Written by Andy Trainer– Fri 11 May 2012
Managers often have the heaviest workload in the department, especially when their management responsibilities are as well as another job role. Because the demands of being a manager can ebb and flow, it's especially important for managers to be aware of how they manage their time.
In particular, those who've recently been promoted to management may find themselves struggling with their new responsibilities on top of their old job.
Of everyone in the organisation, it's most likely that a
manager finds themselves with shifting priorities and unexpected demands through the working day - dealing with issues from the team can mean other work is left to pile up.
Time spent planning is not time wasted at the expense of doing. A bit of time spent in understanding what needs to be done, and planning how to achieve it, will have a massive return on investment. Training and coaching staff can seem like an interruption to other work, but will pay off in the long run.
Try not to plan for every moment of your day; leave time for dealing with unexpected tasks and for adapting to interruptions and changing priorities.
2. Make lists – but not lists of lists
Making lists is an important part of planning your day based on workload and priorities. These may be daily to-do lists or ongoing lists that are constantly revisited and updated - whichever works for you.
Making lists of lists is something that managers often boast about – but it suggests procrastination. Make sure your planning is not veering into the territory of planning for procrastination.
Effective communication is often one of the first things to go when a manager is struggling to manage their own time. Rather than taking the time to listen, understand and explain; their minds are on their workload and misunderstandings occur. Management relies so heavily on communication that you absolutely must check regularly that you are taking the time to communicate effectively with your team.
It’s always tempting, when you have a big workload, to skip your breaks. This is generally a false economy, as it means your concentration can wane later on in the day and make you less efficient.
Taking breaks is especially important for managers as they need to set an example for other staff – you don’t want to set a precedent that taking breaks means a lack of commitment.
A manager’s email inbox is usually a busy place, with all kinds of emails that need addressing. Put aside a certain amount of time each day to reply to the emails – and don’t cherry pick.
If you’re worried that urgent emails will arrive outside of the set time then, by all means, check your inbox regularly – but commit yourself to your routine and don’t break it unless it’s to deal with something really important.
You should address all of your activities at regular intervals to ensure they are efficient and productive, rather than just ingrained habits. For example, a manager who is a prolific typist may instinctively write up notes themselves rather than asking someone else. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re under pressure, think about what tasks you can delegate – and, unfortunately, this does sometimes include the tasks you enjoy!
Effective delegation empowers your staff to work independently and confidently. Staff who are not often given responsibility will be needier and require more of your time. Making sure everyone has the training and resources to do their jobs will make life easier all round.
If all else fails, make sure you appear to your team to be on top of your time management, even if you’re not.
It’s vital that employees feel like they can approach you for help and guidance. If you give the impression of being too busy to be approached, you risk not being made aware of important issues. You will need to adjust your mindset to ensure you deal with interruptions in a flexible and open manner…
When team members do approach you for ad-hoc help or advice, the first thing to consider is whether it would be more efficient for the request needs to be addressed now or later.
The temptation is usually to react and try and deal with all issues immediately – but the disturbance to your working day may not be worth it. If you find interruptions frustrating, then consider a time-sensitive open/shut door policy – so people can come to you with issues only during certain times.
Make yourself aware of conversation ‘closers’ – polite ways of firmly ending a conversation that threatens to drag on, e.g. “Well, I’m glad we got that sorted out. Let me know if it happens again.”
A bit of pressure is a great motivator – especially when you know you can get everything done by just organising yourself a bit more and working that much harder. In the long term, if your workload is so much that you just can’t manage your time, then this needs to be addressed with your manager or CEO to avoid burn out.
We teach various levels of management skills, with courses that include modules on time management for managers. We also have a stand-alone course on time management which will help you really address your workload and manage your time better. Even the best time manager in the world has to know their limits, so if you've tried the tips above, and had the appropriate training, then your CEO may have to consider another way of reducing your workload!