Better Use of your Time?
Time as a resource
First, we need to recognise that time is a remarkable resource. Time is the limiting factor in achieving anything. You cannot hire it, buy it or rent it (although octogenarians may disagree), and you cannot obtain more than your allocation of 24 hours per day. In economic terms you cannot construct a marginal utility curve for time, and its supply is totally inelastic – no matter how high the demand, the supply will not and cannot be increased. Time is totally perishable; it cannot be stored in freezers, tins or deposit accounts, or slowed down like erosion. Time is totally irreplaceable, unlike plastics (for steels), bread for potatoes and automation for human labour.
With unemployment levels high and an age of leisure approaching, managers work long hours suffering the consequences in a relentless battle ‘to get things done’.
The changing world and time
The context of managerial work is changing rapidly. So in addition to managing our time well to carry out our existing roles, we need to adapt, learn and unlearn to cope successfully with our ‘brave new world’. But in the last analysis, it is your responsibility to commit yourself to using time well to manage these changes.
A survey of over 1300 managers reported that poor priority setting is common. Despite the long hours worked, only 47 per cent of actual working time was taken up with managerial activities. Most of the remaining time was spent doing their subordinates’ jobs; that is, doing the familiar and less threatening non-managerial activities they themselves’ used to do. When you consider that a salary of ; $30,000 per annum can be translated as $625.00 per week $125.00 per day or about $15 per hour (excluding overhead costs) the cost of this time wasting can be rapidly computed into a fixed overhead, unless time use and behaviour change. And remember that there is always time to complete the most important matters.
Goals, Objectives And Key Tasks
What are your goals? You should be clear about them. By writing them down you discover what you really want to do, generate motivation to do it and give meaning to your minute by-minute use of time. Lifetime goals are linked to visions, purposes, missions and basic beliefs. Typical questions you should ask are:
- how would you like to spend the next three years?
- if you knew now you would be struck by lightning six months from today, how would you live until then?
Remember that goal setting is an ongoing activity which needs regular updating, recording, prioritising and reviewing for both long and short term goals.
When developing your goals, objectives or key task areas try to be aware of any inconsistencies or paradoxes: for example, becoming managing director is not usually compatible with having unlimited time with your family. Similarly to be liked by everyone is usually incompatible with having strong opinions which are voiced regularly. Look at your own lifetime goals for such incompatibilities.
Objectives are measurable goals. Unless you have SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Appropriate, Realistic, Time specific, (to which you should add Evaluate and Re-evaluate) you are woking without much purpose. No wonder your time is being wasted
So how do you establish your own key tasks? First you need some data about what you do and how you do it. This can come from a time log; an alternative approach often favoured is to generate your own key task areas. The latter is more future orientated and likely to lead to more immediate results. Data to develop your key areas may come from considering the following checklist of business objectives:
- why is the organisation in business?
- what is it in business for?
- what do we need to do to remain in business?
- where do we need to be in two, five years’ time?
- how can we get there?
- what parts do I have a direct influence upon?
- what are my department’s objectives?
- what are my objectives?
- what must I contribute to achieve them?
- what powers do I have?
- who else must play a part?
- what do I expect of them?
- what do they expect of me?
- how can I improve my performance?