Time Maze

Finding the Way out

It really comes all of a sudden. You feel like on a treadmill, trying to get things done, trying to cope with ever increasing requests, tasks, work that has taken all from you. You wonder why are you doing all these. How to escape from that vicious cycle. You dream of the moment you clear that mess and when you have some piece of mind to relax…

The work keeps coming though, the tasks keep pouring at you, and the challenges are only rising the benchmark to reach… As if a horizon, that you can never reach… 

So you stop sometimes and think, – there should be a way, a way to organize all these, there must be something to change…

Some of us shift the focus on to external factors, that make our everyday work and life so much stressful. Some do try to find the reasons, and often end up reading articles on time management, managing your tasks, completing to-do lists, ensuring prioritization of tasks… Most of us then feel disappointed to have again wasted time to read on something that we consider is obvious, we think is nothing new, we believe, if there was not for those external factors, we would have naturally implemented every single suggestion from those books – and perhaps would organize much better than it was recommended by some of the scholars… 

And then we sigh… And jump back on the treadmill, to catchup for the time spent… Feeling despair, dissatisfaction, inferiority, unable to cope with whatever work and life brings us… There’s often only a step or two towards a full-blown depression… Which we all know is only making things worse, with the shifts between anxiety, and apathy, times of absolute exhaustion and inability to relax even on weekends or when, finally, in bed after a long day…

And time moves on… We remember being a child or a teenager… More and more we think those were the best times… the times when we were so free, so full of energy, so inspired by our dreams, so alive… And as times move on those nostalgic thoughts only add up to the pressure; only add up to the anxiety, only add up to tension… 

  • Do go to gym tomorrow… 

Put a sticker! or no, put it in calendar! Oh, better put an alarm on the phone in the morning…

  • Be at home by 7pm tomorrow

Yeah… Bigger sticker, need to block out the calendar… Oh, what shall I do with that conference call… perhaps do from the car… or… 

  • Plan for vacation

That reminder’s been there for a month already… The “planned” vacation is already in few weeks, and I have not yet booked anything, – forget about booking… Haven’t even thought of anything… Haven’t even discussed that…

And the time moves on… 

How to really do any time management, is that possible at all? Or is it just a myth? Some modern fad, that’s been selling books for the past decades to the victims of time just like me… How to escape from that circle?

You call it mid-age crisis? Hmm… I call it realization of the fact that time cannot be tamed, it cannot be managed, it keeps mounting pressure on us… and then we go crazy and make abrupt and drastic changes, as if it is the final battle to try to confront the time… The final battle… 

We mostly fail and surrender… 

The rest of the life is then a lot of nostalgia, memories, dreams we had, all those things we wanted to be but will never be now… All the tasks, all the work that we have to do now… Yeah… Get back to work!.. Tasks, to-do-s, planners, calendars, reminders, calls, meetings, again calls…

I’ve seen a lot of people like that… In fact, most of the people I know are in that stance… So, I decided to try to understand myself what’s happening there… Why is the time so evil to most of us?.. But more importantly… can it be managed?.. Is there any use in those time management guidelines and tips we all come across here and there?… Am I destined to be in the same dubious stance as most of the people around me?..

I decided to go through those time management bits and pieces, guides and tips, principles and approaches, and weigh those against real life, human imperfections, our psychology…

I decided to become a rebel – to fight against time…

Who is this rebel guy? The author spent 15 years managing various areas at one of the leading banks in Georgia, Caucasus region, former Soviet Union Republic. He was in charge of Corporate Banking, Wealth Management, international Business Development. He is currently consulting banks and private companies in areas of strategic communication, management and negotiation handling. He is a lecturer at leading universities in Georgia delivering lectures in Business Communication, Strategic Management and Organizational behavior.

The rebel was very determined.

So I started.

Compass

I tried to analyze everything I have read or come across about time management… And most of the literature is really emphasizing the importance of goals… Setting those goals are the first step and the prioritization of the goals is another… It sounds easier than it actually is… In fact, I find this the most difficult part… 

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Goals are like compass they say. I immediately think of Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Isn’t he the one who has exactly the compass like that – the compass that doesn’t show North, it shows the direction where Jack wants to go. What a gadget it would have been really… I’d swap my iPhone, iPad, Apple watch, Mac, various calendars, to-do apps, – everything – to get such compass in return… 

Our heart knows where to go but it’s our brain that’s meddling with the desires and giving us a lot of various alternatives, choices, opportunities and creating what scientists call a cognitive dissonance. This is when you doubt your actions, your directions, your choices and think of the foregone alternatives as the best and regretting the choices you’ve made. 

Interestingly, what we are convinced to be the greatest gift – the ability to choose, – is the very same phenomenon that is often preventing us from being happy. Starting from Adam and Eve, as soon as the choice appeared, we started making mistakes – or I’d rather say, we started making decisions and then thinking of those decisions as mistakes. 

What if Adam never ate that apple? 

What if we didn’t choose this way? 

What if we didn’t listen to our brain and chose another profession? 

What if we went out to date that other person?

What if we chose that work opportunity oversees? 

What if, what if… 

We live in the times when there are more and more choices, more and more decisions to make, more and more… Perhaps what we call knowledge, is actually expanding our horizons even further so that even more choices appear with every step, with every generation…

So here we are with those choices that make setting goals so difficult… Here we are in the maze… 

We seek some outside approval, some signs, some direction, some leadership, something to make it easier for us… In fact, what helps us there is making some choices that we cannot reverse. Ironically, the very choice we appreciate, is something that we are then trying to escape to find confidence and find the direction. Perhaps this is exactly what to consider when setting goals.

That’s actually something that’s widely accepted principle in modern management theories – management by objectives, or goal setting theory – it’s really about the commitment of the person to the specific goal, it’s all about believing that you can reach that goal and then publicly accepting it, it’s all about getting feedback and reviewing those goals with peers and managers, – isn’t it, again, the attempt to make it irreversible? It is not to ensure that whatever doubts creep into mind, the commitment, the acceptance, the belief of achieving is so strong that it is becoming an internal drive?.. Something that makes us achieve those challenging targets and objectives, something that leaves no choice…

I’ll list my goals – what I really want to achieve, what I really want to get, I’ll put those down on the paper, I’ll share those with my friends, family, colleagues, I’ll set those firm and stick to those! There’s nothing that can stop me if I set those and make them act like my compass really! They need to guide me, not somebody else, not circumstances, not anything else… It’s me and it’s all about my goals! It’s me in charge of my life – it’s me creating my own story! 

It’s me becoming today already what I planned to become tomorrow. 

Then it’s really all about structuring those goals a bit. What are the critical goals, what are the goals that are enabling me to achieve those critical goals and what are some of those nice to have goals that are not so important but would be nice to have. 

The Process… The Structure

This process of prioritizing for yourself – Critical goals, Enabling Goals, Nice to have goals… Maybe a good start is to list those and comment what those are and WHY you think of them this way… 

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Need to put that strong WHY comment in there… Something that makes you stick with your choices, something that strengthens your arguments, something that helps you avoid doubts and second thoughts… 

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But it needs to be more structured than that, the goals are higher level, and there are so many steps and tasks to perform to achieve those. 

If I want to startup some new business, or if I want to reach certain target there’s work to do, there are tasks to perform… 

What are those tasks?.. I need to put those in front of me as well. Those tasks… They are then creating all the misunderstandings and all the stress and all the hustle to cope with…

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You really need to think of tasks. They are the bricks in the house that you are building. Those tasks are something that you actually do to achieve your goals. You need to break the goals into tasks. This is where you need to do your homework. It’s not always clear what are those tasks. You really need to research and think and come up with those tasks. They are eventually what you will be doing. 

Now there will be a lot of tasks that you come up that you feel are not yours – but it is important to really keep track and list those tasks too – keep it real – keep the tasks that you are dealing with everyday… Once you have those tasks though, you need to think of priorities for them as well. You can think of putting some A, B, C labels to those tasks, according to the priority. 

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Now what these are, – these are actually real-life detours and obstacles and not all the tasks are bringing you directly to those most important goals. 

Put A for those tasks that are really important for your goals, put B for the tasks that are important for the enabling goals and that are urgent, and put C to tasks with little or no importance but those which still may require your urgent attention. 

Those tasks are interlinked… Well some of those cannot start before completing another, or some will not start until I start another task… I need to sequence those tasks, think what’s first, what follows, and if there’s some B or C priority task that needs to be performed before starting A, then those tasks should be scheduled accordingly… 

I need to think of time required for those tasks and perhaps also add some extra cushion, – you never know, it’s better have some extra 20-30% of time planned… What’s important is then looking at those and trying to keep A and B priority tasks and rejecting or maybe delegating those C priorities… 

You want to be a manager? I mean not only a manager in the sense of business or work, but I mean the manager of your time, in charge of yourself and managing your own life? 

Do you want to achieve that? Then learn to differentiate between important and urgent tasks! 

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This list of tasks that you have – some of them are important for your goals and some of them are just urgent, but not important to those goals… Differentiate between them! Those A, B, C priorities – they are only working if you learn that difference…

Doubts

I’m doing all these but, somehow, I feel I cannot really think of all tasks, and they are changing and there are a lot coming up, and I already have doubts…

Think of your goals! They are your compass. But do not fall victim to those of course – life is never a planned route, we face so many changes, news, a lot is coming up… 

And our goals and tasks can change, as we move along, as we do things, as we learn and reflect on what we do, our desires, our paths, – a lot can change. And it is perfectly normal! 

But to deal with that you need to really give yourself the time to revise those. Whether you are doing it for yourself or for somebody else – try to brainstorm, revise, come up with better routes and solutions – and do this at least twice a year… 

Something you planned in the beginning of the year, needs to be revised half way through… Thought of the plan in January, think of it again in July… 

Go ahead and embrace that diversity of life around – it’s what makes life interesting, it’s what makes it challenging, it’s what makes it life!

But…Again… I’m not happy… I can’t really go towards my goals with so many tasks… They are taking all my day… They are too much… I cannot… Something is wrong, I’m not doing what I should be doing… It’s not working…

It’s not going to work, the whole idea won’t work, until you are really clear about yourself and what you are doing every day… We cannot remember all those tiny bits and pieces and details and mini-tasks and when someone asks – “so what did you do today?” – we get frustrated we can’t even explain, can’t even say what was there – its was too much! 

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We can’t explain how the day passed – it was so much we had to do, and whatever we planned for – we never really did anything of that… How can you manage time? Is it possible at all? This is exactly the point we abandon the attempt to somehow take ownership of our life and we surrender to whatever is coming next… 

Well… Two things there. First – that’s only natural – that reaction, that frustration, it’s all absolutely human… Second point is to smile and prepare for the battle by… by first analyzing, first identifying what has really happened… 

You can’t analyze any situation without having some data, and the feelings that we have every day – they are not the data, they are feelings and those are the result of specific actions… We need to understand what exactly is happening!.. Where does data come from? It comes from observations. Always, that is something to take care of. 

Do observe your own work and actions…

  • 7:30 – Woke up – That alarm sound is disgusting
  • 7:31 – Checking Phone – I can still barely see, my eyes are half closed, but let’s see if there are any mails or messages
  • 7:35 – Checking Mails – (taking phone to bathroom)
  • 7:45 – Answering Mails – these stupid mails, I wanna clean that clutter…
  • 7:47 – Preparing Coffee – Need to have some coffee done
  • 7:49 – Family – Mum’s asking something about when to go to see my uncle, I’m still barely awake, how can I plan or answer her now…
  • 7:55 – Mails – Cleared some of the easy ones fast, I’ll take care of the rest from office
  • 8:20 – News/Internet – What’s happening out there… Oh, the same crap…
  • 8:40 – Mails – Oh George wants that meeting cancelled today… Ok. good…
  • 8:45 – Dress up – Late again… where’s taxi…
  • 9:05 – (In Taxi) Mails/News – I’ll be few minutes late… That attachment… I cannot open it here… Ok, mark as unread, will need to later
  • 9:20 – Phone call – Ann calling about her client… No, I’m not in the office yet… Will be in few minutes…
  • 9:27 – Ann’s client waiting – Ok, where’s that envelope… Here we go, found it…
  • 9:30 – Phone call – Client calling to arrange the meeting – yes, ok, afternoon is fine, after 3 pm
  • 9:31 – Phone call – George calling – yes I got the email, no, I don’t know when to reschedule, will get back
  • 9:33 – Making notes – So call back George about the meeting, and prepare client package for afternoon…
  • 9:40 – Coffee – I really to to get fresh… Crazy morning again…
  • 9:50 – Manager met in the lobby – he’s wondering about the deadline for the report and new task, – he referred one client…
  • 10:05 – Phone call, client asking about some information…
  • 10:07 – Colleague wondering which report format is fine… Need to clarify and open and compare
  • 10:30 – Marketing meeting reminder in 30 minutes… Need to check mails before I go…
  • 10:32 – Mails – that attachment is finally opened – need to go through the file… Oh that’s huge file… I need to do it later…
  • 10:45 – Colleague on her report – Again to clarify on some specifics
  • 10:55 – Entering the marketing meeting – what is at all about really… I forgot what were the points
  • 11:20 – Client call – had to leave meeting – need to answer the question on when the paperwork will be ready to sign
  • 11:25 – Back to marketing meeting – such a waste of time – I still don’t understand why I need to be present here
  • 11:45 – Checking emails while on the meeting
  • 12:10 – Back to the desk and looking at the attachment opened since morning – what to do with it.. can’t deal now!.. Have two meeting starting soon…
  • 12:15 – Called the client – I almost forgot that I haven’t spoken w her, she didn’t answer yesterday
  • 12:25 – Got the necessary information from the client, but can’t deal with it now… When to do it?
  • 12:30 – Colleague asks to have a look at her first draft
  • 12:35 – Driver is here time to leave for the meeting. Getting to car.
  • 12:45 – Another client call, she is coming over – not planned, have to ask a colleague to take care
  • 12:55 – Couldn’t reach Ann, had to ask George to back up.
  • 13:00 – Meeting with client – Getting updates, but already thinking about the second meeting, need to try to leave in 40 min max
  • 13:45 – Left meeting and driving to the second one
  • 13:50 – Checking mails – about 15 or so new ones already…
  • 13:54 – Nick’s messaging – asking if available in the evening to go out somewhere – don’t know yet, will decide later
  • 14:05 – Arrived at second meeting…
  • 18:30 – So what now, that report is unread, maybe I’ll try to sit down now…
  • 18:40 – Need coffee, and feeling hungry…
  • 18:50 – Mom’s calling, asking when I’ll be home
  • 18:52 – Back to desk and trying to read the report
  • 19:10 – Mails… there are more than 40 unread now… Perhaps go through them
  • 19:45 – Left few mails for tomorrow, they need some work
  • 19:50 – So can I go through and finalize that report – I need to read it!
  • 19:57 – Checking phone/fb/news – It’s almost 8, really exhausted… trying to have some few minutes to relax
  • 20:10 – Calling friend – Forgot about her birthday – need to see her – where can I get some present now?.. Or what present
  • 20:15 – Will do the report from tomorrow… Let’s go through the rest of mails to clear up
  • 20:45 – Requested taxi, trying to figure out were to buy some present
  • 21:30 – at Friend’s place, couldn’t get the present anywhere
  • 23:00 – Left for home – too exhausted, didn’t really have fun – too tired…

If your days look like this, then there clearly is something to look at and analyze. It’s not only you… We have such mess at work or personal life when we have wrong habits, years of doing things certain way, when we are not sure how to do things differently. 

Get the data for few more days. And by the way, unless you log those events immediately, you will not be able to remember those after few hours… 

So really, get notebook, or use any app on phone to log immediately as events unfold… 

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Then sit down and try to analyze: label and categorize – for example: mails, meetings, time to travel, those will help in analysis… You can use excel or any other spreadsheet for that analysis stage… Once the logs are in there, you think of all the tasks you did and then this is the time to put some priorities – A, B, C – remember that task categorization… 

So what percentage of time I spend on mails, what about meetings, what about client calls, what about family, what about categories, – how much percentage on A-s, how much on B-s, on C-s… But… But how come… so much time on those C-s… Why? Why I spent so much time with Ann?! And those emails are everywhere… And the time with family or friends, or any quality time… literally few minutes, and no fun… That needs to change!.. 

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There are so many issues I see… How to deal with those… Perhaps from tomorrow I’ll start differently, I’ll address all those points!

No… No… No… You cannot address all those points… All at once and all by just thinking about the change. You can NOT. 

You are not going to change that by just thoughts, you need to do with actions! But you cannot change all at once. Instead just try to focus on ONE area, ONE time-waster habit, ONE thing at a time. 

Spend a week or two trying to do that ONE thing differently… Then move on to the next point… And so on… Take time to change the habits… 

Do differently that ONE specific task – for example consolidate the time spent on emails – instead of acting like Pavlov’s Dogs jumping to the mail as soon as there’s a notification of incoming message, just leave it till the time slot you have allocated for mails, and so on…

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So many different tools: Calendars, Daily, Weekly, Monthly Planners, To Do Lists… What to use when… I’d need to put all those To-Dos planned per specific day… But then I need to also set time for those to-Do-s in my calendar…. Otherwise the to-do-s will stay there…So let’s start… 

I’ll take this list of tasks and select the ones with A priority… 

My calendar is almost empty now, so I will start putting time for those A tasks into the calendar… 

And I’ll try to do those when I’m still full of energy – mornings, – rather than evenings when I’m least efficient…

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Put the tasks into various days, – allocate time for those… Then put those into the calendar – allocate general time slots in calendar – for example: mail, clients calls, business development, reports, and so on – depends on the activities that you have identified and depending on your job… 

And yes, always start scheduling with A-s – they are the most critical ones, then the B-s and then if time left, also C-s… One thing to consider there – and this is the mistake we often do – do NOT jam your calendar –  do NOT fill every single time slot. 

This is SO important… We often choose two extremes – either not planning anything in calendar… or planning everything in there so that no buffer time left…

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Free Time…

So…Yeah… I need some free time in calendar, this is the time for those unexpected things, tasks that take longer, something not planned, something to have enough time to be helpful for the colleagues when they ask for help or backup, for clients, for manager – for anyone – if I do not have this free time set I can not promise anything to anyone… Or I will need to sacrifice my own priorities – so neither option is good… 

Need to have that free time in calendar!

Some other minor tips?

Firstly, do not put meetings back to back – one after another… if it’s the traveling that you are trying to optimize, still get some extra time between meetings… breath! do NOT stress yourself! You can always grab a cup of coffee and catch up with your friend if your first meeting is on time and you have, say extra 30 mins till another meeting… 

Second point: watch out for the temptation to do some emails meanwhile. This extra times and free times are meant to be free, and mails should have their OWN time slot – pre-allocated. So yes – the second point is to consolidate the tasks like Mails, Calls, any routine or paperwork into SPECIFIC time slots in your calendar and do NOT try to “save time” by dealing with those when you have some free time. 

Be free, treat yourself, think, meditate, drink coffee, chat with a friend – be human! Let those tasks wait till their time comes! 

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I’ll keep the schedule on the phone with me… I prefer it to be there then in notebooks… I want it visible to me always… So let’s try to organize those to-do-s… What to put there… Meetings to attend, decisions to make, calls to make, mails to write, unfinished tasks from yesterday… Yeah if I cannot finish something, I need to put it to the next available time slot BUT this is the time slot that is relevant to the priority of the task… 

I don’t want to mix up and have B-category task into the first thing tomorrow morning… That is the slot for A-categories only!… So I’ll use calendar to put some general time slots… Let’s see… 4… times a day for mail, I should try to stick to that… Hmm these tasks are too big… I’d need to break those down into smaller to-dos… They are too high level… It’s taking some time yeah… I’d need to allocate some time for planning and doing all this too. When shall I do it… end of day… beginning of the day… Let’s see…

One more mistake we do – too many to do-s for a specific day… And the advice there is to be realistic… But what does that “realistic mean? I’d recommend thinking about which todo-s I can have time to to take care of tomorrow and then… And then only put HALF of those! Only half of what we think we can do… Only half – the rest into the other days… Again… breath… Again… leave free time! 

If you have some extra time and you can run ahead of your schedule and do something from tomorrow, OK, do it, but do NOT be excited about that…Don’t think you can repeat it again tomorrow… Perhaps that free time is exactly what you need for tomorrow’s unexpected events… 

SO, That Half of what I think is the best approach to start with…

I’m wasting so much time!..

Calm down – procrastination is very, very, very, natural human trait! 

In fact, we need it to somehow get back into the high-energy, high-efficiency phase at later stage… Stop worrying about it! 

Make sure you do something that really pleases you during those periods when you take time off your work tasks…  

There are three reasons to procrastination: First – Unpleasant or Uninteresting Tasks, Second – Fear of Failure, and Third – You don’t know where to begin!..    

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I’ve got all three of those probably… 

Admit the situation – again -it’s OK – just express your emotions – really – share those thoughts about the task being unpleasant, uninteresting – get it off your chest!.. Do not underestimate the social power. We are social creatures. Some (yet not well-understood) processes make the things look very different when we share, when we interact, when we express our emotions… 

What you can try with such tasks also is to make those unavoidable by setting a meeting, an appointment with somebody on that task – get some “social” help, ask your colleague, your partner to set specific time to get down to that task… Social commitments are helping us feel we cannot avoid it anymore and need to get down…

What about the fear of failure?

You are trying to avoid failure? Really?! I’ll tell you this – by not doing something, you are making the probability of failure 100% – so instead of avoiding that risk, you are actually making it 100% when you don’t try doing the task. 

Doing something for the first time is amazing, following the path yet unexplored is full of surprises, try, start – otherwise you cannot avoid that feeling of regret that you have never even tried doing certain thing… There are so many doors you can knock on, but you never know what’s behind those doors, until you knock and try… Look, think of it this way – it’s not that you can NOT do the task, – think what support would be great for you to do that task – any advice, training, guidance, learning something – and then go ahead! 

Avoid that 100% probability of failure – avoid it by actually doing things and experiencing things. There’s a fantastic motto that one Irish football school is using for their kids – it says: We Win, Wi Draw, We… Learn – We never lose!

Ok… Ok… OK! Where to start!.. I just don’t know where to start…

Start anywhere! Any part of the task, anything you like. Wanna draft the form first, think of design? Or key points, or the part that you are most sure, or the part that first comes to mind. Or the drawing? Or just first sentences – whatever comes to mind… Start from the middle? Start from end? Start from anywhere… Just do start those first seconds, minutes – it will flow… It will come… Give it it a try! 

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What about the opposite to procrastination – overreaching – putting too much on you?

That’s the habit of dedicated people, of some of the best employees, some of the best people around, really, they volunteer to do so much! They are the heart of the company – literally and figuratively. These are often people who have trouble with saying NO… They can’t say No… If you are one of those people, really… think of it…

So, the message to such people is – really, you are great, amazing, most helpful, but please, please, please, – let others improve too! Stop cleaning the mess after them or for them… Let them explore and learn… 

Yes, you are probably a perfectionist by nature, focus on that 80/20 rule – focus on the most important 20% out of what really you can do or can be done to improve something… You cannot do everything!.. If you are to assume tasks, those should be the ones fitting your description of A and B priorities… Otherwise, you can help, but do not assume ownership!.. 

It’s hard to say No sometimes… It is… Especially to your boss…

You need to practice and learn saying No to both your colleagues and your boss. Very firm and clear no. This doesn’t mean it should be harsh and rude. It’s firm, with strong argumentation.. Why “No” – because this and this… What you can also do is to take some time, pause… Do not answer immediately to the request.. Start with saying… Let’s discuss that tomorrow… If you feel the new task is completely out of the scope of priorities, then get that list in front of your boss, say: Let’s see what existing tasks is this new task interfering with… 

Propose to review the priorities together and re-arrange as needed… You can propose an alternative like: At this stage I could really help, but let somebody else take ownership – I’ll be there to help and assist, till I have more time, say next quarter to take ownership of that… 

And YES, you cannot convince every boss – at least you can get some feedback on your priorities and practice communicating with proper arguments – proper, clear “WHY”… That’s all right – we cannot win all the battles.

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There is another time robber – it’s assuming subordinates’ problems… They use this term: Reverse Delegation… 

This is when you get interrupted all the time to get some feedback, make some decisions, on every step, on a lot of points, and that switching between what you are doing and to the question, and back to you task, and still another question… Especially if the environment is open-space and the interruptions keep coming… 

This could be deliberate, this could be avoiding responsibility… There could be many reasons why your subordinates act like that. One thing is clear – that’s robbing you from your time and that’s taking all the responsibility and interest and engagement of your employees, they want you to approve every step… 

More Time Robbers…

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Yeah, we leave in the time when we cover much more distances, nothing can be done without a face to face meeting really… Try to use calls and video-conferencing when you can, but meetings are still an important part and we often have to take time to travel… that’s by car, train, plane… 

We cannot simply tie that time we travel to the specific task or meeting. Time to travel is a specific animal, so to say (smile)… What you can try, is to alternate places, sometimes at your place, sometimes at their place, sometimes at some other third venue… 

This place alternation helps a lot in negotiations, it helps you look at things from different perspectives… 

Take some work with you if you can, but still do this as part of the planned work, do some routine, don’t try to use that “garbage time” for anything important… you can enjoy those moments and listen to some music, or just relax, but you can also read along the trip, or thing of messages for the meeting… 

Plan and think for yourself, sort of “brainstorm” for yourself… If you are doing any calls, let those be pre-planned calls, some routine, but again, nothing of importance… What you can do is, of course, optimize your travel time by say, if you are going out of the office, arrange two client meetings, but again – do NOT do it back to back – leave plenty of time in between for you to breath and think and grab a coffee or anything – keep those meetings with at least an hour gap in between. 

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These are some ground rules – cornerstones, principles, really – what a modern-day God would give to humankind probably. 

Deal with emails at scheduled times. 

Organ Chime.

Get personal messages on different app – and check those some other dedicated times – it helps! 

Organ Chime. 

Educate your correspondents – let them get used to and understand when and for what to use mails! 

Organ Chime. 

Don’t behave like Pavlov’s dogs – turn OFF all mail notifications! 

Organ Chime. 

Get used to specific subject lines – specific, effective, descriptive!

Organ Chime. 

…And you will be blessed!

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What about those unnecessary meetings – aren’t they the biggest time robber? I often ask myself – am I contributing anything to this meeting? or am I gaining anything really out of this meeting? What’s the agenda?? 

There are signs that tell us the meetings are really badly organized: When they add no value, they don’t follow agenda, or there is no agenda, when they turn into chat sessions, when they are dominated by one or two individuals who do all the talking, they usually run over schedule, and they fail to produce any decisions, any commitment by anyone on next steps, actions… 

Bored…

By this time you’re probably bored, aren’t you?.. Whatever it is that you’re focusing, you need certain time off, you need to pause. You need to reflect. You need to relax. 

You need to let your emotions flow, – can’t keep your rational self to focus on something too much. 

Take the time off. Get to things that make you smile and feel the best moments of your life… We are human – we are emotional – we have amazing feelings…

At Work

Does it depend on me… or management maybe? Who’s in charge of time?

Have you heard of the term Delegation? Of course, you have. How do you understand it though? 

Unfortunately, we quite often lose so much time and energy because of misunderstanding that term… 

Look, there are some warning signals – if you see any of those – be careful – there’s something wrong with your style of work, your style of management:

  • inbox always full
  • working overtime – only i can do
  • delegated assignments that are incomplete or deadlines missed
  • subordinates believe they lack authority or resources
  • you intervene frequently in projects assigned to others
  • your subordinate morale is low – staff turnover rising
  • people are not taking responsibility of tasks delegated

Any of those sign should ring an alarm bell – you should go back to the basics of delegation… Do you think your manager sees any of those signs… or do you, if you are a manager, facing any of these… Think… there are ten principles of proper delegation – see if your boss or you are aware and in line with those:

  1. Be very Clear what and when needs to be done
  2. encourage subordinates to tell you what they are interested in
  3. build sense of responsibility for units overall goals
  4. do not delegate only uninteresting or difficult tasks
  5. provide career opportunities as delegation increases employee visibility in company
  6. recognize that delegation is a learning experience and offer coaching or training as needed
  7. give highly structured tasks to less-skilled employees to engage them and see potential
  8. whenever possible delegate the whole project or function – not just a piece of it
  9. monitor progress and provide feedback – but not too frequently
  10. maintain open lines of communication and accessibility but ensure task ownership is clear

Finally – remember: Delegation means giving authority, not only responsibility… Think of the tasks delegated to you by the manager… Or think of tasks that you yourself are delegating… do you have both the authority and responsibility? 

Who’s in charge?

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Delegation?

Let’s see – you can delegate tasks, projects or functions… 

Let’s see the task examples.. these are easiest to delegate probably: 

  • writing a report?
  • doing a research?
  • planning a meeting?
  • organizing an event?

Let’s see the functions examples now, hmm.. that’s certainly higher level of delegation: 

  • new employee handbook?
  • new marketing Campaign?
  • conducting a customer survey?
  • training other employees?

What about the functions… That should be the hardest, to trust to somebody…

  • sales activities?
  • marketing activities?
  • employee trainings?
  • cost control?
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Remember – in order to get trust, you should give trust – no other way!…

As for delegation – obviously there are different levels of delegations – tasks, projects, functions – the latest being the highest level, – what you should never delegate is

  • planning, directing and motivating functions 
  • employee performance evaluation
  • complex customer negotiations
  • tasks requiring your specific technical skills
  • hiring, firing and career development

These are probably all yours… 

We have not really answered if it the boss in charge of all this, or is it me?

Look, there are bosses who are real time wasters… They are often recognized by employees’ confusions about goals – when people are unsure what and how they are doing… You have to manage your boss if you can… At least to try…

  • ask for the meeting yourself
  • collaborate on setting goals for 6 month, 1 year
  • make sure goals are specific and measurable
  • inquire and understand how goals are in line with overall company strategy 
  • discuss misalignments, if any, between goals and your reward system
  • discuss that skills and resources you require to achieve the goals

…You and your boss depend on each other!.. Understand how he/she operates, the style, requests, level of details he/she requires…

Your boss could be famous for:

  • pointless meetings: in which case you Ask why – ask directions – ask purpose – ask benefits – ask what is your contribution
  • or being the bottleneck boss: everything should run through him (CC-ed at least)… for such boss you try to prepare arguments and facts  – point out inefficiencies – ask to delegate… ask again… argument again… try!

Your sins there could be:

  • unnecessary requests: asking for interventions too often – wasting everyone’s time
  • or Delegating problems to boss: come up with solutions yourself – don’t delegate upward – come up with your view
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Who Gives You Power?

A friend of mine once told me: no one gives you power, you take it! So, try to take it! Power of your own life, your own tasks…

It’s you, your goals and your life… It’s you, your time and your decisions… It’s the choice that we have and again that choice is sometimes hard… But accept the fact – you have the choice!…

Go ahead! Smile, relax, then take power in your hands… and manage and enjoy the time! 

You are no longer lost in the maze – it’s you in the center and there’s world around. 

YOU plan, YOU experience life, YOU enjoy the moments, YOU decide!

Good Luck!