Stay In Charge of your Time
Are you in charge of your own time?
Think about what you did last week at work. Were you in control of your time? Or did it seem that your time was being controlled by those around you? Are you pleased with what you achieved, or do you think you could have done more if only you hadn't been constantly distracted from your main task?
Did you decide what you did and when?
If not, then it is time to get a grip on your timetable.
Start by noting down all those things that you have to do each and every week. Things such as read and answer your mail, attend regular staff meetings, produce a progress or status report. These may be big things or they may be little things, it really doesn't matter. The important point is that they are regular and repetitive and therefore must be done each and every week.
Chose a time in your weekly calendar to do each one of these jobs and keep these time slots reserved. Reserve them this week, next week, every week. Let you colleagues and your staff know that these times are sacrosanct and resist all attempts to get you to weaken in this resolve.
Clearly you have to be sensible about the times you pick in the first place. It is no good picking a time in the middle of the morning when meetings have traditionally always been arranged, or that you know is the only time when certain people are present. And it is unrealistic never ever to be flexible over the times you have selected. But once the word is out that during certain times you are not available you will find that others do not try to fix meetings at those hours any more, or phone you up during these periods. They will try to fit in with your availability before contacting you. It costs them nothing, and they know that you will be more amenable.
Once you have all your regular weekly tasks allocated to particular times you can do the same with your repetitive monthly tasks. Get those down as well. They have to be done, so they need to be down in your diary.
Make sure you set aside a regular time each week for the unexpected but essential. In other words build in some scheduled slack time, some recovery time. It may be that one week dealing with your mail takes longer than usual. It must be done, but you overrun your allocated time slot. That's OK. Use your scheduled slack time. Another week it may be that your progress report takes longer than usual. Never mind. You have your scheduled slack time to make use of.
If you don't set aside this extra time you are almost certain to be scrabbling around for time in amongst all the other jobs that have come in on an irregular basis. But of course if you find that one of your scheduled tasks, dealing with your mail for example, regularly overflows into this extra time slot then you must allocate more time to that task in the first place. The recovery time slot should never be constantly filled by the same overflowing task each week.
Once these regular tasks are scheduled in you are free to accept all the other demands on your time - the discussions, the meetings, the seminars, the requests for special reports, the demands of your staff, whatever it is - without worrying whether the routine but essential tasks will get done or not. You will no longer have that worry in the background. Your available time will be under your control again.
Don't underestimate the stress-reducing effect of being master of your own time.
(c) Copyright 2004 By Arthur Cooper