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September 7, 2009

Time Management

Steven R. Berryman

Should you not have time to read my columns, then make an exception and read this one now. “I just don’t have the time” sounds like a personal problem to me, and that attitude will not advance your ability to get things done in our zero-sum time of “no time.”


We are all jammed with time constraining chores and tasks, adding just one more can mean bumping another one off of the agenda.


Having a real time emergency?


Warning signs that you need a plan include: forgetting to eat, leaving personal hygiene for another day, and wearing the same cloths for days on end. Really!


Time-management is series of interconnected concepts that can get you through the complex, task-driven course of the day. Twenty-plus years of high pressure business experience pressed many an indelible lesson onto me.


One either won or lost this game based upon having a strategy and a plan.


It occurred to me to look further into this topic while developing training manuals and conducting corporate trainings for big-box retailers like Target, The Sports Authority, and Wards. What I discovered along the way – being a master delegator as a function of the job – was that although counter-intuitive, it leads one toward the realization that...“If you want to get something done, then give it to a busy person.”


I came to the above conclusion through much trial and error in the field. But these busy people had adopted tactics to cope with the multitasking; I’ve got some of these for you.


One common employment interview test question for department store managers – the ultimate multi-taskers – was “Are you a delegator, or are you a doer?” The trend to be “hands-on” as a leader can easily be self-defeating in practice, even though it’s “cool” to be down with the front line people.


So, not that you don’t need to know how to perform a particular task, but the doer is wrong! Getting the task, be it mowing the grass, or fielding sales calls, to the lowest qualified member of your family or team capable of performing that job is essential to saving time and staying organized.


You need to remain doing the things that are unique to your skill-set or personal desire to perform….or prepare for “the dumping.”




Some of the items are tricks, philosophies, or methods, and all can be applied to single moms, busy executives, military officers, and students alike, with some modification.


*Tasks: Learn how to say no, and only take on a task if you know you are absolutely capable of following through on your commitment! Whose problem is it really? Or are you getting “dumped-on because you are a softy, or worse, an easy mark?


Take ownership over what is rightly yours to handle, or what is most important in your best interest. Of course, this will not always apply when the task is specifically directed at you by a superior, or someone with superior “guilt-rights!”


*When circumstances dictate that you must delegate something to a subordinate or one of your children, how well do you “hand it off?” Are you selling-in the importance of this task, and supplying all of the needed information and authority to get it done?


Packaging and correctly framing what needs to be done is essential to keep that monkey from getting back onto your back!


*List your work to track the tasks, but only when you understand how to make the list!


One of the dynamics involved is to understand that it is an immutable law of human nature that: “The time it takes to do a task is directly proportional to the time allowed to perform it.”


Interestingly, time itself essentially can shrink or expand as a result of how you outline projects when delegating. It becomes self-fulfilling!


*Prioritization – First thing each day, get out a piece of paper or a Blackberry and jot down the three (3) things that absolutely have to get done, come hell or high water!


Allow for the time to do these by adding and avoiding other lower level items as needed. Also allow for some unexpected surprise time, so you don’t get off track.


It’s a good idea to add some simple easy tasks to the list just to keep you crossing things off as you go, to keep up the rhythm and help out with some satisfaction…


Then…get right to your hardest item first, and bottom-line it fast. Cross it off, and take a little reward time for you, and then scoot down the list…


*Create this type of plan each day, with a donut hole in the middle of it for unanticipated add-ins.


*Leave time toward the end of the day to do some forward-thinking and preparation for what will be another packed day tomorrow.


*Revisit, revise, and update your list as you go throughout the day. Cross items off as needed.


*Make sure that technology is serving you, and that you are not slave to the technology yourself!


Many time-saving programs on computers are designed to help you, but it has been my experience that they cost as much time in the maintenance and upkeep drills as they save, so be advised.


Are cell phones and texting adding to your ability to get things done more effectively and faster, or are they simply allowing others to tack-on nuisance chores and tasks to your back?


Getting stuck on email chains or social networking sights really only helps when you are advocating on some issue, or helping on a campaign. Don’t let the fun stuff take away your control of the priority items in your life.


Budget yourself a certain amount of “play-time” or non-productive “me-time,” as you can use it as a self-motivation device and a break. I like to use this as a punctuator between various tasks at hand; a little rewarding and an opportunity to clear the mind for the next thing at hand.


All of the above may not apply to you, but adopt what fits your situation and try something new. Let me know how it goes please!


Okay, I’m out of time, so got to go. See you next week.


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