Emerge and Spread Your Wings

Managing Time

We all get the same number of minutes in a day. Why does it seem so difficult to fit in what we believe we need to do? Fitting work tasks into our work day without getting overwhelmed, or working late or missing lunch breaks can be a constant challenge of our boundaries. Time management is a recurring theme in supervision, not because my supervisees are not diligent, smart workers, but because of the nature of working in people-centred professions. Like us, our clients and colleagues have real lives, and life tends not to be predictable.

Take a minute to consider your biggest challenge with managing your work time. Do any of these sound familiar?

Managing Constant Interruptions – whether due to other peoples’ poor boundaries, or the type of role you fill at work, an open plan office environment, or your own distractability constant interruptions can be a huge time sucker. Multi-tasking can often lead to not doing anything efficiently, and all the stop/starts can really interrupt your flow.
Everything Seems Urgent – we can often get into a reactive pattern of working, when whatever task “yells” loudest is what we attend to, and when we lack time to plan and easily get overwhelmed.
The On-line Conundrum – when trying to complete reports, etc, we are constantly bombarded with new emails or messages to distract our attention.
Waiting on Others – when completing our next step relies on someone else doing their job.
Paperwork/Statistics/Reports get in the way of what you really enjoy doing such as client contact.

As Brian Tracy points out in his bestselling book “Eat That Frog” the purpose of time management is to clear tasks so that you can feel less overwhelmed and free up time to do more things you enjoy.
There are as many time mangagement strategies there are time management challenges, and sometimes it takes some exploring and trialling to find what works for my supervisee. Here are a few that I have been found useful myself.

Blocking Tasks – I group similar tasks together and schedule them as a block, which reduces my distractability. For instance rather than responding to all emails immediately they come in, I keep a running list of what I need to respond to, and tackle them as a block at a time of day that suits me best. This also works well for bill payments, and sometimes phonecalls. You can even set up all your emails in draft folder and then send them at a more suitable time. Do you have any regular work tasks that you could schedule like that? One of the added benefits I’ve found of grouping tasks is that I do not need to be “on-line” all the time, and I can focus better.

MITs – I identify the three Most Important Tasks for the day at the beginning of the day. Whenever I notice myself getting distracted by the louder yelling tasks I come back to what I have identified as Most Important. When I set my MITs I like to think about what will I feel most satisfied with achieving, and what will make the most significant difference. I need to make sure that the task I set are achievable within the time I have available. If they are too big I break them down into smaller steps.

Unforseen Events – these are the DNA’s or cancellations that throw my plans out. For these times I make sure I always carry something else to do. I’ve labelled these alternatives my “Non-sexy” task list because the items are inevitably the boring, or mundane things I don’t tend to get around to. When I suddenly have unexpected time available I can tick off a few of these non-timedependent “get round to it” tasks and feel that I haven’t wasted the time.

FROGS – each day I identify my Frog. This reference also comes from Brian Tracy’s book. Frogs are the unpalatable tasks which we tend to procrastinate on, and waste so much energy avoiding. The idea is that if you “eat that frog” first then every other task in the day seems easier to tackle. I find this techniques also helps me consider the “why” behind my avoidance. Am I feeling unconfident about that phonecall, or not really clear what my next action should be?

When you look at your week ahead, which of your time management challenges might you address in order to do more of what you enjoy?