Avoid the Time Bandits and Rule Your World
When thinking about business performance my thoughts often turn to how valuable time is. Business managers and owners must assure their teams have excellent time management skills to be productive and competitive. When you plan out your year you can do a quick analysis in your head of the available time. We have 365 days in a year, but subtract the weekends and that leaves us with 264 days. Now subtract out ten days for vacation and ten days for holidays, which leaves us with only 244 days to get the stuff done each year we need to do in assuring the success of our business. When you think about it that’s not that many days, so using the time wisely and productively is key to your success. Ben Franklin once wisely said “Does thou love life? Then don’t squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
One key to superior time management is to learn to identify and avoid what I’ll call time bandits. These are activities and distractions that waste valuable time. Time bandits reduce your productivity instead of increasing it. While you will never eliminate the time bandits from your life, you can significantly reduce them once you have the skill set to identify and manage them as appropriate.
There are many examples of time bandits. The following are some of the more common time bandits and some strategies and tactics for dealing with them:
Unexpected visitors can be both internal to your company and external. For employees who are involved with purchasing or management the most common form of external unexpected visitors are suppliers. They will stop in and say “I was just in the area and wanted a few minutes of your time.” I noticed this phenomena my first year out of school as a young electrical engineer. The solution to stopping this time bandit is the same as it was then and is very tactical; just put a stop to it now. Suppliers should not be allowed to drop in without arranging a meeting in advance. Don’t misunderstand the strategy here, it is extremely important to meet with and have strong relationships with suppliers, but it should only be at pre-arranged times. Make it clear and assure your organization makes it clear to suppliers that “drop-ins” are not allowed. If you find these drop-ins occurring all day at your facility, besides knowing your manufacturing team is not well managed, you may find that you have been over staffed. Be strategic and assure these meetings are planned well in advance.
The internal visitors can sometimes be a more stealth like time bandit. While it’s important for co-workers to be social you may find that some employees just sit around in your office or in common areas for far too long. When this occurs the loss of productivity is multiplied by the number of employees involved. If you find someone over-staying their welcome in your office you can mention you need to prepare for a conference call in five minutes, or sometimes standing up will give the appropriate hint. Sometimes you just have to be polite, but firm and tell the visitor you need to get something else done. You should also be sure you are self-aware and don’t become someone else’s time bandit.
Email is an amazing productivity tool. I often think back to times like 1990 when we did not have email and I wonder how we did it all. Now that we have email, one would not want to go back to a time before it existed, but at the same time, email can be a serious time bandit. If you find yourself constantly viewing incoming email and your job is not front line customer support, what high priority and strategic items are you not accomplishing? Clearly you need to set your own personal boundaries and set up rules for you to operate under that allow you time away from email. As I write this article, I don’t have email turned on. This allows me to focus and write this article. (Focus is a force multiplier that allows you to increase productivity exponentially and one of the key skills we teach in our time management training seminars.) Determine an email system that works for you and be sure that it allows you time away from email.
Your cell phone and land-line phone are critical tools for business communications, but they can also be a troublesome time bandit. As with emails, you need to adapt your own system, but you do need a system that provides for management of your time and priorities. As an example if you’re a Vice President of Sales and you are on the phone with your boss and a customer calls on the other line what do you do? For me that would be a simple rule, the boss is my priority. There are always times where you are not there to pick up each and every call. It’s easy enough to just call the customer back. Conversely if a call comes in from an 800 number or unknown number this is a good indicator someone you don’t know is calling to sell you something. The rule here is simple, let it go to voice mail, you can always call back. I like to arrive at my office early in the morning around 6 AM. This provide for extremely productive quiet time where the phone does not ring at all. When you are making outbound calls be sure you have a purpose and a plan for each call so the call can be productive for both you and the other party. As an executive I appreciate those that show a concern for my time and will be more willing to give this individual time to make a point.
Lack of Organization
If you are not organized you will waste time and become your own time bandit. If you find that you are always searching for papers and information in your office it’s time to get better organized. The time you spending walking around and looking through drawers and files is not productive at all. You want to be organized about being organized. If you are not sure how to get organized seek out assistance and take back the time.
Failure to Plan
Its imperative you learn to plan your days and use your time wisely. Assuming your doing this now, what can impact your time is when someone else fails to plan and their emergency becomes your emergency. How many times has someone come running into your office with an issue that needs to be addressed but could have easily been avoided with the proper planning? The strategy for dealing with this time bandit is to assure you get your team trained on time management and organization skills. The more organized your team is, the less fire fights you will be pulled into during the course of your day. As an added bonus your team will quickly increase their productivity with the proper training and skill implementation.
These are only a few of the more common time bandits that can arise at your organization. If you feel this article is useful, please share. It’s important for you to identify the time bandits in your life and address them with the proper strategies and tactics. What are some of the time bandits in your life and how do you deal with them?
Andy Singer is President & CEO of Singer Executive Development LLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Singer Executive Development provides powerful training that maximizes results for you and your team. Using interactive training methods they develop and enhance key executive skill sets at an accelerated pace.
Copyright 2013 Singer Executive Development LLC