HR Update


Carolynn Jerome

Carolyyn Jerome
Avitus Group

 

I don’t have time to manage my time!

 

Time management is a hot topic among employers looking to maximize production and protect their bottom line. It is also a big concern for employees looking to better manage the mountain of work facing them each day. We’re busier than ever, but often we feel like we’re accomplishing little despite being swamped.

So how do you handle this?

A quick Google search of “time management techniques” returns 782 million results in less than half a second, with links to scholarly reports, online articles, various blogs and about a dozen alternate related searches. You don’t have time to read all of this: You’re BUSY. Fear not — that’s where I come in, to highlight some of the most common themes. Here are the top things I found that will help you get your tasks under control.

Triage

Emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, are taught to triage their patients at a scene with multiple people injured. Emergency rooms do the same thing. In its simplest form, this is broken down to life threat, emergent, urgent and non-emergent. We apply this to our own medical needs. There are situations where we call 911, situations when we drive someone (or ourselves) to the ER, times we go to the walk-in clinic and when we make an appointment with the doctor and wait.

This same concept applies to your work life. Prioritize. Make piles: Will do, To do and Pending; A, B and C level tasks; Hot, Warm and Cool files; whatever system works for you. Author Stephen Covey developed the “Important – Urgent Matrix.” On one side, things are ranked from important to not important. On the other axis, tasks are ranked from urgent to not urgent. Tasks that are important and urgent should get handled first.

Organize

Organization should, perhaps, be the first goal. To some degree, it is necessary in order to be able to triage. If you are old-school, use a tickler file — folders with tabs for 1 through 31 for the month we’re in and a folder for each of the other months. File tasks accordingly. Use the calendar in your phone or in your email. Set reminders. Download an app or a program to help get your tasks in order.

Once you are organized, you can make your to-do lists and be better situated to triage those tasks.

Schedule your time

Consider how a doctor or dentist schedules their day. Apply that to your day. Set blocks of time for tasks. It’s been demonstrated that setting a timeline helps with our focus and efficiency. It makes us accountable to ourselves, much the way it is when we promise deliverables to a client.

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of our tasks take up 80 percent of our time. It follows that 20 percent of our time produces 80 percent of our achievements. Keep that in mind and focus on the things that produce those accomplishments.

Don’t forget to give yourself time buffers in your scheduling. Much like doctors allow for time overages, plan for that as well. It’s also good to schedule breaks.

Special techniques

Here are the main techniques I found to manage your day:

  • The Pomodoro Technique, so named for the shape of the kitchen timer used by creator, Francesco Cirillo. This technique suggests breaking down task into 25-minute chunks. Focus for 25 minutes. Then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles, take a longer 15-minute break.
  • Getting Things Done: GTD was developed by author David Allen and recommends taking your biggest tasks and breaking them down into smaller actionable items. Building a house? To the average Joe that seems like a HUGE task. But not if you break it down into its components: foundation, framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical, etc.
  • Eat that Frog: Based on a quote attributed to Mark Twain, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This technique advocates tackling your worst or toughest task first. The rest will be easy.
  • The Glass Jar: No, this one is not quite the same as the parable that says there’s always room for beer! This one has you envision your day as a glass jar and your tasks are categorized as rocks, pebbles or sand. You can fill your jar with whatever tasks you choose, but remember that if you fill your jar with the little items, pebbles and sand, there’s little to no room left for the big items.
  • 18 Minutes: Developed by Peter Bregman, CEO of the consulting firm Bregman Partners, this technique has you spend 5 minutes in the morning planning your day. Then spend 1 minute each hour evaluating and refocusing. At the end of each day, spend 5 minutes reviewing your day, evaluating your progress and looking at any lessons you may have learned.

All of these techniques look at breaking your day in to manageable tasks. It is important to spend a little bit of time taking breaks and refocusing to keep yourself on task.

Resist distraction, procrastination

There are so many time drains in our lives. Little blinky lights that say some one has called, texted, emailed. Weather apps to check. Fishing reports to look at. Social media? That’s a column on its own. The trick is to eliminate those distractions. Close your browser windows. Put your phone on mute or better yet, ask your front desk to hold calls for an hour or two. Hide your cell phone from yourself or leave it in your bag, desk or car. Close your office door and put a note on it asking to not be disturbed unless it’s critical. If you don’t have an office door, try putting on your headphones and listening to some music that gets your energy up. Give yourself the gifts of the time and space to focus.

Try to avoid perfectionism

Perfectionism is the enemy of the productive. Don’t get bogged down in the nitty gritty of something. You promised high quality work in a timely manner. Hours, days and years can be spent trying to get something perfectly.

Don’t multitask

Multitasking is addictive. We get little bumps of satisfaction by crossing an item off our “to do” list. But was that item central to the goal? Multitasking is also inefficient. We lose a lot of time bouncing between tasks. We stop to dash off an email or step away to ask a quick question. Studies show it often takes twice as long to get back to the task at hand. Lastly, few of us multitask well. We wind up off on a tangent and distracted from our main goal.

You can do it

Time management is doable. The main takeaway should be to just do it. Make a “to do” list. Prioritize that list and set goals. Planning ahead helps. Breaking those big tasks down in to smaller tasks is key. Schedule your tasks. Practice saying “no” so you don’t over commit. Delegate where you can. At the end of the day, plan tomorrow. It will take practice, but it is achievable!

 

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Carolynn Jerome is an enthusiastic and dynamic presenter. She comes to Avitus Group with many years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. As an operations manager and supervisor, Jerome’s focus has been on customer service and ensuring that her team has the training and tools to be successful. Her goal has always been to develop the next wave of company leaders. As a trainer with Avitus Group, Jerome has combined her strong background in operations with her education in teaching and is excited to be presenting the monthly Leadership Development Program that focuses on skills and techniques for navigating the corporate jungle for managers and supervisors.