3 Top Tips for Managing Your Time

Most people want to be productive and to feel in control of their work and home life. Yet a common experience is to find that the evening comes with few things being crossed off that day’s ‘to do list’ and many more added on. Despite all the good intentions, the unexpected tasks, the relentless emails, and the unending requests from customers and colleagues all conspire to see that presentations stay unwritten, projects are neglected and phone calls unreturned.

Time Management, then, is a vitally important competency to master. Without good skills in this area it is horribly easy to become stressed, fatigued, harassed, overworked and under appreciated. I see this all the time with attendees at our training courses. The good news is that there are things that can be done to be in charge of your life.

Of course, at different career stages different skills need to be acquired. Initially, understanding priorities is the crucial time management skill, while as a more senior leader things like delegation become increasingly important. At all career stages knowing how and when to say “no” is vital to avoiding getting overwhelmed. It is a big subject, but for now, here are 3 top tips to keep in mind:

1. Priorities; Pareto and Productivity

Most people have more things that they want to do than can be fitted in to the day. So some things are just not going to get done. This means

(a) making conscious choices about what to work on

(b) consciously putting to one side the things that are not a top priority

(c) actually taking action on the things that are priorities

The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, suggests that only 20% of the possible activities bring substantial benefits (so the key is to being really productive is to identify these ‘high value’ tasks.) In the words of Dr. Joseph Juran, the Quality Guru, separate the “vital few and trivial many.”

2. Batching, focusing and avoiding distractions

You can achieve much, much more if you focus on an activity without interruption, for a set period of time. This is what is known as ‘batching’ or ‘chunking’. Take a block of time (say 30 or 40 minutes) and then dedicate yourself to just one activity during that period e.g. write a presentation, analyse some data, etc. While you do that don’t look at emails and switch your phone off.  Francesco Cirillo has an interesting take on this idea; he suggests using a kitchen timer (ideally in the shape of a pomodoro tomato) to focus on doing things in 25-minute blocks.  http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/ My experience is that people don’t like to do this. They want the distraction of responding immediately to texts and emails, but the ability to ‘batch’ tasks and give your undivided attention to an issue is one of the keys to being truly productive.

3. Use your ‘system’ – not your memory

Systems matter. In a hectic work environment and/or the hurly burly of a busy home life, it is very easy to forget a task or to lose track of priorities.  Effective people have simple, robust planning systems that allow them to record, schedule and monitor progress against their ‘vital few’ activities. For example, by scheduling their most important actions as items directly into their calendar, to be done at a specific time, on a specific day.

Want to know more?

Whatever the career stage you are at, our half-day, in-house master class on Practical Time Management can help by giving insights into key time-management strategies, and by acting as a refresher and reminder on core concepts.

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3 Top Tips for Managing Teams

As part of the “Managing the Team” management development training programme, we cover the team development process and how to consistently build high performance work groups.

Whilst there’s a lot that we cover during the 3-day programme, here are three top tips that you can apply today:

1. Develop a Clear Sense of Purpose

It may sound obvious but at the core of getting people to work well as a team is that the individuals that make up the group have a shared purpose. With a clear Vision the individuals can know where to focus their efforts and what the priorities should be. The more inspiring and compelling the Vision, the more energy commitment towards the goal. Of course not every department can have an exciting purpose like curing cancer or ending poverty, but without a clearly articulated goal, cohesion is hard to achieve. So good managers make sure that their team has a sense of common purpose and shared sense of the ‘bigger picture’ that they are working towards.

2. Be Systematic about Skills Development

Team members can only give of their best to the extent that they have the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the work competently. Average managers often make assumptions about underpinning knowledge, and are complacent about the need to refresh skills or help people learn new techniques. Outstanding managers of teams take the time to assess competencies on an ongoing basis, and actively help people to acquire the  ‘know how’ they need in order to do a great job.

3. Counter “Social Loafing”

A well-known phenomenon in social sciences is that once a team gets larger than 3 or 4 people there is a marked tendency for some individuals to ‘coast’, and not to try their hardest, but to let the more energetic workers do more than their fair share; this is called social loafing. Outstanding Team Managers counter this tendency by setting clear, individual goals, so people know exactly what they are supposed to deliver. Plus they make the contribution of the individual members visible to the team as a whole.

Want to find out more?

Here’s a link for information on our Managing the Team bespoke in-house training programme.

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3 Top Tips – Using Advanced Negotiation Skills

As part of our “Advance Negotiation Skills” training, we cover the mindset of an expert negotiator and how to consistently achieve a win-win outcome.

There are many aspects to this which we cover over two days, but here are 3 top tips to keep in mind:

1. Don’t React, Respond
One of the biggest problems that people have in negotiating effectively is that they act without thinking things through when faced with a demand from the other side. Expert negotiators have the tools to slow down the conversation, for just a few moments, so that they can buy themselves some thinking time and can get a sense of perspective that allows them to respond wisely to the other person’s statements.

2. Be Respectful
People like to feel that their views are being taken seriously and that their positions are correctly interpreted. If they feel that their views are understood then they are more likely to change their minds if they are presented with an intelligent counter argument. Top negotiators, therefore, don’t interrupt the other side and explore their views in full before they make any counter proposals or counter arguments.

3. Build a Golden Bridge
Sun Tsu, in the Chinese classic, ‘The art of war’, describes the importance of letting a defeated enemy retreat, rather than fighting to the last man, by building a ‘golden bridge’ for them withdraw across. Advanced negotiators use this concept by taking the time to consider how to make it easy for the other side to move in their direction e.g. by finding a ‘face saving’ formula or a way to make an option that they want to pursue seem like the other person’s suggestion.

Want to know more?

Here’s a link for information on our Advanced Negotiation Skills in-house workshop.

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