Category: Time Management

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

In order for your team to effectively manage their time and to be productive each day, they must create the appropriate environment. By eliminating clutter, setting up an effective filing system, gathering essential tools, and managing workflow, your team will be well on their way to creating an effective workspace.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Declutter The Workspace

Removing clutter is itself a time-consuming task, but a cluttered workspace significantly impairs the team’s ability to find things, and they will get the time back that they invest – and more! To retrieve materials quickly, the team will need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:

Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.

Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.

Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved, but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, the team could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.

Once clutter has been eliminated and other materials have been filed, the effective workspace includes only what is essential: a set of three trays to control the workflow on their desks, standard office supplies, a computer, and a telephone. Everything else, except for what they are working on at the moment, can and should be filed where it can be retrieved as needed.

Managing Workflow

How do you process the mountain of material that collects in your paper and electronic in-baskets? The answer is one piece of paper, one electronic message at a time. Many time management experts agree that the most effective people act on an item the first time it is touched.

Although difficult at first, the practice can become habitual, and is made easier with the four Ds:

DO: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.

DELETE: If the material is trash or junk, delete it. Or, if it’s something that you might use later on, file it, and move on.

DEFER: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.

DELEGATE: If a task is not yours to do, then delegate it.

Remember, to take the S.T.I.N.G. out of feeling overwhelmed about a task, follow these steps:

Select one task to do at a time.

Time yourself using a clock for no more than one hour.

Ignore everything else during that time.

No breaks or interruptions should be permitted.

Give yourself a reward when the time is up.

Dealing with E-mail

Electronic communication can be managed just as easily and as quickly as paper with the four D’s that we just discussed. However, there are some other key ideas that will help your team maximize their e-mail time.

Like other routine tasks (such as returning phone calls, handling paper mail, and checking voice mail), e-mail is best handled in batches at regularly scheduled times of the day.

Ask your e-mail contacts to use specific subject lines, and make sure to use them yourself. This will help you to determine whether your incoming mail is business or personal, urgent or trivial.

Once you know the subject of the message, open and read urgent e-mails, and respond accordingly. Non-urgent e-mails, like jokes, can be read later. Delete advertising-related e-mail that you have no interest in, or which you consider spam.

Use your e-mail system to its fullest potential. Create folders for different topics or projects, or by senders. Most e-mail systems also allow you to create folders and add keywords or categories to messages, which makes information retrieval much easier.

Many e-mail programs allow you to create rules that automatically move messages to the appropriate folder. This can help you follow your e-mail plan.

Finally, don’t forget to delete e-mail from your trash can and junk folder on a regular basis.

Using Calendars

To manage all of the things that they have to do, it’s important that the team organize their reminders into a small number of calendars and lists that can be reviewed regularly. A calendar (paper or electronic) is the obvious place to record meetings, appointments, and due dates.

For people with multiple responsibilities, an annual calendar organized by areas of responsibility (e.g., budget, personnel, schedule, planning, and miscellaneous) may be especially valuable. For each of these areas, one can list the major responsibilities month by month and thereby see at a glance what tasks must be completed in a given month of the year.

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

The hallmark of successful time management is being consistently productive each day. Many people use a daily plan to motivate themselves. Having a daily plan and committing to it can help your team stay focused on the priorities of that particular day. They are also more likely to get things accomplished if they write down their plans for the day.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Creating a Productivity Journal

Essentially, planning is nothing more than taking a piece of paper and a pen and writing down the tasks and associated steps that the team needs to take throughout the day to ensure that the goal is completed.

To start, get a spiral notebook and label it as the Team Productivity Journal.  Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day. Next, prioritize each task in order of importance. Highlight the top three items and focus on those first. Cross off items as the team completes them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.

Maximizing the Power of the Team Productivity Journal

By planning the afternoon before, the team will start fresh and focused on the most important tasks for the day. Of course, the team will want to review their list in the morning, but they will have a head start on the day.

The team should keep the productivity journal with them during the day to avoid becoming sidetracked. Crossing off completed tasks will give their subconscious mind a tremendous amount of satisfaction. This will also help to maintain their motivation to complete the remaining items on the action list.

If the team  finds that are moving uncompleted tasks over into the following day, and the day after that, then they need to ask themselves why that task is on the list in the first place and what value it has for the team. If they postpone a task three times, it does not belong on the action list.

The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

There is a story about time management that uses a glass jar, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, and water to illustrate how to plan your day. The glass jar represents the time the team has each day, and each item that goes into it represents an activity with a priority relative to its size.

Rocks: The general idea is to fill the glass jar first with rocks. Plan each day around the most important tasks that will propel the team toward achieving their goals. These represent the team’s  highest priority projects and deadlines with the greatest value, often important, but not urgent tasks that move the team toward their goals.

Pebbles: Next, fill in the space between the rocks with pebbles. These represent tasks that are urgent, and important, but contribute less to important goals. Without proper planning, these tasks are often unexpected, and left unmanaged, can quickly fill the day. Working to reduce these tasks will give the team more time to work toward their goals.

Sand: Now add sand to fill the jar. In other words, schedule urgent, but not important tasks, only after important tasks. These activities are usually routine or maintenance tasks that do not directly contribute to the team goals.

Water: Finally, pour water into your jar. These trivial time-wasters are neither important nor urgent and take you away from working toward high return activities and  goals.

If the team commits to this approach to planning their days, they will see as time goes on that they are able to achieve more in less time. Instead of finishing things in a mad rush to meet deadlines, each day will be organized and become more productive and profitable. They will also notice that they are spending less time on activities that are of little to no value. And because they have a clear vision for dealing with competing priorities, the level of stress in the team will diminish, which will allow them to become even more focused and productive.

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Time management is about more than just managing time; it is about the team members managing themselves, in relation to time. It is about setting priorities and taking charge. It means changing habits or activities that cause the team to waste time. It means being willing to experiment with different methods and ideas to enable the team to find the best way to make maximum use of time.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, states that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your actions. Across the board, you will find that the 80/20 principle is pretty much right on with most things in your life. For most people, it really comes down to analyzing what you are spending your time on. Are you focusing in on the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results in your life?

The Urgent/Important Matrix

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that the team wants to achieve, means spending time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, the team needs to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important:

Important: These are activities that lead to the achievement of team goals and have the greatest impact on the team.

Urgent: These activities demand immediate attention, but are often associated with outside goals rather than the goals of the team.

The Urgent/Important Matrix is a powerful way of organizing tasks based on priorities. Using it helps the team overcome the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that they can have time to focus on what’s truly important.

The Urgent/Important Matrix:

Urgent And Important: Activities in this area relate to dealing with critical issues as they arise and meeting significant commitments. Perform these duties now.

Urgent, But Not Important: These chores do not move you forward toward your own goals. Manage by delaying them, cutting them short, and rejecting requests from others. Postpone these chores.

Not Urgent And Not Important: These trivial interruptions are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. However, be careful not to mislabel things like time with family and recreational activities as not important. Avoid these distractions altogether.

Being Assertive

At times, requests from others may be important and need immediate attention. Often, however, these requests conflict with team values and take time away from working toward the team goals. Even if it is something the team would like to do, but simply don’t have the time for, it can be very difficult to say no. One approach in dealing with these types of interruptions is to use a Positive No, which comes in several forms.

Say no, followed by an honest explanation, such as, “I am uncomfortable doing that because…”

Say no and then briefly clarify your reasoning without making excuses. This helps the listener to better understand your position. Example: “I can’t right now because I have another project that is due by 5 pm today.”

Say no, and then give an alternative. Example: “I don’t have time today, but I could schedule it in for tomorrow morning.”

Empathetically repeat the request in your own words, and then say no. Example: “I understand that you need to have this paperwork filed immediately, but I will not be able to file it for you.”

Say yes, give your reasoning for not doing it, and provide an alternative solution. Example: “Yes, I would love to help you by filing this paperwork, but I do not have time until tomorrow morning.”

Provide an assertive refusal and repeat it no matter what the person says. This approach may be most appropriate with aggressive or manipulative people and can be an effective strategy to control your emotions. Example: “I understand how you feel, but I will not [or cannot]…” Remember to stay focused and not become sidetracked into responding to other issues.

Making Sure Team Meetings Are Not Time Wasters

Making Sure Team Meetings Are Not Time Wasters

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” – Thomas Sowell

Team meetings are often seen as nothing but time wasters. Few people look forward to team  meetings, and with good reason. Too many meetings lack purpose and structure. However, with just a few tools, you can make any team meeting a much better use of everyone’s time.

Deciding if a Team Meeting is Necessary

The first thing you need to decide is if a formal meeting is necessary. Perhaps those morning meetings could be reduced to a few times a week instead of every day, or maybe they could take place over morning coffee and be more informal.  If a formal meeting is necessary, divide your attendees into two groups: participants and observers. Let people know what group they belong in so that they can decide whether they want to attend. If you send out a report after the meeting, that may be enough for some people.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How to Prepare for and Schedule Team Meetings

We use the PAT approach to prepare for and schedule team meetings.

Purpose: What is the purpose of the meeting? We usually state this in one short sentence. Example: “This meeting is to review the new invoice signing policy.” This helps people evaluate if they need to be there. It will also help you build the agenda and determine if the meeting was successful.

Agenda: This is the backbone of the team meeting. It should be created well in advance of the meeting, sent to all participants and observers, and be used during the meeting to keep things on track.

Time frame: How long will the meeting be? Typically, meetings should not exceed one hour. (In fact, we recommend a fifty minute meeting, starting at five past the hour and ending five minutes before the hour.) If the team meeting needs to be longer, make sure you include breaks, or divide it into two or more sessions.

Building the Agenda

Before the team meeting, make a list of what needs to be discussed, how long you believe it will take, and the person who will be presenting the item.  Once the agenda is complete, send it to all participants and observers, preferably with the meeting request, and preferably two to three days before the meeting. Make sure you ask for everyone’s approval, including additions or deletions. If you do make changes, send out a single updated copy 24 hours before the meeting.

Keeping The Team Meeting on Track

Before the team meeting, post the agenda on a flip chart, whiteboard, or PowerPoint slide. Spend the first five minutes of the meeting going over the agenda and getting approval. During the meeting, take minutes with the agenda as a framework.

Your job as chairperson is to keep the meeting running according to the agenda. If an item runs past its scheduled time, ask the team if they think more time is needed to discuss the item. If so, how do they want to handle it? They can reduce the time for other items, remove other items altogether, schedule an offline follow-up session, or schedule another meeting. No matter what the team agrees to, make sure that they stick to their decision.

At the end of the meeting, get agreement that all items on the agenda were sufficiently covered. This will identify any gaps that may require follow-up and it will give the team a positive sense of accomplishment about the meeting.

Making Sure the Meeting Was Worthwhile

After the team meeting, send out a summary of the meeting, including action items, to all participants and observers, and anyone else who requires a copy. Action items should be clearly indicated, with start and end dates, and progress dates if applicable. If follow-up meetings were scheduled, these should also be communicated.

Alternatives to Meetings

Sometimes, a face-to-face meeting isn’t the best solution. The following are some alternatives to meetings that can help you and your team save time and be more productive.

Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms

Instant message applications and chat rooms can be a great alternative to meetings, especially if meeting members are separated by distance.

Teleconferencing

If more personal contact and real-time sharing are needed, try a teleconferencing system like Adobe’s Acrobat.com, Microsoft Live Meeting, or Citrix’s GoToMeeting.

Email Lists and Online Groups

If your meeting group requires ongoing, interactive communication, rather than periodic face-to-face gatherings, an e-mail list, forum, or online group can be an effective tool.

A few things to keep in mind if you are going to use this sort of solution:

Having a moderator is essential. These types of tools can quickly get out of control without proper supervision. You’ll want to make sure members stay on topic and stay professional.

Make sure you monitor the time spent on these tools. Setting a daily or weekly update or delivery time might be a good idea.

Just like a meeting, an online list or group should have a purpose and stick to it.

Delegating For Team Leaders Made Easy

Delegating For Team Leaders Made Easy

“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” –  Byron Dorgan

If you work on your own, there’s only so much you can get done, no matter how hard you work. One of the most common ways of overcoming this limitation is to learn how to delegate your work to your team members. If you do this well, you can quickly build a strong and successful team of people.

At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth. However, by delegating effectively, you can hugely expand the amount of work that you can deliver. When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.

Remember, to delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right team members to delegate to, and delegate in the right way.

When to Delegate

Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization. Delegation is a win-win situation for all involved, but only when done correctly. Keep these criteria in mind when deciding if a task should be delegated to your team:

  • The task should provide an opportunity for growth of the team member’s skills.
  • Weigh the effort to properly train the team member against how often the task will reoccur.
  • Delegating certain critical tasks may jeopardize the success of the team’s project.
  • Management tasks, such as performance reviews, and tasks specifically assigned to you should not be delegated.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

To Whom Should You Delegate?

Once you have decided to delegate a task to a team member, think about the possible candidates for accepting the task. Things to think about include:

  • What experience, knowledge, skills, and attitude does the team member already have?
  • What training or assistance might they need?
  • Do you have the time and resources to provide any training needed?
  • What is the team member’s preferred work style? Do they do well on their own or do they require more support and motivation? How independent are they?
  • What does he or she want from his or her job?
  • What are his or her long-term goals and interest, and how do these align with the work proposed?
  • What is the current workload of this this team member? Does the person have time to take on more work?
  • Will you delegating this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?

When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable. Also, try to delegate to the lowest possible organizational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop people.

How Should You Delegate?

Delegation doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are several different levels of delegation, each with different levels of delegate independence and supervision.

  • Delegate initiates action, and then reports periodically.
  • Delegate acts, and the reports immediately.
  • Delegate recommends what should be done, and then acts.
  • Delegate asks what to do.
  • Delegate waits to be told what to do.

People often move throughout these spheres during the delegation process. Make sure you match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Understand that you can delegate some responsibility, but you can’t delegate away ultimate accountability.

Keeping Control

Now, once you have worked through the above steps, make sure you brief your team member appropriately. Take time to explain why they were chosen for the job, what’s expected from them during the project, the goals you have for the project, all timelines and deadlines, and the resources on which they can draw. Work together to develop a schedule for progress updates, milestones, and other key project points.

You will want to make sure that the team member knows that you want to know if any problems occur, and that you are available for any questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.

We all know that as team leaders, we shouldn’t micro-manage. However, this doesn’t mean we must abdicate control altogether. In delegating effectively, we have to find the difficult balance between giving enough space for people to use their abilities, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively. One way to encourage growth is to ask for recommended solutions when team members come to you with a problem, and then help them explore those solutions and reach a decision.

The Importance of Full Acceptance

Set aside enough time to thoroughly review any delegated work delivered to you. If possible, only accept good quality, fully complete work. If you accept work that you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a new project that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don’t have the time to do your own job properly.

Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognize and reward the effort. As a team leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building the team members’ self-confidence and efficiency now and in the future.