Googling ‘time management’ throws up about 5 billion results. There are countless books, blogs, infographics, how-to videos, all sharing their tips on effective time management. There are even consultants who help you manage your time better. Despite all these reams and reams of gyan, we’re still collectively, struggling to manage our time.
We eventually do end up completing the task at hand, but often not when we hoped or even as well as we expected. Often delays on one task impact other activities we planned, and more often than not, our personal lives pay the price. I’ve often wondered if this inability to ‘manage’ time is caused by the belief that we aren’t well planned or if we allow too many unplanned activities to impact what we need to get done.
What is it about time, that we never seem to have enough of it! Is it about our ability to prioritise? Or the work at hand? are our estimates all over the place? Or is it merely that we have no clue how to manage our time and often end up wasting it?
So many questions. So little time.
Everyone has the same 24 hour day, yet some of us are incredibly successful with our time, seemingly getting our work done efficiently with zero effort. Others among us seem to be on the hamster wheel of endless tasks and to-do lists struggling unsuccessfully to cope as more work seems to magically pile up as our day winds down.
The difference, I believe, is in the way we see time as the constraint and manage it for maximum output.
The way most of us manage time is to typically assign it to the tasks at hand and then actively work toward completing each task. As we work through our list, we are invariably interrupted by calls, new emails, priority changes, unplanned meetings. The time we initially allocated for our to-do list continues to balloon and expand until we’re past our deadline and forced; as a result, to work extra hours and complete our list. As a result, the very purpose of harnessing time to complete the tasks at hand is defeated. We end up falling prey to a vicious cycle that eventually sees us resort to questionable multitasking and all the more convinced by our self-perpetuating belief that we never have enough time!
Let’s understand what the ‘real’ constraint is and how we’re managing it. We all believe that ‘time’ is the constraint, yet we manage tasks and not our time. We assign time to tasks and focus on how long each will take whether or not we can complete the job in the time allocated. If we respect the constraint, we should be doing precisely the opposite – shouldn’t we be assigning tasks to time?
It is common sense – if time is the constraint, we must subordinate tasks to time rather than the other way around. By divvying up our day in time slots to which we can then assign the type of jobs best suited for that period, we can get far better control on our time.
Make a list of all your daily, repetitive tasks and assign time slots to complete these. Divide your day into a ‘Do’ time, a ‘Review’ time, a ‘Resolve – Issue Resolution’ time, a ‘Respond – email and phone calls’ time, ‘Thinking – Strategise’ time and so on. To illustrate, assign a half-hour slot for reviews at the beginning or the end of your day, an hour before lunch for emails or an hour in the afternoon to resolve any issues. You can assign time slots for all your daily actions based on the level of responsibility and accountability that comes with your role. However, once you have defined these time slots, you need to stick with them, no matter the urgency. For critical issues, you can assign an ‘urgent tasks’ slot daily that you can use for other activities if there are no emergencies that need your attention.
For people who have to travel frequently for their job, like those in sales, you can have office days and travel days and slots during the day when you plan meetings with your office to resolve concerns.
Scheduling your tasks around your time brings in discipline and brings about a predictability to the rest of the organisation so that everyone can synchronise, respect and facilitate each other’s time effectively.
At Fabtech, with our diversified portfolio, we have been on a journey of effectively managing time as an organisation and individuals for some time now. Whether through daily meetings, reviews or our issue resolutions, we are learning the art of synchronising the organisation more effectively to ensure better and more predictable responses to our internal and external customers.
To illustrate some examples of how Life Engineers respect time as the constraint: Our factory has developed a strong discipline for Stores timing. Our Stores Manager keeps the stores open for material issues only for one hour in the morning and evening. This compels everyone in the production team to plan their kits more effectively, and Stores team get the time they need to do their core job which is to manage inventory instead of only issuing material at all hours.
Similarly, across all factory locations, our 15-minute production review meetings start at the same time every day with the ringing of the bell. During the meeting, progress is reviewed, and issues reported. The session ends at the same time every day again with the ringing of the bell indicating to the team to go back to their stations. Timings are sacrosanct, and even our customers have come to respect them and are happy to wait or take a break from whatever activity brought them to our factory while these meetings take place.
At our corporate office, we make our reviews predictable by way of kickoff days with predefined time slots. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are for new orders, while Sales and Operations reviews take place on the second Saturday of each month. Quarterly reviews are planned for the second Saturday of the first month of the quarter. The predictability of this requirement led to a recommendation from the team that we move our Saturdays off to the 1st and 3rd weeks – a clear indication that our Life Engineers are keen to respect the hours at their disposal with a disciplined approach.
By sharing these simple rules for effective time management we hope you will also come to see as we do, that time management is a mindset, and if we start respecting time slots and subordinate everything else to them, it becomes integral to the company culture which helps us ensure on-time delivery to the customer.
Time is money not just for us but also for our customers and the only way to make the interaction profitable is to ensure we are respecting the right constraint and managing it in a way that ensures we all benefit.