The Myth of Managing Time
by John Sadowski, ALMA Executive Director
Time management and controlling the clock are important tools for winning basketball and football teams. Managers, however, can’t stop the clock, they can’t manage time. All managers have the same number of hours in a day, but some get more done than others. Why? Do they work longer hours or work harder? Not necessarily.
We’ve all tried using “To Do” lists, checking some things off and updating them periodically. The problem is that some things stay on the list forever and the list keeps growing longer. A John Maxwell Company blog a few years ago said don’t manage your time, manage yourself. In this post, I’ll relate that excellent advice to the job of managing a laboratory.
Time is wasted by things we do ineffectively and things we do that we shouldn’t be spending our time on.
Here are some tips:
- Start with a clear understanding of what is truly important. High-priority items must be aligned with the mission of the organization. Put your to-do list to the test.
- Don’t focus and fret on things you cannot control. Tight budgets, limited capital, the need to do more with less, personnel leaving or retiring, are going to happen. Devote your energy to things you can control.
- Many managers spend most of their time on a small percentage of the people. Understand why. Are there training or performance issues? Address them.
- Learn how to say "No". Managers cannot handle every request that comes their way. Responses like ‘I’ll try” or “I’ll get to it” when you really mean "No" create an expectation of action. Remember to give a reason why the answer is "No".
- Manage interruptions. Learn how to deal with the ”you gotta minute” interruption. If the request is something that can be handled later, acknowledge that it is important and deserves your full attention. Schedule a time to talk about it. Interruptions waste time and result in the need to restart what you were doing.
- Make meetings count. Meetings can take up a lot of your time and your staff's time. If the primary focus of a meeting is to share information, consider a less time-consuming way to convey the information. Meetings should result in action points that are followed up on later. A meeting that results in no action points may have been a waste of time.
- Control your appetite for information.
- Do you need to be cc’d on every email? Set boundaries on what you want to receive, how much detail, and how often. CC’s, like carbs, should be limited. Trust me on this one.
- Do you ask for and write reports that have become a habit, but aren’t really needed or read?
- Break down large tasks or objectives into smaller ones that you can accomplish. This way they aren’t so daunting that you avoid them and waste time.
- Delegate effectively. Are you reluctant to delegate because you don’t want to burden others? Do you feel that no one else could do it as effectively as you can? Do you want to continue doing what got you promoted in the first place? Mark Simmons advised the “80% rule of delegation.” If someone can do it 80% as well as you could, delegate it and watch them grow and excel.
- Lastly, recharge periodically. Take those vacation days and come back energized and ready to take on the challenges that await.
You can’t manage time, but you can control what you do with it.