Busy or Effective?
When we're busy, we can easily trick ourselves into thinking all of that activity really matters and we are using our time meaningfully. But we only have so much time and energy to give, and when we spread ourselves too thin, we don’t do anything well. Instead, we just do many things poorly. At the beginning of a day, it’s easy to assume you’ll get the important things done at some point. But you know how one distraction leads to the next and the entire day is gone in the blink of an eye. Don’t confuse busy with being effective. Activity is not the same as productivity.
There are only two ways to spend time…wisely or not so wisely. How much of your time are you spending foolishly? For simplicity sake, let’s say you earn $100,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week for 48 weeks. That amounts to 86 cents a minute. Rounding that up to an even dollar, that’s $5 for 5 minutes. Now, ask yourself, how many 5 minute sections of your daily activities are worth that kind of investment?
Keep a time log for one week. In your time log, look at each work activity and decide objectively how much time each was worth to you, and compare that with the time you actually spent on it. An afternoon spent polishing an internal memo into a Pulitzer prize winning piece of provocative prose is waste; an hour spent debating the goodbye gift to a colleague is a waste; a minute spent sorting out the paper-clips is waste (unless it’s relaxation). Don’t allocate time to the trivial. More importantly, if you have a task to do, decide beforehand how long it should take and work to that deadline, then move on to the next task.
Stop Doing Your Staff’s Work. Having considered what is a complete waste, turn your attention to what is merely inefficient. You say it’s often easier to do the job yourself. You think that putting postage on outgoing mail ensures that bills will be sent that day. Writing the progress report that your dental assistant missed is more pleasant than sending it back. Nonsense!
Large gains can be made by assigning duties to your team. Invest time in clarifying job responsibilities. Give feedback when they do not meet agreed-upon expectations. If you have a task that could be done by an employee, use the next occasion to start training him/her to do it instead of doing it yourself. You will need to spend some time monitoring the task thereafter, but far less that in doing it yourself.
Prioritize. Use the 80-20 Rule originally stated by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noted that 80 percent of the reward comes from 20 percent of the effort. The trick to prioritizing is to isolate and identify that valuable 20 percent. Once identified, prioritize time to concentrate your work on those items with the greatest reward.
Consider Your Biological Clock. Our bodies have more than 100 circadian rhythms. Each unique 24-hour cycle influences an aspect of functioning, including body temperature, hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure - even pain threshold. Understanding how these cycles interplay is fascinating.Pay attention to what time of day you are at your best. Are you a morning person, a night owl, or a late afternoon whiz? Knowing when your best time is and planning to use that time of day for your greatest priorities is effective time management.
We worship busy-ness in our culture, but that’s where the problem begins. We use “being busy” as an excuse to neglect what’s really important. Success does not come from merely filling time, but from filling our time meaningfully. I challenge you to evaluate how you are spending your time.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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