Last year I was facilitating a course on time management. It’s a great course and unlike many programmes, explores how our complex work environment often seems to conspire to make managing time and achieving goals difficult. I was a bit taken aback when, half way through day three, one of the delegates asked me “what have these topics got to do with time management?”.
To set the context, rather than explore diary management, the course focuses on time as a resource and invites the delegates to evaluate the return they get by investing time in certain areas, and what they are able to achieve as a result. We therefore explore topics such as goal setting, setting priorities, communicating effectively, giving feedback, delegating, stakeholder management, saying ‘no’ and developing others – as well as planning and scheduling.
I was surprised by the question, but here was my answer. It’d be great to hear your thoughts on it.
Managing time well is not about accounting for the efficiency of every minute you spend throughout your day. There are useful practices, such as looking at things that waste time and eliminating them, but this is really part of a much more effective way of thinking about personal productivity. If you focus on micromanaging yourself to achieve more, you’ll more than likely get progressively more stressed, transmit that to everyone around you and achieve less and less.
Conversely, if you think about time as a resource which you use to achieve goals in a dynamic and fast changing environment, your focus changes to making decisions about what activities are going to allow you to make the most progress. For example, will making time for a catch up with a colleague today, give you the insight you need to win over a major stakeholder tomorrow? Will investing time in coaching a colleague on how to prepare a report ensure that you have the information you need, in the right format in the future? The decision framework is deceptively simple: what can I do today, to achieve more tomorrow. However, it takes a wide range of skills to put into practice. And that’s why we cover goal setting, setting priorities, communicating effectively, giving feedback, delegating, stakeholder management, saying ‘no’ and developing others. In essence, these are the skills you need capitalise on your good time investment decisions.