As a manager, you spend long days at the office, but don't feel like you're getting any further ahead. You're caught in a constant onslaught of emails and texts, you go from meeting to meeting, and most days, you scarf down lunch at your desk.
And breaks? Not a chance. A time management course would probably be a good idea, if you had the time! But here's the thing: learning to make better use of your Google Calendar is not going to solve your problem. According to Julie Carignan, an organizational psychologist and partner at SPB Organizational Psychology, time management tools account for only 10% of the solution; the other 90% comes from paying attention to these 3 areas:
1- Managing time means managing energy
It's helpful to think of ourselves like batteries that need recharging, explains Carignan, who has advised countless managers. And to optimize our energy, we need to know ourselves better.
Do you find you're more efficient when you tackle projects early in the day or in the afternoon? Does a half-hour on the treadmill or stationery bike boost your energy for the rest of the day? If you've got 4 projects on the go instead of 2 or 3, the answer is 'yes.'
We have to ask ourselves what energizes us and what drains us. Some of us love making group presentations, but hate individual tasks, like reviewing files. For others, it's just the opposite. You can easily figure out what energizes you by identifying what you're naturally good at! And the math is simple: if 50% or more of your work drains you without giving you the opportunity to recharge--either at the office or outside of it--it's a sure ticket to professional burnout.
2- Making choices
"But I don't have time for time management!" Julie Carignan has heard this excuse time and again. There are only 24 hours in a day, which is why it's important to manage priorities so you can keep your energy up. But here's the million-dollar question: What's keeping us from managing those priorities? Every day brings plenty of emergencies and loads of emails and texts that can make us lose sight of what's important.
So you have to plan for the expected--and the unexpected. That means identifying 3 or 4 must-dos every day, week and month. As for emails and text messages, why not set aside some time in the day to respond to them. For strategic meetings, participants might agree to check their smartphones only 5 minutes an hour to fight the compulsion to be constantly connected. Even if Generation Y can text and listen at the same time, reviewing a file requires one's full attention; if not, it's counterproductive.
3- Hiring good people and delegating
Carignan says that it's fascinating that managers can take months to research a $100,000 machine purchase, but for the same amount of money, they'll hire someone after interviewing them for only an hour. Managers should find out the candidate's abilities, beyond their degrees and diplomas. And they should give new hires some latitude to fully express their talents. "Hiring good people and knowing how to delegate is practically an art form!" says Carignan.