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PART THREE - TIME-MANAGEMENT SERIES:
OWN YOUR TIME – DON’T LET TIME OWN YOU
By Joseph Shaffner, North Rock Leadership
Editor’s note: This is part three of a series on “Best Practices for Time-management.”
10 BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT PRACTICES:
We looked at numbers 1 through 4 in previous articles. I will cover best practices 5 and 6 in this article.
TIME-MANAGEMENT PRACTICE 5: LEARN A PRIORITIZATION MATRIX FOR THAT “TO DO” SYSTEM.
The To Do systems I discussed in my last installment are the easy part, now comes the real work.
Part of the reason that our important work goes undone is that we tend to gravitate to things we deem as urgent. Some even find the thrill of urgency and a crisis simulating. In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni calls it “The Adrenaline Bias,” sharing that many leaders “suffer from a chronic case of adrenaline addiction, seemingly hooked on the daily rush of activity and firefighting within their organizations.”
Don’t get me wrong, there really are some fires that need to be put out right away. If you wonder if you suffer, take the full Urgency Index Questionnaire by Stephen Covey and self-assess where you are.
So, let’s get a handle on that To Do list and stop the urgency cycle. Two tools I use to classify, categorize and prioritize my To Do’s are The Stephen Covey Time Management Matrix and the Eisenhower Matrix (developed by General and later President Eisenhower).
Research conducted by Covey with hundreds of executives across industries revealed that most of us spend 50-60% of our time in quadrant III. The problem here is that this dynamic steals away from Quadrant II — those important (but not urgent) tasks that are truly vital to growth in our work. High-performance types have instead been shown to spend the following allocation of time in the matrix:
(Source: 1994 Steven Covey Leadership Center cited in First Things First).
Step one is to put your To Do’s in the format of Covey’s matrix. Step two is Eisenhower’s matrix. Now, I’ll say that you might not be able to apply Eisenhower’s Matrix as ruthlessly as shown here, but you hopefully get the general idea.
Put some time into analyzing and executing these matrices and you’ll find you will be getting more important and meaningful things done.
TIME-MANAGEMENT PRACTICE 6: HAVE THE COURAGE TO SAY “NO” TO MEETINGS, ASSIGNMENTS AND INTERRUPTIONS.
We have taught ourselves to say no to our children, telemarketers and politicians, so why can’t we learn so say no, when appropriate, in a professional context?
The struggle is that “no” is sometimes considered a four letter word in business. Research studies have shown that people will often say yes to a request simply because saying no makes them even more uncomfortable. Saying yes to everything you are asked to do is viewed as a way to show you are “a company man/woman,” a team player and will make you stand out. I know how strong this desire can be; I used to be known as a “yes man.” The paradoxical thing was that the people that had the courage to calculate their time and say no when appropriate were just as successful as I was and I did not bump into to them in the office on the weekends. Even more amazing—I think they did higher quality work than I did.
Being able to say a calculated “no” is fundamentally simple and immensely liberating. The other side of the coin is that if you do not learn to say it, I can guarantee that you will never get all your work done and the quality of your work and life will suffer. If you’d like some simple tools to get started with “no,” here are some basic strategies I use with clients:
Hopefully, these will get you started. There is also an excellent article on the topic in the Harvard Business Review: “How to Say No to Taking on More Work” by Rebecca Knight.
We are now half-way through the series, what do you think so far? How are you at saying no?
What sorts of things do you need to start saying no to? If you would like discuss further or share your best time management practices, please leave a comment or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can also deliver this as a workshop for your organization.
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