Change Implementation Techniques for Creating a Sense of Urgency

Technique 2.66 Time Management

Introduction

. The Rhythm of Life (Circadian Clock - daily rhythms of day and night)

organisational development change management

(source: Karen Wright, 2002)

. The key to successful management is the possession of good time management skills. In fact, time management is about being organised!!!!! A better name for time management is self-management of time

".Time has become to the 21st century what fossil fuels and precious metals were to previous epochs."

Gary Stix, 2002

. In the western culture, time is money!!!!!!!

"...the whole notion of time has changed and so has the way we think about it......Western culture views time - as linear and a scarce resource and getting the most out of it. Time is valuable..."

Carl Honore as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2004d

. One of the most important decisions any senior manager can make is how they spend their time, especially around the areas of management of operations, capital allocation and investor relations. Some of the best performing managers keep away from day to day responsibilities. Instead, they remain free to work on whatever is in the best interest of the organisation at any time. They remain flexible to handle the uncertain times.

. Yesterday is history

"...Imagine there is a bank which credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries no balance from day-to-day, allows you to keep no cash balance and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount you have failed to use during the day.

What would you do? Draw every cent of course! Well, everyone has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day is a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow. You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success. The clock is running. Make the most of today.

To realise the value of one year, ask a person with a terminal illness. To realise the value of one month, ask a wage labourer who has children to feed. To realise the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet. To realise the value of one minute, ask the person who missed the train. To realise the value of one second, ask a person who has avoided an accident. To realise the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present..."

Anon

. Time management is about personal productivity, task management and behavioural changes.

- personal productivity is about getting more done in the time available

- people deal with tasks in different ways. Some people (generally men) like to handle tasks in a linear way, ie completing one task before starting another (called monochron). Others (generally women) like to juggle their time between a series of tasks, flitting backwards and forwards (called polychron). The latter can handle interruptions better than the former. When the 2 types to work together, they need to understand how the other works to avoid conflict. For example, managers (monochronic thinkers) and researchers (polychronic thinkers) need to understand each other's approach to time when they work together. Remember: planning time requires closure, while development time is open-ended and can extend far into the future

Furthermore,

"...monochronic time controls human behaviour and is therefore well-suited to situations that require highly coordinated actions......because this form of time facilitates coordination, it is well-suited to the management of large systems and is the form of time taken for granted in most organisations and the only way to get things done efficiently. Polychronic time assumptions are more effective for building relationships and for solving complex problems where information is widely scattered and highly interactive so that all channels must be kept open at all times. Polychronic time is therefore more suitable for the early stages of an organisation, for smaller systems, and organisations where one person is the central point of coordination..."

Edgar Schein, 2004

Also, it is claimed by some creative thinking experts, such as Edward deBono, that polychron behaviour helps with creativity as revisiting a task can encourage thinking about different ways of doing it

- we are creatures of habits and changing habits or behaviours of a lifetime is not easy. For example, the New Year's resolution is traditionally honored by breaking it within days of making it!!!!

"...changing managerial behaviour is difficult even if managers know why they should change, how to change and the direction in which to change. The answer to this conundrum seems to be to keep the change very simple and very small......mostly simplicity seems to work best. Adopting new time-saving behaviours should involve very few and very small steps......getting long-term commitment to behavioral change is not easy, but it seems to work best if managers select a technique that suits them.. Basically, discipline is needed to change habitual behaviours..."

Harry Onsman, 2004d

. Remember that time is not linear but our age is a basis for estimating time intervals, ie

"...the apparent length of an interval of the given epoch of a man's life is proportional to the length of life itself..."

Paul Janet as quoted by Brad Howarth, 2007

Thus our earlier years are stretched out, while later years (which represent a diminishing proportion of our lives) are shorter. Furthermore, faster time perception was associated with better psychological functioning as measured by fewer instances of clinical depression, an enhanced sense of purpose and control, and the perception of being younger.

Busyness

· It has become the default position of many lives but feels as elementary and as uncontrollable as weather

· It causes the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) to shrink and lets the amygdale (the part of the brain with negative emotions like fear, aggression and anxiety) dominate. On the other hand, we feel important, if we are always busy as it suggests status, ie

"...The more you do, the more you matter, or so the reigning culture script goes..."

Brigid Schulte as quoted by Jennifer Howard, 2014

Planned breaks

"...'wasting time' can feel like a productivity killer, but thoughtful and constructive time out can improve focus and boost energy......the work day can be a daunting mental and physical challenge, especially if you want to perform your best throughout the day. In addition to finding your optimal work hours, taking multiple breaks can increase your productivity all day long. Our workaholic culture tends to villainise time-wasting behaviours during work - such as leisurely lunches and web browsing - but research proves that breaks can enhance performance on many levels..." 

Aytekin Tank 2019 

Brief periods of distraction have shown to improve decision-making and creativity. On the other hand, prolonged attention to a single task can hinder performance.

Waking periods of mental rest can improve memory formation as during these rest periods, your brain reviews and ingrains what it has previously learnt. Without rest, you run the risk of experiencing "in one ear, out the other". 

Need to include planned, right types of breaks throughout the day; these include 

- brain breaks (rest your prefrontal cortex as this is part of the brain dedicated to logical thinking, executive functioning and using willpower to override impulses. Some methods include letting your mind wander like daydreaming, zoning out, meditating. This will increase the focus and give your brain a break) 

- physical activity (regular breaks like 5-minutes of walking every hour can improve your health and mental well-being 

"...mental wellness is critical on a personal and a professional level because research shows that happier workplaces are more productive..." 

Aytekin Tank 2019

Also, prolonged sitting is bad for you.

Walking will boost creativity. Research has shown that people exploring mental tasks require imagination, and that walking, rather than sitting, will lead to more creative thinking. It is interesting to note that many accomplished novelists  and poets like Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau, William Wordsworth, etc used walking to help them think.

- social breaks and informal meetings ( taking a break with others is important for personal and professional well-being as social connectivity reinforces bonds, improves morale and productivity, and increases opportunities for collaboration. Many of these social breaks allow people to engage in productive conversations about on-the-job challenges, etc

- taking a break in a natural environment (this can significantly increase employee well-being, reduce stress, enhance innovative potential and strengthen personal connections, ie 

Time in nature dramatically improves our abilities to think expansively and to make better decisions. Also it makes us more helpful, like noticing when others need help and providing that help. Many companies, like Google, Facebook, etc now have prioritised plant life in office designs 

- snack breaks (they are a great way to refresh and recharge your brain during the working day. Your brain works best with a consistent blood glucose level, ie 25 grams is optimal) 

- web surfing (browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function of the brain, eg a mini break spent shopping online can revive you for the next task) 

- productive (even though the most effective break is giving your prefrontal cortex a rest, it still should be linked to learning something new or reflecting on the big picture or making positive connections with others, etc) 

How long should the break be? 

Need to plan your day so that includes dedicated work and constructive break times. 

Based on research with musicians ( Aytekin Tank 2019), you should take a break every 75 to 90 minutes as this takes advantage of the brain's 2 modes, ie learning, or focusing and consolidation. The break helps the brain consolidate information and retain it better.

Another approach suggested working for 25 minutes before taking a 5-minute break.

You need to use trial and error to figure out what best works for you. 

Encourage people to take breaks by providing pleasant break-spaces including available snacks, drinks, plant life, walking paths, etc 

Allocation of manager's time.

 When working we waste most of our time by doing work that is not adding value to the customer/client. . Most managers waste more than 50% of their time doing "re-work" and "non value-adding work"

To improve time management, need to understand how managers spend their time. Research on time management demonstrates that managers allocate their time as follows

"...- around 50% of their time in meetings

- more time in scheduled meetings than in unscheduled meetings

- between 25% and 30% of their time on desk work

- around 6% of their time on the telephone

- about half their working time in their offices

- about a quarter of their time in other people's offices..."

Harry Onsman, 2004d

. Furthermore, we need to understand what activities are under the control of the manager and what kind of activities, if managed better from a time point of view, would generate the greatest payback. Based on this analysis, the activities to prioritise are

- scheduled and unscheduled meetings (can use3 broad strategies such as better process, fewer meetings and shorter meetings

i. better process, ie review any process that is holding back meeting efficiency by

- sticking to the agenda

- deal with items quickly, ie time limits on discussion items

- meeting starts on time, ie lateness is not tolerated

- be prepared to challenge traditional ways of handling meetings, such as raise issues and get them addressed quickly and/or set aside any issue not on the agenda for another meeting

- send out briefing papers to attendees before the meeting

ii. fewer meetings, ie as many regular meetings are unnecessary, their relevance, usefulness and value-added aspects should be reviewed continually;

iii. shorter meetings, ie need to check if delegating effectively and if people are accepting individual accountability for their decisions or are they using the team as an excuse not to delegate and/or accept accountability for decisions, ie using meetings as a way to "spread the blame" for decisions. Only items that require group decisions should be put on the agenda.

Furthermore, need to check that meetings are not just simply communication sessions and meetings are performing the correct function. Need to ask the question: Can we handle this in a more effective way?

- managing desk work - challenge is to reduce time spent on the urgent things and spend more time on the important activities, ie task prioritisation, eliminate double handling of paperwork and rework (redoing somebody else's work)

- any activity in somebody else's office - need to ask the question: Can we handle this in a more effective way?

- increasing need for "thinking time"

To do list

Can use digital tools, like "wanderlist" or the more traditional "pen and paper" list

Problems with to-do lists

- not enough discipline to prioritise tasks. Unfortunately the quicker, less effective tasks are usually prioritise first because they are easier and require less self-control; the harder ones remain at the bottom of the list and are less likely to be done

- don't discriminate between the type of thinking that different tasks require

- not understanding that the brain is suited to different types of thinking depending on the time of the day, ie

"...people may start the day fresh and rested, but as they exert self-control over the course of the day, their powers may diminish..."

Roy Baumeister as quoted by Amantha Imber 2019

(NB when people exert self-control, they are depleting their energy levels, ie self-control is like a muscle that gets tired)

Based on how your brain works, need to split your to-do list into 4 separate ones, ie

i) focused (analytical thinking that requires deep concentration and generally longer bursts of time. This should be done in the morning as it requires high cognitive capacity when the brain is fresh)

ii) creative (this requires our brain to be less vigilant and open to breaking rules; this is best done in non-optimal times like in the afternoon when our brain is "looser and carefree")

iii) foggy (sometimes called the "post lunch dip", ie

"...many of us find ourselves  less cognitively alert straight after lunch or during a mid-afternoon slump..."

Amantha Imber 2019

This is a good time to do "shallow work", ie checking in and responding to e-mails, making phone calls and doing repetitive or non-challenging tasks)

iv) fast (during "idle time", like between meetings, do tasks that will only take a couple of minutes)

Handling emails (3 Ws)

. When - schedule a particular time to look at emails, eg first thing in the morning, lunchtime and end of day

. What ‐ make a decision on how to handle, 4 Ds

i) Delete

ii) Deal with immediately (takes 2 minutes)

iii) Delegate to others

iv) Decide, ie keep it where it is, when to handle, etc

. Wait - store with reminder when to handle

NB It is about behaviours

Questionnaire (self-assessment)

Assess your time management skills by responding to the following statements. Circle the options that are closest to your experience. Be as honest as you can. The options are:

1. never

2. occasionally

2. frequently

4. always

If some of the statements do not apply to you, you need not answer them. Use your answers to identify the areas that need improvement; remember that there is always room for improvement.

Q1. I arrive on time and prepare for meetings

1 Never

2 Occasionally

3 Frequently

4 Always

Q2. I ensure that a clock is visible where meetings held.

1

2

3

4

Q3. The meetings I organise achieve their purpose

1

2

3

4

Q4. The meetings I organise finish on time

1

2

3

4

 Q5. I open my mail as soon as it arrives on my desk.

1

2

3

4

Q6. I "skim-read" any relevant newspaper and magazine articles

1

2

3

4

Q7. I delete my name from the circulation list of magazines and journals I do not read

1

2

3

4

Q8. I read my faxes/Emails on the day on which I receive them

1

2

3

4

Q9. I am able to complete tasks without interruptions from colleagues

1

2

3

4

Q10. I decide how many times I can be interrupted in a day

1

2

3

4

Q11. I reserve certain hours for visits from colleagues

1

2

3

4

Q12. I close my office door when I want to think strategically

1

2

3

4

Q12. I tell telephone callers that I will return their calls, and do so

1

2

3

4

Q14. I limit the duration of my phone calls

1

2

3

4

Q15. I allow a colleague or secretary or PA to screen my telephone calls

1

2

3

4

Q16. I decide how many telephone calls I can deal with personally in a day

1

2

3

4

Q17. I "skim-read" internal memos as soon as I receive them

1

2

3

4

Q18. I read internal memos thoroughly later

1

2

3

4

Q19. I keep the contents of my in-tray to a manageable size

1

2

3

4

Q20. I clear my desk of all paperwork

1

2

3

4

Q21. I delegate tasks to colleagues even though I could do them myself

1

2

3

4

Q22. I follow-up on the work I have delegated

1

2

3

4

Q22. I encourage staff to limit their reports to one A4 sheet of paper

1

2

3

4

Q24. I consider who needs to know the information I am circulating

1

2

3

4

Q25. I achieve the right balance between thinking time and action time

1

2

3

4

Q26. I make a list of things to do each day

1

2

3

4

Q27. I make an effort to keep in touch personally with my staff

1

2

3

4

Q28. I restrict work to a certain number of hours every day - and no more

1

2

3

4

Q29. I concentrate on the positive attributes of each of my colleagues

1

2

3

4

Q30. I make sure I know about the latest information technology

1

2

3

4

Q31. I store e-mail messages to read later on

1

2

3

4

Q32. I perform housekeeping checks on my computer files

1

2

3

4

Analysis

Now you have completed the self-assessment, add up your total score and check your performance by reading the corresponding evaluation. Whatever level of successful time management you have achieved, it is important to remember that there is always room for improvement. Identify your weakest areas and develop ways to improve performance

Score 32 - 64

Learn to use your time more efficiently, and reduce the time you spend working in unproductive and labour-intensive ways

Score 65 - 95

You have reasonable time-management skills, but need to improve

Score 96 - 128

You use your time efficiently, but keep looking for new ways to further streamline your work practices

 

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