CRINGE! – Time Management?

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These days when I see these words, I cringe.
Do you want to manage time or get high(er) productivity?

We can’t manage time.

Experts and trainers have been talking about “time management” for the longest time. But seriously, are we getting better at it?
People keep turning up late for work, for meetings. If they turn up, at all.

At least now there are flexi-hours. People can turn in to work within a certain window say 7 am to 10 am, put in eight hours of work and go home accordingly.
Let’s retract a bit, “clock in eight hours” I would say, rather than “put in eight hours of work”.

Well, how do you even know that they have worked for eight hours? Or does Mr A’s eight hours equal to Mr B’s or Ms C’s eight hours of work? If we assume that they are paid equally for that eight hours of being present in the office.

Our former prime minister, Tun Mahathir, often lamented the lack of productivity. Of Malaysians.
“Malaysians want higher salaries, but their productivity does not warrant higher salaries” – or something along that line.

I began to notice this when I had to lead a project, as the ad-hoc project manager. I had to give a projection of the project duration and when it would be delivered to the client.
I needed to be able to estimate, based on the resources I had, i.e. people, equipment, and fund, when would the project be completed. From the client’s side, I was guaranteed the fund. From my company’s side, I couldn’t be guaranteed the full complement of engineers and technical specialists that I needed, to complete the project in the required time!

Thus I had to make do with what I had.

How would a sales guy, lead a project delivery team? BIG question mark don’t you think?

Manage productivity

I was fortunate enough that my cousin, a trainer on the Getting Things Done (GTD) technique, invited me to sit in and learn.

From Dr Stephen Covey we learned:

Q1. Important and Urgent.
Q2. Important but Not Urgent.
Q3. Urgent but not Important.
Q4. Not Urgent and Not Important.

That’s a great start. However, doing just that, we tend to look at doing everything ourselves. Seriously? In the eight hours that we have daily? How about lunch?
GTD by David Allen looks at sorting the tasks or what you have in your “Inbox” with a finer comb.

You would look at:

T1. Things you can and have to do yourself, NOW, or in the next 2-5 minutes;
T2. Things that will take some time, and involve a few “sub-tasks” and will take a day or a few to complete – still done by yourself;
T3. Things that you are not the best person to do, but still have the accountability of making sure it is done, by someone else – delegated;
T4. Things that are not important now, but could be important later,  maybe can be delegated – something that can be put on the backburner and revisited later. Much later maybe.

For T1, schedule and do them NOW! Allocate possibly an hour to get them done. These are things like paying your bills (if you have the funds!), calling a client, telling your partner how much you love him/her, making a quick call to your mom, calling to thank your son’s teacher, and so on. Do them NOW, or schedule a time later in the day. But, schedule them in. In your calendar – highly VISIBLE!

Items T2 and T3 would require a bit of thinking, planning, and maybe a discussion too. Set the time to complete and deliver the “project”. Break down and list ALL the necessary tasks that have to be done to complete the project and give everyone a deadline – which is understood, accepted, and committed.

Then stop breathing down their necks! Know that they are all professional adults. Asking them once a day is sufficient. Something like, “How is it coming along? Are you good with it? Or would need assistance or more resources?”

Help them if they ask, or let them go on with it. And yes, build in some contingency time too! With this practice, you are likely to tackle Q1, Q2 i.e. the important stuff already.

Manage energy

Having said that, we need to schedule in Q4 stuff too. What?! You might scream…

Yes, we have to schedule in the time for coffee, chit chats and social media time too!
Are you nuts?

Every single day, every single person has their tide and ebb of energy. Just like the sea, we have times when our energy is high and we have times when we feel like s**t, ready to snooze or maybe take a walk somewhere. Just wandering and wondering…

A rigid office time, be it 8-4 or 9-5 does not take this into account. Everyone is expected to clock in at the same time and do the same amount of work in that time. If you don’t, you are a “slacker”.
The flexi-hour partially takes into account that not everyone is an early riser and can easily be in the office at 8 am. You might say that office has been doing that for years. Sure, let’s look at tardiness, absenteeism, and low productivity.

Dr Michael Breuss in his book “The Power of When” invited us to look into chronotypes. This is for the time that we wake up, the time we need to go to sleep, and our energy tide and ebb during the day. Dr Breuss suggested that we do the test on his website –

You can find out if you are a:
1. Lion.
2. Wolf.
3. Bear.
4. Dolphin.

In managing your energy, Dr Breuss also suggested your best time for different types of tasks – thus, doing your best and being most productive within that time.

Daniel Pink in his book “When” simplified this a little with three chronotypes:

1. Early bird or a lark.
2. Night bird or an owl.
3. Some bird in between.

You can do a quick check of which bird you are by looking at what time you wake up on a weekend and what time do you need to go to bed.

Most people would be some birds in between, or a bear or a wolf. Interestingly too, this can be correlated to your colours or type if you have done a D-I-S-C personality profiling.
Schedule in Q4 stuff when your energy is low. Of course, schedule your Q1 & Q2 at your high tides.

Manage emotion

Knowing your chronotype as well as your colours helps to manage your emotion. You would realize that at your energy high tide, you would feel elated or joyous easily. And at the energy low ebb, you are more likely to feel tired, a little down, or downright grumpy and irritated!

Working in a team, you need to know this and catch yourself when you are at the ebb. This is the time when tempers can flare or you might feel grouchy or hurt which might lead to a long-term grudge with a team member.

Bad for productivity – be it itself, team, or company.

Egos might play their parts too. Thus be aware.

If you feel that you’ve been hurt, or angered or bruised, take a few minutes and take “Three Deep Breaths”. In his book, Thomas Crum suggested taking three deep breaths:

1. The centering breath.
2. The possibility of breath.
3. The discovery breath.

In short, taking these three deep breaths (not hyperventilate – just three deep calming breaths) brings more oxygen to your lungs, heart, and brain. It gets you to calm down and be relaxed. Thus bring your emotion in check.

Still, want to manage time?

Winning team & higher productivity

By knowing:

1. What’s important.
2. What’s urgent.
3. What you need to do yourself.
4. What needs and can be delegated.
5. When is your energy high and down.
6. How to control your emotion.

You are likely to get more done and achieve more in a day and in a working week. Thus giving you more freedom to have fun & enjoy life!

Get to Know Rahul Kale, Director of Sadatan Ayurveda Pvt. Ltd
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