Slicing Things Up - Where Did All My Time Go?

by Richard Smith.

I have come across many people who regard the problem of getting their work done in a timely fashion as their biggest challenge or at least in their top three.

There are many books and articles addressing the seemingly modern problem of time management. They detail various strategies and techniques that will make your life manageable and feel like it is under control.

There are many books and articles addressing the seemingly modern problem of time management. They detail various strategies and techniques that will make your work life manageable and feel like it is under control.

In addition, these books often offer a variety of treats to break the monotony of running your work life by a list. These are usually along the lines of another earth-shattering idea, such as finding something on or off the list that you find enjoyable as a reward to yourself, going off and doing that task and then quickly getting back to the ordered items on the list that you know you need to follow. I just saved you at least $10 on that book you were eyeing.

It is a matter of fact that you will get loaded with as many things as you can handle, and then some. The expectation from your boss is rarely that you can get absolutely everything done, on time, all the time, because plans do change; however your boss does need you to deliver as much as you possibly can and work hard to earn your money. The boss expects you to be efficient and organized, so if you are overloaded because you are disorganized, then you have some improvements to work on. However, if it is because there are simply too many competing demands and if you truly cannot find a solution, then go to your boss and explain the situation clearly. Ask him or her to help set your priorities. Maybe the solution will be leaving some tasks unassigned, delayed, or assigned to someone else.

In the modern business world, with its drive for profits and high productivity, you will find yourself in a constant struggle facing more requests than are “reasonable” for any one person to satisfy. Prioritizing is critical to success. Determine who you need to talk to about priorities—the boss, the customer, your peers—and then open the discussion. Find out what is really needed to complete that program —not the ‘would be nice’ parts, but the truly necessary parts—and then find out how those things need to be prioritized. Yes, these will be tough conversations. Have them anyway.

Do not be lazy. Know that it is expected you are working very hard most of the time and insanely hard every so often. But if you are not being lazy, then choose the sequence and priority of work wisely and share any challenges with others rather than just letting things slide. When there are clear expectations about a report being delivered on time or the customer product shipping as promised, don’t make disappointment be the default no-action result. Raise any issues and deal with them, now. In essence, act like an adult and do not hide bad news; it will be received better before the event when there will be more options to solve the issue, than after when it has become a big problem.

The reality of managerial multitasking will not go away and it takes time to adjust to it at first. With a sustained effort you will succeed in taming it. But you need to get a grip on it, keep a list, prioritize it and work the list, otherwise the constant pressure in an environment of hard constraints and multiple priorities will drive you nuts.

So remember,

A. Make a list

B. Prioritize the list (and re-prioritize as needed; but try very hard to avoid doing this for tasks already started, because this will cause disruption and loss of momentum, both of which lead to wasted effort and time and will also lower morale).

C. Start at the top and work your way through the list until you have finished everything you needed to do

D. Take a minute, pat yourself on the back and jump back to A

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