|"PA MATTERS TO YOU" ISSUE 6
TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT
How serious are you about time management? Having a full understanding of what you cost your organisation annually as an employee, which can be twice the amount of your salary, is a good way to put your "time budget" into perspective. From your organisation's point of view, time really is money; from a personal point of view, keep in mind that you can always earn more money at a later date but time is something you can never get back; therefore, budget for time as if it were money. This is the only way you can claw back enough time in your daily schedule to take on bigger and better projects and make a greater impact in your role.
Good Enough Will Do -
It pays to manage your time well because it's a fact that managing your time well makes you successful. Good time management can help to level the playing field between natural winners and the rest of mankind. A good strategy is to remind yourself that for busy office professionals, doing things perfectly is less valuable to your organisation than doing things adequately. Doing things adequately will allow sufficient time in your time budget to stay on top of important projects and make important deadlines. It's tempting to reword that paragraph in your email one more time before hitting the send button, because you love to write and want to get it word perfect, but "good enough" will do.
Your Essential Daily To-Do List -
We've all heard the saying "failing to plan is planning to fail". The truth is, you will know what a successful day looks like if you have planned and pre-determined what you would like to achieve by the end of the day. A To Do List gives you a visual snapshot of how much progress you are making during the day. It allows you to mind-dump all your tasks so that you can free up your mind to concentrate on the task at hand.
To Do Lists also allow you to re-prioritise tasks as and when necessary. Keep your To Do List close to hand so that you can tick-off tasks as they are completed. It's very satisfying to see all those ticks at the end of the day. After you have prioritised your tasks, make a decision not to do the last two tasks on the list (tasks that are "not important" and "not urgent"). These types of tasks often take care of themselves eventually.
Dealing With Interruptions -
Everyone needs strategies to help them side-step interruptions and find quiet time during the day. Firstly, put time in your diary to work on major tasks uninterrupted. One way to avoid interruptions is to switch on your voicemail and your email out-of-office assistant for an hour or two. Another way is to find a quiet meeting room where you won't be interrupted. Try to get your boss's buy-in on this so that he/she gets used to you disappearing for an hour or two during the day. Keep them updated on your current projects.
Another way to avoid interruptions is to have a plan of action for when people approach your desk during your quiet time. Start by telling them you are working to a deadline and only have 5 minutes so you will call them. Another strategy is to stand up as if you are about to go somewhere and if they still don't get the hint after 2 or 3 minutes, excuse yourself and walk away from your desk. This may seem a little harsh but the trick to making a real difference with time management is to plan your day and control interruptions. If you do nothing else be serious about controlling interruptions.
Overcoming Procrastination -
Important tasks and projects are usually complex and tedious, which can give rise to procrastination. Not knowing where to start is often the cause of procrastination. The question is: "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer to that is: "One piece at a time." Try to populate your daily To Do List with 5 or 6 individual tasks that will chip away at that mammoth project. Where possible, start with the tasks you don't like and work towards the ones you do like.
Completing boring or challenging tasks is more satisfying and can create the necessary momentum to finish the project. Don't forget to reward yourself when you complete unpopular tasks. Sometimes the reason for procrastination is not knowing how to do the task, so ask for advice sooner rather than later. Write out a declaration to yourself that says you will start that project on Monday without fail and work on an aspect of the task every day.
Planning Your Projects Using Mindmaps -
Use a mindmapping technique to determine how many tasks will evolve from the main task or project and which tasks need to be completed first. If you've never created a mindmap before, you simply write the name of the project in the centre of the page and draw a line from there pointing to each major task that has to be performed to complete the project. As the tasks, sub-tasks and details radiate out from the centre of the page the mindmap will highlight all the tasks and fine detail associated with each aspect of the project.
Mindmapping will help you to determine which tasks have to be completed sequentially (one after the other) and which tasks can be completed simultaneously (at the same time). This sequencing information is important for planning and prioritizing your daily To Do List and for ensuring that you time your projects and tasks adequately to meet applicable deadlines.
Don't Let "Important" Become "Import & Urgent" -
As office professionals we all know that it's the little things that get you every time. With this in mind we can overcompensate by giving too much attention to the little details at the expense of bigger, more important projects. These types of projects and tasks have a long-term value and can be very costly monetarily and in terms of your professional reputation if you get them wrong or miss an important deadline.
We all know how quickly an important task can become an urgent task; all you need to do is keep putting it off every day. To avoid this situation, try to tackle at least 5 important tasks daily. This can include simple tasks like making phone calls that are essential for moving your project along. They should include the "sequential" and "simultaneous" tasks identified through your mind-mapping exercise for major tasks and projects.
Time Journals -
A good time management strategy is to get yourself a Time Journal to note and track the amount of time you spend on tasks and interruptions during your working day. It's often said that the typical office worker wastes at least 1.5 hours per day looking for things and being interrupted. It can take 5 minutes to refocus on what you were doing before you were interrupted. This can really eat into a carefully planned day. With no way of tracking where the time went, you are likely to keep repeating time-wasting habits, so that every day is about fire-fighting rather than fire prevention.
If you're at the end of your tether trying to cope with a professional relationship that isn't working - perhaps it's your boss - try doing something differently.
• ASK FOR TIME OFF to think about your options. Remove yourself from the stressful environment for a period of time and go somewhere you've never been before for some quiet time. It's surprising how differently you can see a situation when you are completely removed from it. The effect can be very empowering. I was once struck by the view from the top of the Iffel Tower. It reminded me of the true scale of things and that all problems must have a solution.
• RENEGOTIATE YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION If your daily tasks are overwhelming and you can show that you are overloaded with work, first find out confidentially from someone in HR (someone you can trust) if renegotiating your job description sounds like something that would be acceptable to your organisation. Schedule a meeting with your boss and present a good account of what you do on a daily basis and how much time you typically spend on tasks (provide a snapshot of a typical day). To gather this type of information keep a time journal for 2 weeks.
• ASK FOR A TRANSFER to another department. Even better if you can present the request in such a way that your boss sees it as a developmental move, rather than one of avoidance. This is often the path of least resistance that solves the problem in the long run. This solution will only work if you take steps to nip the problem in the bud sooner rather than later. Leave it too late and your relationship with your boss will deteriorate to such an extent that he/she will not want to or won't be able to recommend you.
• COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE is the obvious thing to do first and foremost when you are going through a wobble in your relationship with your boss. Be aware that your boss may be going through his/her own relationship crisis with his/her own boss or may be having domestic problems, which may be the underlying cause of the problem. After a blow-up it may seem that the only option is to resign and find another job but you'll want to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Have a chat with your boss and let him/her know how you feel. Be specific; let him/her know how particular words and actions made you feel. Avoid making accusations, blaming or criticising your boss - you want to be able to salvage the relationship after the discussion, even if it's only to get a decent reference. If the meeting is going well aim to end it on a high note; find ways to verbally reaffirm your loyalty to your boss.
DEALING WITH A STRESSFUL WORKING RELATIONSHIP & WORKLOAD
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