Lockdown has promoted us all to think differently about time. This spring, we have been given an unparalleled opportunity to think differently about it. Whether we have been at home, working at home, working at work, or working in different or changed circumstances. Throughout this experience and afterwards, we will all have different relations with time. Work has changed, and how we use time at work is the focus of this blog.
There are so many day-to-day expressions that relate to our time. Before COVID-19, we had become used to people believing they ‘don’t have time these days’, or how there just ‘isn’t enough time’. But one thing for sure is we all have it, and we have more control over it than we might think, even now. It means we have to consciously manage it, and positively relate to it.
Time is particularly important if you are a leader. As leaders, we have to manage our time, manage the time of others, sell time, give time, and make time for others. And we have to do this better than most, because this time is precious indeed.
That said, it can be difficult in real time to always behave in ways that demonstrate to everyone that our time is their time. When that report, spreadsheet or deadline is looming, or you have an important appointment you can be forgiven for struggling – we all do.
But if someone asks you for your time you should behave like it is the single most important of all your concerns. Body language and well-chosen words go a long way to achieving this goal. Initial listening and acknowledgement is seriously effective and if you need more time, agree a mutually convenient one. This again will make people feel valued as you give them your time.
So what else have I learned about time management? I think it is all about attitude and self-control. First, I am a great fan of the ‘do it now’ approach. This is because the biggest mistake people make is to over- or under-estimate the amount of time a task needs. Often a task can be done before you realise it, and sometimes for less time than it takes to write it down on your daily ‘to do’ list. A bunch of small tasks completed can save a lot of time, and result in a raft of satisfying crossing out on your list.
The next tip is to set time-limits for tasks as we often decide consciously or unconsciously to spend more time on favourite jobs or people and less time on the least favourites. This means we can fall into the trap of doing the same things well, and neglecting our other responsibilities. If a task reappears on your ‘to do’ list more than three times in a row, ask yourself ‘what are you avoiding?’
Finally, focus on your own time. What is your preferred working style? At what point of the day or week are you at your best? Me, I prefer to hit my desk first thing and plough through lots of tasks, so I can develop that feel-good factor from completing my list. Remaining open to interruptions and supporting clients and colleagues of course! That leaves the afternoon to be more social, give people more of my time, and to satisfy my creative side with writing or developing ideas. It’s the time I blog. Indeed, any distraction from other work is positively welcomed in the afternoons. Time well spent.