Advertising

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0
Advertising

20090504-clock

    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?

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.”

    Advertising

    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

    The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

    Trending in Productivity

    1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
    Advertising

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

    Advertising

    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

    Advertising

    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

    Advertising

    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

    Advertising

    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Advertising

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

    Read Next