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Time. How to get more of it.


It seems that if you ask anyone in charge of a team in the work-a-day world what stresses them out, lack of time finds its way to the top of the list. Weren’t technological advancements supposed to help us got more done faster? Instead, we find ourselves eating at our desks or skipping lunch while we frantically attempt to prove that multi-tasking is a good thing.

Before you drift into the abyss of the overwhelmed, take a look at our ideas on how to put a few more ticks on the clock. Fair warning: it will take some honest evaluation — starting with yourself.

Step One:

Are you the problem?

Evaluate your own behavior by looking for fractures in your efficiencies. Find a time when your head is clear and you can be honest with yourself about whether you are your own worst enemy. Are you rushing through tasks thinking you’re getting a lot done only to find yourself redoing that work? Have you made a list about what’s to come tomorrow? Have you prioritized what really needs done first, second and so on? Have you asked for help?

Many people have the mindset that they just need to start earlier, work later, work through lunch and multi-task. They believe it is faster to do it themselves rather than enlist help. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Once you’ve reconciled your working style, move to the next step.

Step Two:

Is your team organized? Are you sure?

Review your team’s procedures and processes to determine if they still work or need updated. As fast as technology changes, there may be a better way to do something today that wasn’t available yesterday.

Having said that, be careful not to overlook old, non-tech ways of doing things.

In our business, we’ve recently brought back physical “sign-off” labels for internal project routing. We thought that with tech being what it is, we didn’t need them any more. We were wrong. They are simple, fast to implement, cheap and foolproof. They cut our errors back tremendously and even foster more of a team atmosphere. Who’d have thought a little 2”x 2” piece of paper could do all that?

Also, remember that most team environments have turnover — and that means the talents of team members and their levels of passion for the work can change. Counting on the same level of passion from Drew that you used to get from Alicia can derail the team’s productivity.

Another thing to think about is creating an open dialogue with your team for process improvement ideas. They need to (and probably want to) help you smooth operations but aren’t always the best at coming forward with their thoughts. Make it easy for them by appreciating their ideas whether you use them or not, and allow them to present them to you in an informal way.

Step Three:

Is there confusion in the ranks?

With your team, review who is expected to do what. You’ll be surprised at the confusion that exists and the important things that no one feels responsible to do. As mentioned earlier, turnover happens, and those personnel changes can lead to and accentuate subtle adjustments to your processes. Before you know it, things that used to work are now broken. There’s probably nothing more frustrating for a leader than to have to go back and fix things. All of this leads to inefficiency and time taken from you to accomplish your tasks.

As you are reviewing job roles, be sure to make it clear what each person’s priorities are. They may have 10 things they are responsible for, but they aren’t typically weighted evenly. Human nature sometimes leads a person to “keep busy” doing something in their job description (because they like doing it), but they may be neglecting other tasks that are more important. Don’t assume your subordinates see things the way you do. Managers can have a completely different view than staffers of the exact same situation. Keep priorities simple and clear.

Step Four:

Are you willing to make the tough decisions?

Even with all the things you’ve done in Steps 1, 2 and 3 to create a more efficient team, you still won’t experience relief if people aren’t carrying their own weight. You or someone on your staff will be picking up the slack for those who can’t contribute at the necessary level.

As with most teams, friendship and compassion get in the way and cloud everyone’s vision of what needs done to have the best work team. Determining whether or not you need to replace a team member is the toughest task to gain time in your and your team’s day. I hate having to make this determination and take the subsequent steps to improve the situation. But, it does help to remember that by making the tough call to replace a team member, you are doing what you get paid to do and you are doing what is best for everyone — even the person who’s being asked to move on.

Step Five:

Time to talk with the boss?

Organizations of all types were hampered by the economic downturn of 2008. Some were taken down to skeleton crews and nearly put out of business. This “Great Decession” left its mark on those who fought through it, and rightfully so. Asking teams to do more with less — less money, less people and less time — helped ensure survival. However, organizations have gotten comfortable with all of these “lesses,” and it is time to consider whether the scars of the past are preventing us from future growth.

Once you feel good about the production level of your team, you have to determine if you are at max capacity. If you are, consider building a case to approach your boss for additional resources. Be prudent and organized in your attempt. After all, this is a business, and internal ROI is just as important as external ROI. So, don’t just ask for additional resources or complain about the workload. Instead, build a case (with projected numbers) from the viewpoint of the organization and show your boss what could be accomplished with more resources. Share the steps you’ve taken and the efficiencies you’ve realized.

No one can afford burn out — either of yourself or your staff. We’re all too valuable and hard to come by. Plus, life is short. Working 24/7 isn’t the path to your or your team’s happiness. Many organizations will let you work ridiculous hours if you want to, so getting your house in order and asking for the proper resources will be part of the constant battle to balance work/life time. I’m confident that with a fair mindset, honest viewpoint and willingness to speak up, you can do it.

Want more insight on how to be the most time-efficient manager in your company? Or, have a tip you’d like to share on getting the most out of your day? Reach out to us below: