It’s 11:53 a.m. on a Tuesday and I have yet to accomplish a single piece of work that is part of my job. I have, however, been busy taking care of myriad tasks that aren’t. How many days have you had like this?
Increasingly, as staffing continues to be at recessionary levels while business has picked up over the years, you and your staff are probably experiencing this increasingly often.
So, what do you do about it? This first thing is to not panic. Not that it isn’t a healthy way to blow off a bit of steam, but it takes time to panic and, as we discussed, the one thing you don’t have is time. In my own experience, brought strikingly into focus as I write this, time management is as much about discipline as it is about organization.
Here are few tips that I hope will help.
Plan your day, and try to do it at the same time every day. Write down what you want to accomplish and put it in a single daytimer. Don’t keep separate personal and business planners, they’re just a recipe for confusion. Just imagine promising to have dinner with your biggest customer the same day you’re supposed to be having dinner with the in-laws. That’s a no-win situation if I ever heard one.
In your to-do list, be specific about the task–“see ABC garage about warranty” not just “see ABC garage”–and keep in mind their relative priorities. For major activities, dedicate a block of time as if it were an appointment. If you have an office with a door, close it. If you don’t, avoid discussing other matters with colleagues during this time. Let them know you’ll help them when you’re done.
Don’t try to accomplish too much in a day. I once heard of a man who was very successful making a list of six things each day, and was satisfied if he accomplished four of them.
Reduce the number of phone calls by reducing the number of times you call someone back. If you know what they want, give them an answer. If they have phone mail, leave a message with the information they need. It’ll save them a call too.
For managers and veteran workers alike, perhaps one of the most difficult things to learn is to say “no.” Have you ever been confronted by a colleague asking for help and just end up doing the task for them? This doesn’t help them and it probably puts you in a bad mood. Try offering some quick advice and then letting the other person perform the task. That’s the only way they’ll learn how and stop bugging you.
When you’re not a manager, it’s not so easy to just say “no.” But when your boss asks you to do something urgent, you should think about how that affects the jobs you’ve already been assigned. It may actually be helpful to remind him of them, and if necessary ask how you should prioritize them with the new task at hand.
I realize that this is an imperfect world so there are always some unavoidable situations that eat up your day and force you off even the best-thought-out plan. Hey, stuff happens, but it doesn’t have to happen every day, all day. Panic is infectious. Try not to let the anxiousness of the customer make you feel panicked. If they need a price right away and the part right away, it’s not going to take you any more time to calmly give them an answer and process the order. It might even take less time.
Deal with our stressful, fast paced, ever-changing business calmly and you might just find that you’re able to put your time to better use, get more accomplished during regular business hours, and have more time for home and family.
If you’re not sure where to fit recreation and family time in, schedule them. For years, consultants have been telling people to schedule their downtime. Maybe it’s time we took their advice.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone waiting to see me …
In the July issue, we’ll give you a detailed profile of the Jobber of the Year, Dennis Wyatt of Miller & Wyatt Ltd. Plus, we’ll look at the Filter Market and the changing Emissions Inspection market.