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Time Management is a Personal Problem…

Time Management is a Personal Problem…

And it’s not one that your work cares about.

What? Of course my employer cares about how efficient I am!

Well maybe – but it depends on your job. With ‘information jobs’ and so on (by which I more or less mean anything not utterly mechanical) the thing your employer cares about is you getting the job done. They don’t care how many hours into your weekend you work, just that the report is done by the following Monday.

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So who has the problem? Not your employer – the deadline is fixed and you have to hit it… which means the efficiency and productivity are your problem, a lifestyle or work/life balance problem, not your employer’s problem. Perhaps that’s why most employers don’t give decent time management training to their staff….?!

Okay, I’m overstating the case and making a lot of assumptions – for the sake of making a point – but I think the overall issue is valid: we tend to assume that time management issues belong to the organisation but in real life a lot of them simply have more impact upon our personal lives.

Once we realise this, it makes a huge difference to how we approach trying to be efficient and effective.

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This is an important distinction that is glossed over by a lot of Time Management training. Efficiency has to do with doing things in a way which has the least ‘friction’. In other words, whatever you’re doing is done with the minimum amount of effort. Most of the posts on this very website fall into this category because they look at things like how to sync your files more quickly and easily etc.

On the other hand, effectiveness is a measure of the impact of your work. It largely subsumes efficiency but also includes a whole bunch of other questions, such as whether you’re doing the right things in the first place. In the example I’ve just given the key efficiency questions would be things like:

  • Should I be synching files in the first place; and
  • Which files do I need to make a priority?

As soon as I put it like this, it’s obvious that these questions come before questions of efficiency.

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So why is it a problem?

The problem is that these are much more difficult questions to help people with. Doing it generically (like I’m trying to do here!) can often sound horribly trite (sorry!) and doing it for individuals is time-consuming and challenging. You end up asking them questions such as, “Why are you doing that?” quite a lot and people often find that to be critical.

As an aside, if you ever find yourself doing that, I recommend that you make a big show of differentiating criticism of the person and criticism of their workflow! It’s not as easy to do that as it sounds, believe me!

What’s to be done?

At risk of sounding over-simplistic and trite (see above) the solution is simple…

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Start with just one workflow, one process. If you try to bite off more than you can chew you’ll fail and hate me

  1. Look at everything you do and if you’ve not got a flow chart of that workflow, draw one
  2. For every decision point in the flowchart, ask yourself, with you honesty dialled right up, if the amount of effort you put into it is worthwhile and if there’s not something in the workflow that could better use the resources you put into that branch of the flowchart.
  3. Print out the flowchart – it’s easier to work on it this way.
  4. Allow for the fact that some branches of a flow chart almost never get followed (do you need to spend all that time down them then?)
  5. Be ruthless and make notes on your flowchart – red pen is useful (seriously!)
  6. Adjust your workflow according to the new principles.

Of course, this is only a practise run. You’ve done it for one workflow but that’s not the real problem… the real effectiveness questions lie in looking at how workflows compete between them!  Take a deep breath and take a long, hard look at yourself, asking all the time… “could I make this more efficient” and “could I be more effective”.

Remember…

This is a philosophical question with a hard application. That means you can’t tackle it in a “over a coffee at Starbucks” soft of way! Nor can you take it simply with a paper-based exercise.

Featured photo credit:  Tired businessman sleeping on a laptop via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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