There is a key technology to becoming a manager who stays on top of their day, rather than being overwhelmed by everyone else’s demands of you. Good diary management is vital to do and important to take control over as a start. So ensure that you enter in those hours you need to do your work, rather than having to do your work, after you’ve met everyone else’s demands. Executives are always complaining that their days are taken up in meetings that others call on them to attend and that they feel that they don’t own their own time.
Stop this feeling at once, by owning your time and taking control of your diary. Try out the following:
Large Blocks – Significant projects
Begin by entering large blocks of time into your diary (2 hours is recommended) which will allow you to focus on difficult, complex issues when you require not to be interrupted. This is for preparing significant projects and creating products that only you can deliver. Do not allow others to take this time from you and if you have a secretary, make sure she knows this time is non-negotiable. For this, always ensure that unless you’re expecting a specific call or email, put your phone on silent and switch off your email alerts and if possible – switch off your computer if it’s not needed for the task.
Do this for around two hours each day, and you’ll be surprised how much you accomplish. If you can’t find that much time, you can get a significant amount of work done in an hour, or even 45 minutes of uninterrupted time. If possible, have at least six such sessions a week – even if two days are back to back meetings, you can organize two large blocks on the remaining three days.
Medium Blocks – Grouping similar tasks
Block out medium size time in your diary – say half an hour to three quarters of an hour to accomplish daily tasks such as planning, writing letters, returning phone calls, going through email, and do each group of tasks together. Assign a block for each type of activity. The blocks can vary in size (or length), but the key is to stick to them. You can have two or even three blocks for the same activity e.g. email review and response – e.g. at 9.00 am, 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm. If you still have unread messages after your half-hour email block, don’t worry – you’ve got another email session later in the day.
Don’t try to multi-task. According to experts, multi-tasking slows you down as energy is diverted from the task at hand and mentally your mind becomes dispersed rather than focused. Trying to do too many different things at once leaves you with less time, energy, and brain power to deal with each of your tasks. Doing the same kind of things at the same time is fine. Focus always on the task at hand.
Small Blocks – Newer Items and Lower Priority Tasks to Be Handled
Lower priority items or even new important items that will take a small amount of time can be fitted into the smaller blocks. These are fitted into the gaps between larger blocks and include requests for help from a colleague, quick answers to questions, filling out forms, and other project components. It’s also important to factor in some of the interpersonal catch-up chats with colleagues, meetings at the coffee machine and other little breaks you take during the day to stretch, take a deep breath, call home to speak with your kids, and simply remind yourself that the day isn’t all about work. Since they’re pretty small, you can sprinkle them throughout the day without being forced to move other blocks.
Meetings requiring your presence and participation may represent other large or medium blocks of your time. Make sure they don’t over-balance the time you are able to control.
Good time management should prevent overwhelm, increase the sense of control and bring a sense of balance and good wellbeing to your day!