Buying Time

In my past performance review meetings, I have asked each of my HR managers and reps what they needed from me. Jokingly, several of them said “time”. When we run relatively lean as a company, we all have a lot on our plates. My group always did a good job of managing the varied projects that we had planned as well as the fires that we had to fight. However, there’s always the pressure of the clock watching you. This really made me think a lot about time. I divide my day into 3 parts: sleep, work, and home life. During the week I typically get about 6-7 hours of sleep each night, work 10+ hours per day, and the rest is spent in varying activities with my wife and 3 children (going to the park/store/church and watching lots of Sesame Street). Those windows are pretty tight, and very consistent.  I do my best to keep a healthy work/life balance. So, as my workload increases, I have a few options to get more time for get work done, all involving give and take: if I want to work longer, I have to sacrifice sleep or family time. I personally sacrifice sleep most of the time, and force myself out of bed earlier to gain a few extra hours per week. In limited cases I will carve out a couple of evening hours per week once the kids go to bed.

However, there is another route for us to consider: how do we best manage the time we are already spending at work? I’ve come up with 3 easy tips: Evaluate, Delegate, and Eliminate.

Evaluate: Far too often we are caught in the web of “getting it done” without stepping back and evaluating all of the things on our plates.  Are there redundant things we are doing? Things that really should take less time than they do? How many things are on your to-do list today that actually can wait to be done when you have more wiggle room in your schedule? I’ve found that this has bought me free hours every week- to fill with more work, but you get my point.

Delegate: If you are in the position to do so, look at tasks that you can “share” with direct reports. Now, this isn’t license to shuffle your unwanted duties to some other poor soul. As someone who is goal focused, I tend to take on a lot of work, and if unchecked, can miss opportunities to allow team members to develop by taking on stretch assignments. There are also those times when I just think it’s easier to “just do it” rather than assigning it to someone else- 99% of the time that’s not true, and I lose time.

Eliminate: Finally, there are some things that just don’t need to be done. Administer this one with care- be sure you are in the position to make that call! A good way to find/make time for the important things you need to do is to stop spending precious time on things that don’t matter. Find out if that report that you’ve run for the last 20 years still matters- does anyone really read it? Are there non value added tasks on your list? Focus on the things that allow you, your company and your team to be successful. Focus on your customers. But most importantly, focus on finding balance.

Don’t let time control you- take control of your workload, and let time be your friend.

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