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Professional Corner

Managing your time

Management of time, people and events are an integral part of our daily lives. Here are some basic suggestions from Elaine St James, Bottom Line November 1998, and Linda Rothschild, Bottom Line January 1999 to simplify our lives. Simplifying your life doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" proposition. There are easy ways to create more time for the things that are important to you without relinquishing the rewards of a job well done.

I was fascinated to learn how long ago the art of management actually began. In Bottom Line, June 15, 1998 Robert Kanigel introduces us to the "Lessons from the Very Famous Father of Efficiency". I have been lucky enough to have a professional mentor who is a wonderful example of his leadership principles.

Take the suggestions from these three experts that will help you get more out of your time without feeling like you are squeezed. If you don't have time to completely reorganize your life, here are strategies that will help you immediately.

Frederick Winslow Taylor invented the profession of management consultant more than 100 years ago. Taylor taught the business world how to be more productive by working smarter. He understood that knowledge, not muscle power, was America's prime productive resource.

Taylor died in 1915, yet there's hardly a management theory today that isn't based on his original thinking......

Be a hands-on leader. His firsthand knowledge of the job became the foundation for his management theories. Taylor thought about how to make workers more efficient and productive because he remembered being "the worker". Because Taylor was always a visible manager, his workers were inspired to follow. They worked as hard as Taylor did because they wanted to please him.
Base decisions on knowledge. Taylor never made decisions based on guesswork. Before coming to a conclusion, he would time, measure and observe a situation firsthand until he knew enough to make an intelligent decision. "When you guess," he said, "the work will end up being done less efficiently and less productively than if you had taken the trouble to find out."
You can't ever know too much. It's commonplace today for managers to stress the importance of knowledge for business success. Taylor understood its importance in 1880, when he began a book titled Book Containing Notes of Importance. He filled it with every detail about work and workers he could collect. All this knowledge -- when analyzed and refined -- became part of his theories on worker productivity.
Demand performance -- and reward it when you get it. As a manager, Taylor stressed worker efficiency and productivity at a time when "soldiering" -- working just hard enough to appear to be busy -- was a common workplace tactic. His management strategy was to push people constantly to produce more than they believed they could accomplish. His mission wasn't reckless -- he knew exactly what they could do based on his notes.
Workers often complained that Taylor was demanding the impossible. In time, though, some workers found they could meet Taylor's production goals. And -- the workers who met those goals were immediately recognized and rewarded.
Think long term, even at the expense of the short term. Taylor would have been the first to question today's emphasis on short-term performance at the expense of enduring long-term achievements. He always complained that the businesses that employed him as a consultant would inevitably want to see results almost immediately.
In later years, however, Taylor came to realize that it took time to produce the efficient, smoothly running operation that he wanted. He warned clients that it might take two, three or even five years to properly introduce his techniques of scientific management and get them to run smoothly. To those who demanded haste, he replied that people who tried to do things in a slapdash way inevitably failed.
Pick the best person for the job -- then train him/her to do it right. Taylor believed a manager's first duty was to study, analyze and improve each job within the organization. .. then to find the right people for the jobs and properly train them for the tasks. If that notion seems obvious today, it was a revolutionary concept in an age when most businesses were run on the basis of tradition and guesswork.
Training was a slow and tedious process when Taylor began work. But even in his apprenticeship days, Taylor agreed to work for less money if he could accelerate the learning process and move from one function to another. "I wanted an opportunity to learn faster rather than earn high wages, and for that reason, I had especially good opportunities to progress," he wrote.
It is important to remember that Taylor's approach to training allowed him to hire the best people for the job -- whether they had actual working experience in that field. He liked the idea that they came to the job with no preconceptions or prejudices.
Practice cooperative management Taylor could be autocratic and opinionated -- convinced that his approach was the only way to accomplish a task. Yet in the workplace, his goal was to replace the open antagonism between workers and management common in the 19th century with an atmosphere of cooperation.
Strategy: Taylor saw his role as building a collaboration between manager and worker -- with each working together to get the maximum output from a particular job. He argued that his method of management "makes each workman's interests the same as that of his employer."
Exception: Taylor was wise enough to realize that his style of cooperation couldn't work for every one...that some workers needed some degree of individualism in order to achieve their best. But when possible, he said, the best managerial approach was a grand cooperation that left individualism behind.
Prioritize your staff's work with one sheet of paper. Each morning -- or the night before -- write down and prioritize a to-do list for each employee Make copies for yourself and the employee. This will give you a clear record of what is going on. Then go over the list with your staff at the end of the da for a status report. You can then jot notes on your copy.
Get off "automatic pilot" If you're like most people, your daily work routine has become so automatic that you rarely take time to reflect on what you're doing or where you're going. The problems and stresses in our jobs will keep surfacing until we take time to examine what works and what doesn't ...and more important, what can be done to make them better.
Goal: To simplify your life, begin by freeing up one hour a day for at least a month to evaluate what exactly is complicating your job and your life.
Commit to accomplishing specific projects each day. Regardless of how hard you try, there simply aren't enough hours in the day to be everything to everybody who needs you. That's why it's important to create a list that helps you structure your day. Make a list of...
.....the tasks you think need to get done each day.
......the three to five most important things on that list that you can reasonably achieve in an eight-hour day.
If there's still time after you accomplish your top priorities, start working on the rest of the list.
Remove your name from unproductive office distribution lists. Look around your office. How many piles of "stuff are on your desk or atop filing cabinets? If any of the materials in these piles were top priority, you would have looked at them weeks ago.
Helpful: Deal yourself out of magazines, newsletters, reports, etc. that you don't have to see -- and more important -- don't have time to look at. This also includes taking yourself off unnecessary E-mail distribution lists.
Limit the number of work-related social engagements you attend. Saying no to business lunches and dinners can be politically incorrect. So, it's important to determine those events at which your presence is essential -- and those you can skip.
Strike a balance between work and other commitments in your life. Example: If you don't see your children because you're spending a lot of time at social situations for work, commit to one appointment a month and cancel the rest.
Stop feeding your ego. Be aware of how work-related opportunities, such as office committees and professional associations, can complicate your life. Identify the purpose they'll serve in your career. Ask yourself if you truly have the time for these activities. If the opportunity simply looks good on paper or meets someone else's expectations of what you should be doing, you may want to reconsider before you commit.
Build in an extra day at the end of vacations or business trips for "catch-up" work. Rather than fighting the clock your first day back, leave a message on your voice mail indicating you'll return one day later than you actually will. This allows you to catch up on the events that occurred while you were away. Keep key co-workers informed so that they can intercept calls or forward critical calls, if necessary.
Replace bits of paper with a small notebook. Post-its and memo papers with notes scribbled all over them often get misplaced or forgotten. That's how important details fall through the cracks
Instead, use a small, softback note book for a master list. Put all phone numbers, directions and other bits of information that require processing action or follow-up in the notebook. Then take each action item and write it in you calendar. For instance, if you know you will have free time on Monday to return calls or write a proposal, make a note of that on your Monday page to make an appointment with yourself.
Use a tickler file to avoid losing critical information. An accordion folder with 43 slots labeled January to December and 1 to 31 -- corresponding to the days of the month -- is a great way to store date-related information that you will need in the future.
Make business cards memorable. We all collect business cards and then forget why we have them. Helpful: Write the event and date on the back of the business cards. Then file the cards by resource or category rather than by the person. This system will prevent their names from disappearing into your Rolodex or electronic organizer if you can't remember their name or their company names.

January 15, 1999, Linda Rothschild president of Cross It Off Your list and author of Fast Ways to Get Organized for People Who Don't Have Time

November 15, 1998, Elaine St. James, author of Living the Simple Life; A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More

June 15, 1998, Robert Kanigel author of The one Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency


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Last modified: January 26, 2013