Time management problems seem to be a normal part of most managers’ lives for at least part of the time. Books and programs promising solutions proliferate year after year. That’s because poor time management is a symptom. Not a problem.
The Delegation Issue
Permit me to clear up one thing. If you manage people please grasp this. If you won’t delegate you’ll have time management problems. If you have problems managing your time you’ll fail to delegate properly. Note that I said “won’t delegate”. There’s no such thing as a manager who can’t delegate. Please read on if you’d like to know more.
It’s The End Of The Line
A time management “problem” doesn’t just happen. It’s something that occurs after a sequence of events. That may not seem to be the case as you cringe beneath a pile of work that needs to be “finished this afternoon”. But it’s true. You may not have been aware of the sequence. But it occurred.
Your boss didn’t suddenly find the “Blogcorp problem” and dump it on you right in the middle of budget preparation. You may have suddenly realized that today was the final day to submit a particular tender. You didn’t have to tell your people to “drop everything” to get it done. You created enormous time problems for them. But they occurred after a sequence of events: B10 or in this case non-events!
The Real Problem
Poor time management is a symptom of poor priority setting. The problem is a lack of or inadequate and poorly defined priorities. You can make all the lists you like. If you don’t set clear and definable priorities, sooner or later you’ll have what’s called a time management problem. Then you’ll make more lists, feel under more pressure and become more stressed. You’ll create even greater “time management pressures”.
Setting priorities starts with the overall business. Do you have a clearly defined business focus? Do you have a clearly defined, narrow target market? If you don’t have either of these, sit down and work them out now. You cannot be all things to all people. If your focus and target market are poorly defined you and your staff will almost certainly have “time management problems” as you’ll try to serve two many “masters” in too many ways.
You can’t expect your staff to know where to direct their best efforts without measurable business goals. To repeat an old adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you know when you’ve arrived?’ This isn’t an article about goals setting. Plenty such articles exist. But your staff need guidance about what’s really important. Otherwise they’ll spread themselves too thinly and, of course, not have enough time to do everything well.
Symptoms Follow Priorities
You want your staff – and yourself – to do the most important routines well. That way they’ll be done quickly and easily. That requires sound systems. Sound systems aren’t usually seen as a factor in time management. When your systems work effectively, everyone has more time. You as manager enjoy the greatest benefit. Good systems free you to devote more time to what you’re paid to do: manage.
You’ll still face unexpected events and situations and the time pressures they incur. That happens in every business. You want to reduce the disruption they can cause. And you want to resume “normal operations” as quickly as possible. Knowing your priorities will enable this to occur.
Most time management techniques involve preparing lists. I’m not opposed to lists. I’m only opposed to preparing lists that don’t genuinely enhance your progress towards your priorities. They’re the lists that matter.
The biggest single issue associated with time management isn’t making better use of your time. It’s using your time to progress your business as successfully as possible. Neither you nor your staff can achieve that without clear measurable priorities.