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Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0

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    You know you are in a bit of trouble when your boss tells you that you need to improve your time management skills.

    In times past, when training budgets were somewhat normal the solution was easy. Sign up for a class in New Jersey, make sure that the boss is involved in the planning, offer a one page post-course “summary,” and email a thank-you for the life-changing opportunity.

    Simple.

    Nowadays, however, the boss is likely to deny the cost of the tuition, flight, hotel and meal expenses while still expecting to see some improvement.

    No-one has time to read one of those books filled with “The 1001 Crazy Tips of Abnormally Anal, Obsessive People.” What is an already over-worked professional to do?

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    Making the task more difficult is the fact that time actually cannot be managed by anyone – the term is misleading. What is called “poor time management” is more of a judgement that your boss is making about delayed responses, missed appointments, broken promises, stressful behaviour and un-replied emails. Are those really about time?

    Aside from faking a sudden boost in motivation, there are actually some simple changes in behaviour (i.e. habits) that anyone can implement that actually do make a difference because they are quite visible to the One in Charge.

    Habit #1 – Own Your System

    It’s important early on to demonstrate to your boss that you are taking charge of the situation. The easiest way to do that is to first convince yourself that you indeed have a time management system, and that you are about to give it a serious review, and a possible upgrade.

    Your system is comprised of your habits, the time demands that come into your life, and it’s overall objective (for most people the goal of their system is to produce something like “greater productivity” or “peace of mind.”)

    Give your boss updates on your progress in changing your system, and some idea of the upgrades that you are effecting. Before you run out and purchase a $500 organizer, however, make sure you implement the other habits below.

    Habit #2 — Write it ALL Down

    Write everything that your boss gives you to do in a pad that travels with you everywhere.

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    Never, ever rely on your memory, and at those moments when it’s tempting to do so, never do so. When you are with your boss and are shooting the breeze over drinks, bring along your pad in order to catch that cool idea you come up with between martinis.

    At some point, your boss will ask — “What’s up with the pad?”

    Explain: “It’s the most important entry point to my new time management system.” This might very well be one of the ways that you can demonstrate to him that your system is undergoing a serious overhaul.

    Habit #3 — Never say “Yes” Without Checking

    When your boss asks you do something, never, ever say “Yes” without checking your calendar.

    This is a critical habit to develop, and one that will serve you for a lifetime.

    The point here is simple — as a professional, your time is valuable, and employees that always say “Yes” without considering the rest of the work they need to complete are either under-worked, or irresponsible. Either of those opinions, if left to linger for too long can be a kiss of death.

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    The point is not to be a jerk.

    Instead, the point is to demonstrate a willingness to jump on the task immediately. At the same time, show an inability to commit without knowing exactly what the due date is, and how the task needs to be scheduled ahead or behind your other commitments.

    This is such a powerful practice that many fail to implement even after many years in the office that it’s worth starting now — even when you know your calendar is empty.

    In the beginning, the end-result might not change much in terms of your saying “yes” or “no” but your boss will get the point: You are someone who takes their time seriously.

    For extra points, let your boss know that in your new time management system you never schedule yourself without considering all your commitments. This practice ensures that you give yourself a realistic chance of meeting all your commitments.

    Habit #4 — Only Check Email on a Schedule

    The fourth habit is perhaps the hardest to implement, because your boss will only know that you are using it when a failure occurs.

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    Implement the practice of checking email at scheduled times throughout the day. When the scheduled time comes, spend enough time to read and process every single piece of email.

    Between the scheduled times to read email, stay out of your email inbox, and only visit it if you have extra time on your hands.

    The crunch moment will come when your boss sends you a piece of email that you have not read, at which point you’ll explain “I haven’t read it yet. In my time management system, I’m scheduling the specific times at which I read email so that I can process each and every item in some way. It’s best to call me on my cell for urgent items.”

    The good news is that if you keep this practice up, it will become easier to achieve the goal that so many desire –an empty email inbox.

    When that goal is accomplished, you can also tell your boss “My new system is allowing me to keep an Empty (or Zero) Inbox. I used to have 10,000 unread emails and it’s been empty for six months now.”

    Most bosses will either stare in amazement because they have 20,000 unread items and they want what you have. Or, they’ll give you a conspiratorial smile and a wink that says “Welcome to the club.”

    Either response will tell you that have turned the perception around and done what was asked of you. Your boss has seen your new skills in action, and you have reversed a damaging perception.

    More by this author

    Francis Wade

    Author, Management Consultant

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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