurance Policy” at the bottom.

She realises that if she drops everything else to work on this new project, Dianne will be pleased. But sooner or later, she is going to want results from these other projects. Not only that, there are a couple of projects here that have high profile because of agreements with other departments and it would look bad if they fell behind. She realises she can’t let them slide very long. She thinks to herself, “I’m already working two evenings a week at home on office work and my family doesn’t appreciate that.”

Something is definitely not right here, Mary Marvelous tells herself. This is an interesting job, but Dianne doesn’t realise that I can’t do everything at once. There is no use telling her that I am overloaded, because she always says, “So is everybody. We’ve just got to do the best we can!”

Here’s what we think Mary should do.

Mary decides to examine her project workload. She begins by listing her projects down one side. Across the top, she marks off the next four months and makes a column for each week. Then, for each project she puts an X at its promised date of delivery. She enters the hours per week that she thinks each project will require of her time. Finally, she gets down to the last project: the Employee’s Health Insurance Policy. She estimates 10 hours per week for the first four weeks, 20 hours for the next six weeks, and 15 hours per week for the remainder of the project. Then she adds an additional row for her miscellaneous routine workload which includes answering the telephone, answering questions from co-workers and her boss, going to unplanned meetings, etc. She allows 10 hours per week for the miscellaneous workload. Finally, across the bottom she totals up her workload in hours per week.

Mary looks at the totals and finds that she is currently booked at 50 hours per week. This would explain why she is working 2 evenings a week just to keep up. Furthermore, she discovers that there is a sustained workload coming up that averages approximately 80 hours per week.

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She quickly realises that she is not capable of completing all of these tasks on time. If the new project is really important, then something will either have to be delayed or reassigned to someone else.

After rechecking the figures and verifying their accuracy she decides to take the chart to her manager. “Dianne,” she says, “I wonder if you could help me prioritise my work. I am not complaining about things, but I would like to ensure all of the work is completed on schedule. I have prepared this expected workload chart for your review.”

Dianne takes a look at the chart and says, “I’m impressed, Mary. I wish more people would show this type of concern about getting work done on time. When I give you an assignment and you take it on, I naturally assume that you are able to do it, unless you say otherwise. Too many of your co-workers don’t seem to tell me the consequences until it’s already too late. Then they fail to deliver the projects that I have promised to other people. Here’s how we will fix this scheduling difficulty. I want you to maintain the Employee’s Health Insurance Policy as planned, but Project #1 can be delayed for eight weeks and Project #3 can be given to Jeff Jones. Take another look at your workload schedule and let me know if we can achieve the remaining delivery dates.”

On the way back to her office, Mary felt pleased that she had finally found a way to communicate and negotiate with her manager. She would definitely continue this planning technique to resolve work schedules that could not be achieved. Although she had often mentioned to Dianne that she had too much work to do, she had never before found a way to be listened to and have her concerns addressed.

Workload Analysis

Many people will recognise themselves in the case study. A workload analysis will help you get out of the sort of situation Mary was in. These questions form the basis of workload analysis:

  • What are the things you have to do every day, and how much time must you allot to each thing?
  • What are the things you have to do each week, and how much time do you allot to them?
  • What are the things you must do each month? How much time does each item take you?
  • What are the things you do quarterly or annually? How much time do they take?

It’s a real pain, but by doing this analysis, you realise that there are more things to do than there is time to do them. Keep in mind that most of us are overly optimistic about how much time we need for activities and don’t allow enough time for them. This is the point at which you begin to prioritise. You may even see that some of the things you are doing don’t have any real impact on your job.

Usually when you get everything tallied up, you have about two and a half minutes a week to do your primary job for your organisation.

We forget to schedule things if they are just in our head. You aren’t being paid to be a calendar. If you schedule them in, in pencil, you can begin to protect them. We don’t like doing this. It brings face to face with the reality of our situation. It’s scary.

Allow time for individuals to figure out some of the things they do each day, each week and each month, and each year. Have them do their workload analysis and then ask them to dig out their planners and put in those things that can be booked.

In the workbook is a 168 hour planner to help you figure out how you spend your time. Fill it in to the best of your ability. Try to cover a seven day span, since you want to consider both your personal and your work life. If this last seven days was very unusual (for example, you had the flu, relatives were visiting, or you had unusual work deadlines) try to find another week more representative of how life usually is for you.

The 168 Hour Plan

Let’s look at how you spent your time last week. There are 168 hours in seven days, so consider how you used them. Jot down how many hours you spent in each category below.

Task Number of Hours
Personal Life
Sleeping/eating
Grooming/hygiene
Driving or riding
Exercising
Cleaning/maintenance
Talking to family/friends
Mail/personal business
Volunteering
Praying/attending church/meditating
Studying/reading
Relaxing/watching TV
Thinking/worrying/planning
Other

Sub-Total

Business Life
Planning/research
Paperwork/computer
Talking to co-workers
Talking to your staff
Appointments/meetings
Clients/customers
Phone calls
Production
Other

Sub-Total

GRAND TOTAL

(168 hours)