A blog by Peter Stinckens
Now that we know how to plan, how to eliminate distractions and how to batch-process our tasks, it’s time to get down to the very basic skill you need to be an expert time manager. Deciding what you will do and what you will not do. Without the previous three skills, this one is useless, and the previous three are useless without this one.
Most of us, just accept any task that’s given to us by someone higher up in the hierarchy. And even if it’s asked by one of our coworkers that we think is important to us, to our manager of to the organization. And we even take on task because we like doing them, or because we think we are the best person to do them.
That’s very nice and very team-spirited. But the result is that you’ve collected more work for yourself then you can possibly complete in the time you have and with the quality you would like to provide. So you deliver pour results and are unable to keep the many deadlines you’re given. No matter how hard you work, you’ll always been seen as somebody who works hard, nut is not able to deliver the right result or keep a deadline. Frustrating for you – you’ve worked so hard and it’s not fair and…- and frustrating for everyone else.
The first rule of time management is to limit the amount of work you have to do to the possibilities you have. If you try to do more, you will fail. Always, no exeptions. You will fail to deliver the necessary quality or you will fail to keep the deadlines, but fail you will.
So whenever someone asks you to do something (or you decide to start a new task or project) ask yourself the following three question (and answer them truthfully);
1) Is this my task? Is this something that’s a part of what my company pays me to do? If not, why should you do it? There are reasons to do it anyway. Getting more exposure, improving relations, getting involved with exiting projects, to help out a friend…. But these things are nice to have, not necessities. So if you’re tempted to accept tasks that are not really your job, be sure that you only accept them if you have the time and resources to do them. If not, refuse!
2) How urgent is this task? We always assume that everything we’re asked is urgent, but it seldom is. So make sure you understand the implications of deadlines, especially if you impose them on yourself. (We all like to do that, promise to have thing done as soon as possible, and then conclude that we do not have the time to do so). Ask if it’s urgent (it always is), then ask when they really need the result and whet the implications are if you deliver later. Get a clear understanding of the deadline and tell people if it’s not possible.
3) Can I fit this into my planning, without violating the 60% principle? If you can, it’s OK, you can immediately plan it and agree the deadline. If you can’t, you’ll have to decide what other task you can postpone or eliminate. (And do not forget to communicate this with all involved).
So far, this is a clear system, but it will not work without the proper communication. If you accept a task, immediately plan it (before you accept a deadline). Communicate the timeline and agree upon it. Do not violate your 60% rule (I know, it’s tempting to use that time for planning extra tasks, but if you do so, you’re lost! You will need that time for urgent things, unexpected assignments, tasks that will take longer then you thought they would and so on.
If you follow this rule, you will have to say ‘no’ to some people, and that’s not easy for most of us. (I promise, there’ll be an item about saying no soon) But if you do not, you’ll arrange so much work for yourself that, again, you’re bound to fail!
And believe me, following these simple five rules, you’ll get a lot more work done that you could ever imagine.