In a ten-year-long study, researchers studied managerial behavior from top companies such as LG Electronics, Lufthansa, and Sony. The study shows that 90 percent of managers lose prime working hours due to menial activities and distractions. The remaining 10 percent avoid the tyranny of the urgent and eat the frog. Or in other words, they focus and employ effective time management hacks to overcome non-essential diversions.
Managers and supervisors alike should strive to be ideal examples to the employees working beneath them. And this is even more important as more than ever people are working from home. If they squander their time or make mistakes, it could start a negative domino effect within the company. To counteract this, here are some simple, supervisor-tested, time management hacks to help you provide a positive, purposeful, and committed example down the line of your dominoes.
1. Take one bite at a time
“As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay, or skip the rest.” – Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva and later ProFounder
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. As your to-do list gets longer, it can start to resemble an insurmountable mountain of work. It’s important to separate your workload into smaller, more manageable tasks. Furthermore, when organizing your list, make certain that these tasks are essential and need to be handled by you. Cut it down and prioritize each bite. When you plan your day and fill your plate, ask yourself some core questions: Can you share some with others? Are there some parts you can save for later? Filter tasks based on urgency versus importance, but plan ahead to minimize how often urgent tasks occur. Try referring to the following time management hacks matrix:
Time management hacks matrix
Reactive Necessity – Reduce: Tasks that pop up and require immediate action to avoid.
Value – Increase: Proactively fight the tyranny of the urgent with habitual, positive actions that reduce Reactive Necessity.
Shape-Shifters – Manage: Tasks that appear important, but do not add value.
Time Wasters – Avoid: Unessential, time wasting activities that distract from core responsibilities and value.
2. SMART objectives yield meaningful results
“Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.” – Peter Drucker
Setting objectives can hone your team into a lean, mean, productivity machine, but it ultimately depends on how you set them. Smart objectives come from the acronym:
As you incorporate each of these in your objectives, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to identify and measure results. Set measurable objectives for your team and determine tools for measurement in advance. Divide objectives into short term and long term. For example, a long term objective could relate to annual reports, while short term goals would consist of daily, weekly, or monthly KPIs. You can even ramp it up by creating even shorter terms such as setting agendas and takeaways for meetings. What do you want to get done in each meeting? In each week? During the month? The year? Objectives determine these results. When you set general objectives, you’ll get general results. You don’t want that. SMART is good.
3. Don’t hesitate to delegate
“Once you’ve identified your crucial tasks and sorted out your priorities, try to find a way to delegate everything else. The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” – Eli Broad
Delegating a task to someone doesn’t mean you are too weak to do it, or that you are giving up, or anything negative in that sense. Because you provide the link between upper management and your direct reports, delegation is part of your job as a mentor, leader, and supervisor. You are the first domino. You make the first move, and the effect takes place according to your lead. However, delegating can get difficult and cause you to lose time if you don’t execute it correctly. Here are some tips to smooth out your delegation process:
- Get to know your team individually. How are you supposed to know who can effectively accomplish what if you don’t understand how to best utilize the unique strengths of each team member?
- Be specific. “Hey can you create an email? Thanks, bye.” No. The more vague your request, the more vague your result will be.
- Don’t overdo it. When you delegate core responsibilities, you can create the impression within your team that you don’t contribute to the overall function of the company, which can hurt company culture and team morale.
- Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. Say please and thank you, exercise patience, appreciate and express appreciation often.
- Evaluate and adjust. Try a 360 feedback system and strive to improve relationships.
And once the delegation begins, your clock will tick at the pace you want it to.
4. Eat the frog first
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”– Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s quote is a metaphor for putting off an undesirable task. Ultra productive people suck it up and eat the frog first. They don’t wait for the frog to grow or occupy prime real estate in their minds. The most daunting tasks tend to carry the most weight and importance, so they need to get done no matter what, sooner or later. Time management hackers eat the frog sooner, never later. They suck it up and eat the frog first. For instance–referring to the study at Lufthansa–one of the managers had a habit of never beginning a task until the deadline was passed. This behavior came from a lack of energy and desire to complete the task. In this instance, we can always look to Nike for the solution: Just do it. The less you think about a difficult task, the less time you have to build it up in your mind as insurmountable. It can seem unsavory before you do it, even after you prioritize when to eat the frog; however, the most focused and energized professionals dominate how they control their time. You are what you eat. Eat the frog.
Once you eat the frog on your plate, preferably when your mind feels fresh (first thing), you can feel free to move on to less critical, smaller, or more preferable tasks with a clear conscience.
5. Don’t micromanage
“The best [supervisor] is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” –Theodore Roosevelt
The delegation process can drive in two different directions: positive or negative. The positive emulates the perfect world of managing: you delegating and them executing to the precise expectation, with no middle manipulation. But delegating and constantly hovering can adversely affect the process and result in even more work on your part. Once you’ve delegated tasks to your directs, give them space.
You can’t expect to do everything. A great leader cannot expand his or her horizon if he or she is constantly micromanaging. Establish a criteria, set expectations, and leave the rest to dependability and, when needed, constructive feedback.
The above tips and overall five themes are just a fraction of what you can do to take control and implement actionable time management hacks.
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