TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS REFRENCE MATERIAL
HOW TO ACHIEVE MORE WITH YOUR TIME Introduction This set of articles explains Time Management. Time Management is a set of related common-sense skills that help you to use your time in the most effective and productive way possible. By using Time Management skills you can learn to:
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Determine which of the things you do are important, and which can be dropped Use your time in the most effective way possible Increase the time in which you can work Control the distractions that waste your time and break your flow Increase your effectiveness and reduce stress
By becoming more effective in your use of working time, you can reduce stress by:
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being more in control of what you do being productive, and secure in your job because of this enjoying what you do giving yourself more quality time to relax and enjoy life outside work.
The Central Shift in Attitude At the heart of the subject is a simple, but obvious, shift in focus: Concentrate on results, not on being busy Many people spend their days in a frenzy of activity, but achieve very little because they are not concentrating on the right things. This is neatly summed up in the Pareto Principle*, or the 80/20 rule. This states that typically 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of results, and that the remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort. By applying time management, including planning, we aim to change this to ensure that we concentrate as much of our effort as possible on the high payoff tasks. This ensures that we achieve the greatest payoff possible with our investment of time. Why don't people manage their time? Despite the benefits of time management, very many people do not use it. This can be because:
they don't know about it they are too lazy to plan
they enjoy the adrenaline buzz of meeting tight deadlines they enjoy crisis management
The problem with crisis management and tight deadlines is that while they can be fun, often they can lead to high levels of stress, a disrupted private life, tiredness and, occasionally, to failure of projects.
Time Log How do you spend your day now? Memory is a very poor guide when it comes to assessing how you spend your time - it is too easy to forget time spent talking to colleagues, making coffee, eating lunch, etc. It can also function poorly when you are at a low ebb during the day. You may also be unaware that your energy levels may vary through the day - most people function at different levels of effectiveness at different times. This may be caused by the amount of sugar in their blood, the length of time since they took a break, routine distractions, stress, discomfort, etc. How to use an Activity Log to find out A revealing technique is to keep an Activity Log for several days. Without modifying your behaviour, note down the things you do as you do them, from the moment you start working. Every time you change activities, whether opening mail, working, making coffee, dealing with colleagues, gossiping, going to collect paper from a printer, etc., note down the time of the change. As well as noting activities, it is worth noting how you feel, whether alert, flat, tired, energetic, etc. This should be done periodically throughout the day. Analysing your log Once you have logged your time for several days, analyse the log. You may be alarmed to see the length of time you spend opening mail, talking to colleagues, dealing with disruptions, or doing low value jobs! You may also see that you are energetic in some parts of the day, and flat in other parts. A lot of this can depend on the rest breaks you take, the times and amounts you eat, and quality of your nutrition. The activity log gives you some basis for experimenting with these variables.
HOW SHOULD YOU USE YOUR TIME? An important part of focusing on results is working out what to focus on! Many people work very hard all day doing little jobs that do not actually affect the quality of the work they do. This section concentrates on three areas - clarifying what you enjoy, working out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and working out both what your job is and what constitutes excellent performance. What would you like to spend your time on? It is important for your own quality of life that you enjoy your job. If you know broadly what you like and dislike, you will be more able to move your job towards doing things that you enjoy. This is important as you are much more likely to do a job efficiently and effectively if you enjoy it than if you loathe it. What do you do well? It is important to know what your talents and weaknesses are. A good way of doing this is to carry out a SWOT analysis. This provides a formal approach to evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. Job Clarification One excellent way of ensuring that you concentrate on the right things is to agree them with your boss! You should ask the following questions:
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What is the purpose of the job? If possible this should be expressed in a single sentence starting with the word 'To..' - e.g. 'To ensure effective distribution in the South East' What are the measures of success? Work out how he will be deciding whether you are good at your job or not. Find out what the key targets to be achieved are, and how they will be measured. What is exceptional performance? Find out what this is considered to be, and work out how to achieve it. What are the priorities and deadlines? So that when work builds up you know what to focus on. What resources are available? This ensures that you are using all the tools at your command. What costs are acceptable? This lets you know the boundaries within which you can move.
Goal Setting . You know what exceptional performance is. Planning breaks down into two main strands: personal planning. within the correct bounds. and then think through the who. when. and project planning. and then set the precise personal targets that will lead you to achieving this. which is best done by setting goals.•
How does this relate to other people? What is the broader picture within which you have to work?
Getting answers to these questions and referring to them frequently should help to ensure that you do your job in precisely the right way. which is best achieved by a formalized application of the planning process. what. PLANNING How planning helps you to use your time effectively By now you should know the value of your time. The next stage in concentrating on results is to learn how to plan. without being distracted by unimportant but urgent tasks.
. and should understand how to find out what you should be concentrating on. where. and will be able to plan to achieve it using all the resources available.Planning for personal achievement Goal setting is a formal process of setting personal targets in a number of areas. The process of setting goals on a routine basis helps you to decide what you want to achieve with your time. why and how of achieving that goal in the most effective way possible. Planning can be considered to be an investment in efficiency and success. Planning is the process by which you work out what you want to achieve. Setting goals has the additional benefit of raising your self-confidence by forcing you to recognise your ability and competence in achieving the goals that you have set on an ongoing basis. By planning well you can ensure that you concentrate only on those tasks that will move you towards your goal in the most effective way possible.
At its simplest level the process of setting goals and targets allows you to choose where you want to go in life. The following section on goal setting will give you effective guidelines to help you to use this technique effectively. you are able to see what you have done and what you are capable of. By setting sharp. you know what you have to concentrate on and improve.Goal Setting Goal setting is a very powerful technique that can yield strong returns in all areas of your life. you can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve. It focusses your acquisition of knowledge and helps you to organise your resources. 1983) has shown that people who use goal-setting effectively:
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suffer less from stress and anxiety concentrate better show more self-confidence perform better are happier and more satisfied. By setting goals you can:
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Achieve more Improve performance Increase your motivation to achieve Increase your pride and satisfaction in your achievements Improve your self-confidence Plan to eliminate attitudes that hold you back and cause unhappiness
Research (Damon Burton. Goal setting gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. goal setting is also relatively easy. and measuring their achievement.
Goal Setting Helps Self-Confidence By setting goals. and what is merely a distraction. Deciding Your Goals Your Lifetime Goals
. Providing that you have the self-discipline to carry it through. You can see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind. clearly defined goals. The process of achieving goals and seeing their achievement gives you the confidence and self-belief that you need that you will be able to achieve higher and more difficult goals.
Finally set a daily to-do list of things that you
.setting Lifetime goals gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision making. try to set goals in all of the following categories:
Artistic Do you want to achieve any artistic goals? If so. how are you going to be a good parent? How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family? Financial How much do you want to earn by what stage? Physical Are there any athletic goals you want to achieve. 6 month plan. how? Social Do you have any social ambitions?
Once you have decided your goals in these categories. or people around you want them to be. and 1 month plan of progressively smaller goals that should be reached to achieve your lifetime goals. Then review the goals and re-prioritise until you are satisfied that the goals and priorities you have set reflect the shape of the life that you want to lead. To give a broad coverage of all important areas in your life. set goals to improve or cure the problem. Then set a 5 year plan. family. assign a priority to them from A to F. not your parents. 1 year plan.The first step in setting personal goals is to consider what you want to achieve in your lifetime . what? Attitude Is any part of your mind-set holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? If so. even if the goal is only to get help. Career What level do you want to reach in your career? Education Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to achieve other goals? Family Do you want to be a parent? If so.you should ensure that some of your life is for you! Public Service Do you want to make the world a better place by your existence? If so. now set a 25 year plan of smaller goals that should be achieved if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Also ensure that the goals that you have set are the goals that you. How to Start to Achieve Your Lifetime Goals Once you have set your lifetime goals. spouse. or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this? Pleasure How do you want to enjoy yourself? .
At this stage many goals may simply be to read books and gather information on the achievement of your goals so that you can improve the quality and realism of your goal-setting. others as the first thing done in the morning . times and amounts so that achievement can be measured. Some people recommend doing this as the last thing done the day before. and make sure that they fit the way in which you want to live your life. Finally review your plans. An effective way of doing this is to use the LifePlan goal-setting software on a daily basis.
Important Points You should note a number of general principles about goal setting: Set Performance. not Outcome Goals
. and modify them to reflect your changing priorities. Periodically review your other plans.should do today to achieve your lifetime goals. keep the process going by reviewing and updating your to-do list on a daily basis.e. Write goals down to avoid confusion and give them more force.
Setting Goals Effectively The way in which you set goal strongly affects their effectiveness. Keep Operational Goals Small: Keep the goals you are working towards immediately (i. and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones. Today's goals should be derived from larger goals. The following broad guidelines apply to setting effective goals:
Positive Statement: express your goals positively: 'Execute this technique well' is a much better goal than 'don't make this stupid mistake' Be Precise: if you set a precise goal. in this session) small and achievable. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward.this is up to you. Information on this can be accessed by clicking the LifePlan button below. Staying on Course Once you have decided your first goal plans. If a goal is too large. and can take complete satisfaction from having completely achieved it. give each a priority. putting in dates. then you know the exact goal to be achieved. Set Priorities: where you have several goals. then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it.
relaxation and pleasure in life then you risk burnout. You will become progressively less motivated. Goals based on outcomes are extremely vulnerable to failure because of things beyond your control. then you can adjust it or analyse the reason for failure and take appropriate action to improve skills. it is difficult to set effective and realistic goals. Another flaw is where outcome goals are based on the rewards of achieving something. Insufficient information: If you do not have a clear. however long ago that was.there is nothing as dispiriting as failing to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control such as bad business environments. In early stages these will be highly motivating factors. bad weather.This is very important. Set Specific Goals Set specific measurable goals. Often this will be done in ignorance of your goals. Lack of respect for self: If you do not respect your right to rest. the benefits of further achievement at the same level reduce. If you consistently fail to meet a measurable goal. This ignores the inevitable backsliding that can occur for good reasons. based on what they want. For example. you might achieve a personal best time in a race. then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.
Setting Goals Too Low
. injury. Set Realistic Goals Goals may be set unrealistically high for the following reasons:
Other people: Other people (parents. If you base your goals on personal performance or skills or knowledge to be acquired. however as they are achieved. It is better to set goals that raise your average performance and make it more consistent. poor judging. If you had set an outcome goal of being in the top three. and ignores the factors that led to that best performance. If you achieve all conditions of a measurable goal. society) can set unrealistic goals for you. but still be disqualified as a result of a poor judging decision. If you set a performance goal of achieving a particular time. whether these are financial or are based on the recognition of colleagues. You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible . then this will be a defeat. realistic understanding of what you are trying to achieve and of the skills and knowledge to be mastered. Always expecting your best performance: Many people base their goals on their best performance. desires and ambitions. then you can be confident and comfortable in its achievement. then you will have achieved the goal and can draw satisfaction and self-confidence from its achievement. or just plain bad luck. media.
Thinking a goal through When you are thinking about how to achieve goals. your self. You should now be able to see the importance of setting goals effectively. and then measure them against the points above. You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your immediate grasp.confidence should increase. Know that failure is a positive thing: it shows you areas where you can improve your skills and performance. Personal factors such as tiredness. but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them: no-one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they believe is unrealistic. However. Such a belief can be changed by effective use of imagery. Adjust them to meet the recommendations and then review them.
Setting Goals at the Right Level Setting goals at the correct level is a skill that is acquired by practice. then you are extremely unlikely to achieve anything of any real worth. Taking it too easy: It is easy to take the reasons for not setting goals unrealistically high as an excuse to set them too low. Now review the goals you have set. other commitments and the need for rest. remember that the belief that a goal is unrealistic may be incorrect. or collaboration do I need? What resources do I need? What can block progress? Am I making any assumptions? Is there a better way of doing things?
Where Goal Setting Can Go Wrong Goal setting can go wrong for a number of reasons:
. should be taken into account when goals are set. asking the following questions can help you to focus on the sub-goals that lead to their achievement:
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What skills do I need to achieve this? What information and knowledge do I need? What help.Alternatively goals can be set too low because of:
Fear of failure: If you are frightened of failure you will not take the risks needed for optimum performance. assistance. As you apply goal setting and see the achievement of goals. etc. helping you to take bigger risks. If you're not prepared to stretch yourself and work hard.
Too many unprioritised goals may be set. and setting goals effectively as described in the previous article. This tries to force intense activity by setting a goal that will need a 'quantum leap' in activity to achieve it. Always set performance goals. The 'Quantum Leap' Approach One approach to goal setting for yourself and other people is the 'Quantum Leap' approach. Goals can be so vague that they are useless: it is difficult to know whether vague goals have been achieved. The major benefits of goal setting have been lost. sporadic and disorganised. then your selfconfidence will not benefit from goal setting. nor can you observe progress towards a greater goal. Managers using this approach should take care that they are not 'shot down' by someone firmly requesting information on how a quantum leap goal should be achieved. Where you are using outcome goals. When a goal is perceived to be unreachable. and observe the progress you have made towards other goals. leading to a feeling of overload.
. this can be very dispiriting and can lead to loss of enthusiasm and feelings of failure. Goals can be set unrealistically high. but the whole process of goal setting can fall into disrepute. Set precise. Set realistic goals. achievement of goals will not be measured and feedback will not occur into new goals. not only are the benefits of goal setting lost. By avoiding these problems. This is a dangerous technique that should be used with care .
Achieving Goals and Feedback Achieving Goals When you have achieved a goal. quantitative goals. Conversely goals can be set so low that you feel no challenge of benefit in achieving the goal. you will not put effort into achieving it. Absorb the implications of the goal achievement. no effort will be made to achieve it. you can achieve and maintain strong forward momentum.it is very easy for the whole process of goal-setting to fall into disrepute where quantum leap goals are not met. take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having achieved the goal. Goal setting can be unsystematic. Here goals will be forgotten. and you fail to achieve the goal for reasons outside your control. If achievement cannot be measured. Be organised and regular in the way that you use goal setting. Similarly if you are really not convinced that a goal is attainable. Setting goals has been a waste of time. Always set goals that are challenging. Remember that you deserve time to relax and enjoy being human.
Where goal setting does go wrong.•
Outcome goals can be set instead of performance goals.
do so If while achieving the goal you noticed a deficit in your skills. These may be:
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that you didn't try hard enough that your technique. then let them go .goal setting is your servant.it should bring you real pleasure.Planning to Make the Best Use of Your Time
Introduction: So far in past sections of this manual. take the opportunity to reward yourself appropriately. satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
. or to set goals to acquire new skills or knowledge. set goals to fix this. Feedback: Failure Where you have failed to reach a goal.
Use this information to adjust the goal if it was set too high.
Remember too that goals change as you mature . skills or knowledge were faulty and need to be enhanced that the goal you set was unrealistic etc. often opens doors that would otherwise have remained closed. we have looked at your priorities and your goals these define what you aspire to do with your time. ensure that you learn the lessons of the failure. make your next goals harder If the goal took a dispiriting length of time to achieve. Feeding back like this turns everything into a positive learning experience .If the goal was a significant one. Effective Scheduling . Feedback: Success Where you have achieved a goal this should feed back into your next goals:
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If the goal was easily achieved. If goals do not hold any attraction any longer. make the next goals a little easier If you learned something that would lead you to change goals still outstanding.adjust them regularly to reflect this growth in your personality. or one that you had worked towards for some time. not your master .even failing to meet a goal is a step forward towards perfect performance! Remember that the fact of trying something. Scheduling is where these aspirations meet the reality of the time you have available. even if it does not work.
coaching. your best time management efforts will surely be derailed if you do not set aside time for those who are important in your life. Next. if you manage people.Scheduling is the process by which you look at the time available to you. and plan how you will use it to achieve the goals you have identified. While people may let you get away with 'neglecting them' in the short-term. How to Use the Tool: There are many good scheduling tools available.
. The reality of many people's work is of constant interruption: Studies show some managers getting an average of as little as six minutes uninterrupted work done at a time. Leave enough time for things you absolutely must do. and
Minimize stress by avoiding over-commitment to yourself and others. By using a schedule properly. 2. 4. the more contingency time you need. PDAs and integrated software suites like MS Outlook. Normally. Review your To Do List and schedule in the high-priority urgent activities. calendars.
Scheduling is best done on a regular basis. Next. paper-based organizers. Plan to make the best use of the time available. for example at the start of every week or month. and to be able to view an appropriate span of time in the correct level of detail. 3. block in the actions you absolutely must take to do a good job. You will learn how much of this you need by experience. you must allow time to communicate with your boss and key people around you. Preserve contingency time to handle 'the unexpected'. then you must make time available for dealing with issues that arise. your taste and your budget: The key things are to be able to enter data easily. This will depend on the design of your job and on your personal goals in life. The scheduling tool that is best for you depends on your situation. These will often be the things you are assessed against. you can:
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Understand what you can realisticaly achieve with your time. Start by identifying the time you want to make available for your work. Similarly. block in appropriate contingency time. the current structure of your job. as well as the essential maintenance tasks that cannot be delegated and cannot be avoided. Go through the following steps in preparing your schedule: 1. the more unpredictable your job. and supervision. For example. including diaries.
Block in appropriate contingency time to handle unpredictable interruptions. This frees them up to achieve their goals. then you may need to renegotiate your workload. Remember that one of the most important ways people learn to achieve success is by maximizing the 'leverage' they can achieve with their time.
. then revisit the assumptions you have made in steps one to four. Review your Prioritized To Do List and personal goals evaluate the time needed to achieve these actions. Identify the time you have available.
f your discretionary time is still limited. Schedule in high priority urgent tasks and vital "house-keeping" activities. Block in the essential tasks you must carry out to succeed in your job. schedule the activities that address your priorities and personal goals. you can both reduce stress and maximize your effectiveness.Obviously. you give yourself the flexibility to rearrange your schedule to react effectively to issues as they arise. 3. By scheduling effectively. whether they can be delegated. What you now have left is your "discretionary time": the time available to deliver your priorities and achieve your goals. If this is the case. 5. or use technology to automate as much of their work as possible. then revisit the assumptions you used in the first four steps. With a well-thought through schedule as evidence. or whether they can be done in an abbreviated way. 5. you may find this surprisingly easy. 4. By the time you reach step 5. you may find that you have little or no discretionary time available.
Key points: Scheduling is the process by which you plan your use of time. Question whether things are absolutely necessary.
Scheduling is then a five-step process: 1. by leaving space in your schedule.
If you have little or no discretionary time left by the time you reach step five. spend money outsourcing key tasks. In the time that remains. and schedule these in. However. you cannot tell when interruptions will occur. They increase the amount of work they can manage by delegating work to other people. 2.
It differs from a To Do List in that it focuses on the achievement of a single goal. This is simple. To use it. This allows you to concentrate on the stages of that achievement. simply carry out each task in the list!
.Small Scale Planning
How to Use Tool: An Action Plan is a list of tasks that you have to carry out to achieve an objective. but still very useful! Key points: An Action Plan is a list of things that you need to do to achieve a goal.Action Plans .
To draw up an Action Plan. and monitor your progress towards it. draw up an action plan.
Wherever you want to achieve something. simply list the tasks that you need to carry out to achieve your goal.
It helps you to avoid the trap of working extremely hard but achieving little. and focus on the critical ones: This ensures that you are aware of the implications of what you want to do. whether organizing an expedition.
Introduction to Planning Skills
Why Should You Plan? When you are about to attempt a project. work out the most effective way of reaching your target. It is the start of the process by which you turn empty dreams into achievements. Planning is an up-front investment in success . whether money. you inevitably face problems and risks. Alternatively you can miss deadlines by not assessing the order in which dependent jobs should be carried out. Planning helps you to achieve the maximum effect from a given effort. then a formal approach to planning may be useful. and prepare to overcome unexpected difficulties with adequate resources.Planning for important projects Where you are planning a project that involves the interaction of several people. Take into account all factors. launching a new product or embarking on a research project. access to resources and preparation for contingencies. These might be:
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Risks to life or health Risks to status. time or power The risk to your self-esteem if you fail etc. career or employment Problems of lack of resources Risks of wasting limited resources.
The Planning Process Planning is the process by which you determine whether you should attempt the task.
. and that you are prepared for all reasonable eventualities.by applying the planning process effectively you can:
Avoid wasting effort: It is easy to spend large amounts of time on activities that in retrospect prove to be irrelevant to the success of the project.
Consider the control mechanisms. By thinking and planning we can reverse this to 20% of the effort achieving 80% of the results. when. o The 'get stuck in' culture An organisation may oppose planning as a waste of time. o Fire-fighting An organisation can be so deeply embroiled in crisis management and fire-fighting that it simply does not have the time to plan.•
Be aware of all changes that will need to be made: If you know these. avoid wasting ecological resources. useful person. costs and implications of achieving your plan are worth the achievement. This may be the
. Carry out the task in the most efficient way possible So that you conserve your own resources. what. and take action to ensure that they will be successful.
The formal procedure of applying the planning process helps you to:
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Take stock of your current position Identify precisely what is to be achieved Detail precisely and cost the who. Where failure occurs.
Pareto You may have heard of one approach to the Pareto principle: that 80% of a job is completed in 20% of the time. fail and be punished. and on the outside world. Gather the resources needed: This ensures that the project will not fail or suffer for lack of a critical resource. that are needed to achieve your plan and keep it on course. etc. why and how of achieving your target. then you can assess in advance the likelihood of being able to make those changes. We may even decide that it is more efficient not to attempt the remaining work at all! Why Do People Avoid Planning? There are a number of reasons why people avoid planning:
Organisational Problems: o Poor reward structures Where an organisation assumes success. it will often fail to reward it. Another application in an non-planning environment is that 80% of the effort tends to achieve 20% of the results. quality or cost control. where. then it may is punished in lack of promotion or redundancy. Evaluate whether the effort. make a fair profit and are seen as an effective. This often results in a situation where it is better for an individual to do nothing (and not draw attention) than risk trying to achieve something. whether reporting. Assess the impact of your plan on your organisation and the people within it.
The approach cripples inexperienced staff by denying them the benefits of planning. This may be appropriate. impractical or inflexible. but often this is short-sighted. like anything. This evaluation may be cost or number based. o Lack of Commitment and Resistance to Change The individuals may be not see the benefits of the planning process. not a straight-through process: once a plan has been devised it should be evaluated. Planning. however. Some organisations are culturally opposed to spending resources.the outcome of your planning may simply be that it is best to do nothing! The stages of the planning cycle that will be explained below are:
The Planning Cycle Planning is best thought of as a cycle. or may perceive that things are OK as they stand. or may use other analytical tools. Whenever something worthwhile is attempted there is some risk of failure. This analysis may show that the plan specified may cause unwanted consequences. In this case the planning process will have to cycle back to an earlier stage. can be done badly.•
case where either the organisation is doing a very simple job. cumbersome. and puts more load on experienced managers.forethought is rarely wasted and is often the mark of professionalism. may believe that there is no need to plan. o Opposition to Time & Expense of Planning Time spent on planning is an investment. may cost too much. o Experience As individuals amass experience they may find that they rely less and less on formalised planning. this can result from: o Laziness People may simply not be bothered to devote the time to thinking a plan through. where plans have been long. It is easy. or may simply not work. or where managers are so experienced in a job that they do not appreciate that they are planning. to be overconfident and overestimate experience . Sometimes this may be appropriate. Individual Avoidance of Planning Where people are resistant to planning. Done properly it can be highly beneficial. Poor Experience of Planning People may have had a previous bad experience with planning. o Fear of Failure By not taking action there is little risk of failure unless a problem is urgent and pressing. or the plan may have to be abandoned altogether .
Threats A more systematic method is to use SWOT Analysis to detail and examine your organisation's Strengths and Weaknesses. Often carrying out an analysis using the SWOT framework will be enough to reveal the changes which can be usefully made.Strengths. New Ideas One simple approach to generating ideas is to look at what irritates you in your life and what seems unnecessarily laborious and tedious. and to examine the Opportunities and Threats it faces. whether these are administrative changes in your organisation or are ideas for new consumer products or services. Opportunities. How to Spot What Needs to be Done Planning may be done on a routine basis or may need to be carried out as a result of new ideas. Often this will prompt ideas for improvements. poor performance or pressure from customers or the organisation's environment. This section examines how you can clarify the problems and opportunities that face you. SWOT Analysis .Once we have examined the planning cycle we will look at managing change and completing projects. Weaknesses.
If you are having any difficulty with this. population profiles. Forced Change
.do your customers perceive weaknesses that you don't see? Do your competitors do any better? Again it is best to be realistic now.both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done. write down answers to the following questions:
Strengths: o What are your advantages? o What do you do well? Consider this from your own point of view and from the point of view of your customers or the people who rely on you. Don't be modest. Some of these will hopefully be strengths!
Weaknesses: o What could be improved? o What is done badly? o What should be avoided? Again this should be considered form an internal and external basis . and face any unpleasant truths at this stage in the planning process. lifestyle changes. etc. try writing down a list of your or your organisation's characteristics.To carry out a SWOT Analysis for yourself or your organisation. and in pointing out that problems may be smaller than initially anticipated.
Opportunities o Where are the good chances facing you? o What are the interesting trends? Useful opportunities can come from such things as: Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and industry-specific scale o Changes in government policy related to your field o Changes in social patterns. be realistic. Threats o What obstacles do you face? o What is your competition doing? o Are the required specifications for your products and services changing? o Is changing technology threatening your position? o Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
Carrying out this analysis is will often be illuminating .
If they have influence on the direction of the plan at this stage. This can come about as a result of:
Internal Factors o New products. Identifying the Aim of Your Plan Once you have completed a realistic analysis of your current position. services or requirements of your organisation o New technology o Changes in the structure of your organisation External Factors o Changes in the economy o Legal changes o Appearance of new technology or ideas o Competition o Social changes o Politics
In cases where change is forced on you. The aim is best expressed in a simple single sentence. Deciding and defining an aim sharpens the focus of your plan. this may be the time to ask their opinions. If you are working with other people who will be involved with the plan. not to the symptoms of it. ensure that you react to the cause of the pressure. Asking yourself ethical questions further helps by establishing a framework within which you can respond to sudden opportunities without damaging integrity. If you are having difficulty in deciding the aim of your plan. then they are more likely to feel committed to it and support it.In some cases you may need to approach planning as a result of pressure for change. and helps you to avoid wasting effort on irrelevant side issues. Vision and Mission Statements
. This ensures that it is clear and sharp in your mind. ask yourself:
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What do I want the future to be? What benefit do I want to give to my customers? What returns do I seek? What standards am I aiming for? What values do I and my organization believe in?
By answering these questions you should be able to crystallise an aim. the next stage of the Planning Cycle is to decide what the aim of your plan is.
and know where you want to go. so that these inspire unusual solutions that can then be developed by either logical thought or further brainstorming. draw lines for each different way of achieving that solution. There are several techniques for doing this:
Logical Thinking An effective way of doing this is to use Mind Map (article to be uploaded soon). uncritical approach. draw a line for each of the solutions you can think of. Repeat this until you have drawn in lines for all the reasonable solutions you can think of. From the end of each line. Radiating from this.
Brain Storming This is a technique for developing creative and unusual solutions to problems that involves a free-wheeling. For example. concise survey of the best Mind Tools available'. A Mission statement gives concrete expression to the Vision statement. the next stage is to work out how you could get there. and note the solution above each line. depending on the level and type of the plan. Although it is always important to take other people's views into account. Research Similar problems may well have been faced by people you know. and expresses the benefit which the organisation provides to its customers. The first stage of doing this is to explore the options available to you. and all the main ways of achieving those solutions. explaining how it is to be achieved. This mind map can be used as the basis of a Decision Tree later in the planning process. accessible. Mind Tools Site's mission statement is: 'To provide a well structured. Don't forget to check these sources!
.The Aim of the Plan can be broken down into a Vision statement or a Mission Statement. Start this by writing the aim in the centre of a large piece of paper. or the organisation's ultimate aim.
Exploring Options When you know where you are. The idea is to generate ideas and approaches that are deliberately strange. The Vision Statement typically is the aim of the highest level plan for the organisation. or may be documented in material that is available to you. ensure that you think for yourself during this process. Mind Tools vision statement is: 'To enrich the quality of our customers lives by giving them the tools to help them to use their minds in the most productive and effective way possible'.
costing. when. Control Mechanisms
. prioritise the actions in order of importance so that you do not waste time on low priority tasks. an extremely effective way of selecting the best option is to build and evaluate a Decision Tree. for each. If these actions are large and complex. You may well have selected one of the options available to you as the most likely to yield the results required. working out the time that will need to be taken and the resources that will need to be allocated to achieve the action. where. It will also help you to identify the key activities to keep moving when your resource requirements conflict with other managers using the same resources. risk assessment. it may be useful to carry out a Critical Path Analysis. In the absence of both time to do this and an obvious answer. then you might decide to evaluate all options. reduce them down to a number of smaller key actions. plan out how they will be achieved.Selecting the Best Option Once you have explored the options available to you. If some of the actions being carried out depend on the completion of other activities. For each of these key actions. and will help you to decide task priorities. It is the process of determining who will do what. you should have a good picture of where you are. This gives a target to work towards. Detailed planning is the process of working out the most efficient and effective way of achieving the aim that you have defined. it is time to decide which one to select. If you have the time and resources available. carrying out detailed planning. Prioritising Activities Once you have done this. Identifying Key Activities The first stage in the process is to identify the key actions that need to be performed in order to achieve the Aim of the plan. how and why. It can also be helpful to set mock deadlines (allowing appropriate contingency time for overruns and unavoidable delays). This will allow you to calculate the cost of that action. etc. This will show you the minimum length of time that will be needed to achieve the plan. and at what cost. what you want to achieve and the range of options available to you. Detailed Planning By the stage you start detailed planning.
cost control. perhaps at a time when you are at a low ebb or are confused following a set-back. Plan for contingencies. These will include the activities such as reporting. either positive or negative. that the plan is simply not worth carrying out. quality assurance. This can be frustrating after the hard work of detailed planning. Elements of a Good Plan A good plan will:
• • • • • •
Have a clear statement of the current situation Have a clear aim Reflect the resources available Detail the tasks to be carried out. that are needed to spot and correct any deviations from the plan. etc.While you are concentrating on the actions that need to be performed. however it is much better to find this out now than when
. Explain control mechanisms that will alert the manager to difficulties in achieving the plan. and allows achievement to be rewarded Use KISS (Keep It Simple and Straightforward) Keep the plan flexible Consider transitional arrangements . whose responsibility they are.
Making Effective Plans The following points will help to make your plans effective:
• • • • • • • • •
Involve people affected by the plan to gain their support Explain why the plan is being carried out Sell & resell the benefits to everyone involved Ensure that the required resources are available and remain available As far as possible keep to existing ways of doing things. Build in milestones and review progress. ensure that you are also considering the control mechanisms that will allow you to monitor the performance of the activity. and compare this against the benefits achieved. the next stage is to work out whether it will work and its impact: often you may find that a plan may have unexpected effects. their priorities and deadlines. This helps to keep a sense of movement in the plan. so that a rapid and effective response may be made to crises.how will you keep things going while you implement the plan?
Evaluation of the Plan and It's Impact Once you have worked out the details of your plan. This avoids unnecessary disruption. You may also find that when you cost the plan.
Force Field Analysis helps you to get a good overall view of all the forces for and against the change that you want to implement. and provides the basis for accurate break-even analysis. Cash Flow Forecasts and Break Even Analysis Where a decision is has mainly financial implications. such as in business and marketing planning. allowing the effect of variance in assumptions to be examined. preparation of a Cash Flow Forecast (article to follow) can be extremely useful.you have invested time. When it is set up on a spreadsheet package. analysed by probability and outcome. Simply add up these costs. a good Cash Flow Forecast also functions as an extremely effective model of the plan. you may find it useful to mix its financial information with an assessment of the intangible or non-financial aspects of the decision. This is an advanced form of 'weighing the pros and cons'. Evaluating the plan now gives you the opportunity to either investigate other options which might be more successful. Each point can be allocated a subjective positive or negative score. This allows you to see where you can make adjustments that will make the plan more likely to succeed. These risks can be assessed effectively by preparing a variant of a Decision Tree which allows you to show the major uncertainties associated with different stages of the plan. Plan Evaluation There are a number of ways in which you can evaluate your plan:
Cost/Benefit Analysis This is probably one of the simplest ways of evaluating a plan.
. Wherever an outcome is unfavourable. Not only does it allow you to assess the effect of time on costs and revenue. this will help you to assess and plan the contingency actions needed and the cost of getting the plan back on course. and involves listing the positive points in the plan in one column. it helps in assessing the size of the greatest negative and positive cash flows associated with a plan. PMI Once you have carried out a cost/benefit analysis. or to accept that no plan is needed or should be carried out. Risk Analysis & Contingency Planning All of the above analyses broadly assume that the plan functions correctly. Force Field Analysis Similar to PMI. None of them assess the risks associated with carrying the plan out and the potential costs should those risks damage the plan. the negative points in a second column. During the process above you should have carried out an analysis of the costs involved with each activity within the plan. and the interesting indirect implications of the plan in a third column. resources and personal standing in the success of the plan. and compare them with the expected benefits. An effective way of doing this is with a PMI analysis.
owners. It is much better to change a beautifully crafted plan that analysis shows will not work than deal with the consequences after a failed attempt at implementation Closing Projects Once a plan has been achieved. Shareholders How will the shareholders.
. press and politicians? Environment Will it enhance or damage the environment?
Any analysis of your plan must be tempered by common sense. the project can be closed. These factors include:
Ethical Considerations This should include an assessment of likely changes in public ethics over the lifetime of the plan. or trustees of the organisation view the plan? Members/Employees What effects will the plan have on the organisation's members or employees? Should these effects stand in the way of improving efficiency? Customers Will the plan change the way in which your organisation's customers view it? Will this affect their likelihood of reordering? Suppliers How will your plan affect relations with suppliers? Public Relations Will the plan have a positive or negative effect on your organisations relations with the public. Many factors which are important to the evaluation of your plans cannot practically be quantified. concentrating on:
• • • •
The quality and consistency of delivery achieved The volumes achieved The length of time it too to achieve the plan The real cost of carrying out the plan against the planned costs
These points should be considered in the light of internal and external influences on the plan. At this point is often worth carrying out an evaluation of the plan.Assessing Impact It is important to ensure that you do not rely exclusively on the results of numeric analysis as the basis of your plan evaluation.
You may find that the quality of your work suffers during the less energetic part of the day.
. If you have kept an activity log for a number of days. Routine or mundane tasks should be carried out during the periods of low energy. it allows them to feel part of a success. Important work or activities that need creativity and intelligence should be scheduled for the time when you are most alert. Success Where the plan has been successfully executed. or a formal presentation of awards/rewards. Not only does this formally close the plan in peoples minds. This can leave highly effective people unhappy and dissatisfied following a success. Often the broad success of a plan can be lost in a volume of tiny adjustments. you may see that a pattern emerges of times when you think clearly and effectively and shift a lot of work. You can use this information to schedule work. Improving the quality of your time It is important for you to understand that you function at different levels of effectiveness at different times of the day.By monitoring these points you may be able to learn a number of lessons which can be fed back into future planning. There may be other times of the day when you feel flat and tired. whether this is a meal or a party. this is a good time to formally close the project with a ceremony.
REJECT AND EXPLAIN
• • • • •
trivial requests from others apparent emergencies ad-hoc interruptions and distractions misunderstandings appearing as complaints pointless routines or activities boss's whims or tantrums
Scrutinise and probe demands. computer games.RESIST AND CEASE
3 . scheduling networking/ relationship building thinking. doodling. fixes
planning. Wherever possible reject and avoid these tasks sensitively and immediately. Plan to
• • •
not urgent 2 . complaints and crisis issues demands from superiors or customers planned tasks or project work now due meetings and appointments reports and other submissions staff issues or needs problem resolution. designing systems and process development developing change. productive. preparation. 4 . firefighting. over-long breaks reading nonsense or irrelevant material Unnecessary adjusting equipment etc.PLAN TO DO
• • • • •
• • • •
emergencies.SAMPLE TIME ANAGEMENT MATRIX
urgent 1 . Plan timeslots and personal space for these tasks. creating.
Critical to success: planning. strategy
Prioritise according to their relative urgency. net surfing chat. social communications daydreaming. direction. gossip.
'comfort' activities. embellishment and over-production
Habitual 'comforters' not true tasks. strategic thinking.
Just as jobs that you do have a cost.avoid them.
Eating Patterns. as this helps to minimise the effect of random events. You may find that these sugars fade sharply by midmorning as your body reacts to high levels of sugar by burning it faster. You should ask yourself whether the
. Other people recommend eating protein (e. you may find that you fade badly during the end of the afternoon. Some people find it useful to have a mid-morning snack to avoid this. With intelligent eating and adequate breaks you may find that you can extend the amount of quality time available to you in a day quite significantly. They can. This will be much worse if you drink alcohol at lunch. It is worth trying each approach for a few days before trying another to make the experiment more reliable.g. This seems to delay the energy dip. You may also find that energy levels are dependent on whether you take rest periods or not. On the other hand.
Getting the most out of meetings Meetings can be effective ways of sharing information or reaching a decision. and then finds the supplies running down. Rest and Energy You may find that your energy levels throughout the day are driven by your eating patterns. however. the meetings that you attend have a cost. not only of your time but also that of the other attendees. Often taking a lunch break will allow you to start the afternoon refreshed for quality work.you have probably felt the desire to go to sleep after a heavy meal. Alcohol is a sedative. Having a good breakfast with plenty of carbohydrate will keep your brain supplied with sugars for the early part of the day. If you work through the day with no breaks. eating a large lunch seems to divert blood from your brain to digestion . be ineffectively run in a way that swallows up your time without giving a sufficient benefit. Try experimenting with different eating and rest patterns to see which ones suit the way you work. an egg) at breakfast.
effectively it is a To Do List for the meeting. so discussion will expand to fill it whether this is cost-effective or not. By scheduling meetings to occur on trigger events. and needs a decision on how to handle this. Use the Agenda Effectively The agenda of the meeting shows the aim of the meeting. Running Meetings This section gives a series of recommendations that should help you to run effective meetings: 1. and points of discussion in priority order . Setting the time of the meeting You can usefully change the timing of the meeting depending on the habits of the attendees:
Where people tend to waffle excessively. Was your contribution worth your investment? This section explains how to run a meeting in the most effective way possible. stopping it drifting off-topic. This gives people an incentive to be brief
. you can ensures that time is invested in the solution of a problem only when it is needed. you can schedule the meeting just before lunch or going home. 3. 2. a manager may propose a meeting when he or she projects that resource difficulties may be encountered. As an example. In many cases it is much more effective to agree to hold meetings only when specific trigger events show them to be necessary. where the convenor feels vaguely that 'it is a good thing to communicate' with only vague ideas what to communicate about. it allows people to prepare fully for the meeting so the meeting does not stall for lack of information. Hold meetings only when trigger events occur Regular meetings are often little more than a security blanket. Where many people are to attend the meeting. it may be beneficial for a small expert subcommittee to meet to prepare the agenda. Using an agenda helps to focus the meeting. and then how to get the most out of meetings that you attend. Time is routinely made available for discussion. If you circulate it sufficiently far in advance.benefit of the meeting has been worth the time invested in both the meeting and the preparation for it.
relevant.the more people are present. bringing people who are not needed to a meeting wastes their time.
. Other Useful Techniques These points can also improve the effectiveness of a meeting:
You should only bring the minimum number of attendees to a meeting . If late-comers are not critically needed. writing the cost per minute of the meeting on a flip chart can have a focusing effect. Summarising the meeting with an action plan ensures that everyone knows what has been decided. you should be:
• • • • •
on time. This ensures that everyone understands what has been decided. attentive and concise.where it starts late. you should expect a sufficiently large pay-back to justify that investment. e. and present only if needed well prepared and briefed on your contribution attentive to the discussion so that your contribution does not repeat someone else's involved in the discussion and brief.
Attending Meetings When you attend a meeting. time of all the attendees is being wasted waiting for the start. Similarly. 19 minutes past the hour. If you are attending a meeting. use an agenda to focus discussion. If possible. the more will want to air their views.• • •
Alternatively where other people are time conscious. however they can also be huge wastes of time. ensure that the meeting starts on time . This ensures that the meeting will not just be seen as a 'talking-shop'. When you invest time in a meeting. ensure that you do not waste other people's time. summarise the points discussed. If you are running a meeting. This seems to improve punctuality. Use the time set for the meeting as a tool for getting around bad habits of attendees if necessary. and who will do what.g. Where people tend to turn up late. start without them. To this end. Ensure that decisions taken at previous meetings have been acted on. ensure that you respect the time of other attendees by being well prepared. start a meeting at an unusual time. At the end of the meeting. focussed and courteous in your interventions
Summary Meetings can be effective ways of reaching decisions. and make an action plan out of the decisions taken.
it also looks better.putting them off until they are unavoidable. While you are waiting keep busy . This is time that is often wasted. Perfectionism: Often tasks are fussed over long after they have been achieved to a quite sufficient
. Negative Delay . Procrastination can come about in a number of ways:
Paralysis by planning: Here the planning process is drawn out to avoid confronting an issue.Using Waiting Time Effectively If you need to travel to meet people often. The following points can help you to use waiting time effectively:
• • • •
Confirm the appointment the day before.
Dropping Tasks that do not benefit you Do all the jobs you do move you towards your work or personal goals? When you cost the jobs you do. Procrastination slows achievement of current goals. Try to leave arrival times approximate. and restricts future opportunity as time is clogged up. Plans are argued and polished and perfected. you may have to leave a large amount of contingency time. Good use of waiting time can help to reduce the advantage. Try not to arrive at the site of the meeting more than 5 minutes early. Unfortunately some idiots may also play power games with you by keeping you waiting to try to gain advantage. but implementation of the plans is delayed unnecessarily.not only do you get more work done. you may find that you spend a certain amount of time waiting. or need to liaise with people who have a highly structured day. are they worth doing? If you are carrying out tasks that are neither cost nor goal effective. This reminds people that you will be coming where you have arranged it many days in advance. Similarly if you have to be present for an appointment at a specific time.Procrastination Most often when people delay things they are procrastinating . The time spent before the job is properly tackled is usually wasted. If your journey goes well you may have to spend a lot of time waiting at the other end. it will probably be worth trying to either drop them or delegate them if possible. This gives some margin of error should you be held up. and means that you can set out for the meeting later. Doing so gives the impression that you have time to waste.
there is a strong temptation to delay. despite the unpleasant outcomes this may bring about. you’re not alone. Often perfection simply is not required. The key to controlling and ultimately combating this destructive habit is to understand how and why it happens (even to the best of us) and to take a few simple steps to better manage your time and outcomes. Overcoming procrastination: In a nutshell. It can be associated with strong rushes of adrenaline. Beating Procrastination Manage your time. 'The Deadline High': Coming up against a tight deadline and meeting it is immensely satisfying. or to the person giving the task.
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again. and that occasionally jobs may fail because they have been left too late. In fact. usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing Sometimes this happens when someone does not understand the difference between urgency and importance. most people procrastinate to some degree . The way to avoid Deadline High procrastination is to set intermediary goals which must be achieved. The prevailing belief here: We all have the same amount of time in every day and procrastinators spend this time fully. This often serves to delay tackling other problems. The problems with this are that you may find that jobs are being delayed precisely to get this rush of adrenaline. and is not cost-effective to achieve. procrastinators focus so much on urgent issues that they have little or no time left for the important tasks.
Instead. Get it all done.
The way to tackle procrastination is to set deadlines by which goals should be achieved. Boredom: Boring jobs are very easy to delay for spurious reasons.•
. Here self-discipline is needed.but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it disrupts their careers and thwarts even their best efforts. but do not invest it wisely. Hostility: Where you are hostile to the task. you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now.
let’s say that your boss comes to your office and says he or she has called a meeting and wants you to join other team members in the conference room now. poor organizational skills. or achieve something of real human significance to you. for they are the ones that help you achieve your goals (another of the major topics within “Make Time for Success”. Again. These important actions are often easy to pinpoint. recognize that this will take time away from this important work. and manage your time in such a way that you make the most of the opportunities open to you. even the salesman’s paperwork. or perfectionism. when you're doing something important. this is urgent. How to combat procrastination: Whatever the reason behind procrastination. working through the placed orders. such as those described in Mind Tools “Make Time for Success!” This helps you establish the right priorities. you’re probably procrastinating.
However. This will require tracking down the original shipment. it must be recognized. such as working on your top-priority project or task.Other causes of procrastination can be as simple as waiting for the “right” mood or the “right” time to tackle the important task at hand.)
. build your career. it is imperative to understand the difference between urgency and importance. dealt with and controlled before you miss opportunities or your career is derailed. To do this. This is clearly urgent. these things only tangentially affect the truly important things in your life. underdeveloped decision-making skills. The other part of the solution can be as simple as applying this rule of thumb: If you're not working (directly of indirectly) to progress your top priority projects.
Or. your sales manager calls in from the field and explains that your biggest customer just received the wrong shipment and is in dire need of the correct shipment.
Part of the solution is to develop good organizational and personal effectiveness habits. etc. while immediate action is needed here. Important things are likely to be the actions that serve to broaden you. a fear of failure or success. and something urgent comes up. On one hand. And.
Delegate as far as possible. This article will concentrate on effective use of reading strategies. To spend life "firefighting" is a misuse of your “important” time. while still ensuring that they are successfully and efficiently resolved. Unfortunately teaching stops before moving on to the advanced skills which can significantly increase the speed at which we read. There are two main strategies to achieving this: speed reading where you learn to read quicker and more smoothly. so that you do not get caught up in remedying every urgent situation. It will cover the following points: Active Reading
. your planning and discipline makes them less urgent and easier to deal with. You’ll need to minimize the time spent on these urgent tasks. This means that you waste less of the valuable time that should be spent on the important things. and use of effective reading strategies where you learn how to extract the information that you require from documents in the most efficient way possible. Improving your reading skills can significantly reduce the time you take to assimilate a document.This is not to say that you do not have to take care of the urgent things. many urgent matters disappear altogether or.
Improving your reading techniques Another thing to consider in effective use of time is the time that you devote to reading documents. Instead. you will need to take care of these things as efficiently as possible. Speed reading is covered elsewhere within Mind Tools. With proper planning and some self-discipline. while also staying on top of the important demands/going-ons of the day. There are two main approaches to improving reading skills: speed reading which increases the number of words that can read in a minute. keep in mind that you probably do not have to handle every urgent matter yourself. when they do surface.
Using reading strategies to read more quickly and effectively When we are young we are taught to read to a level of basic competence. And. and use of reading strategies to extract information from a text in the most effective way possible.
At this level of looking at the document it is worth paying attention to diagrams and graphs. you can skim the material. underline and annotate the text as you go on. or assumes too much or too little knowledge.what do you want to know after reading the text? Once you know this you can examine the text to see whether it is going to move you towards the goal.
. introductions and summaries. Here you read the chapter introductions and summaries in detail. then it may be worth photocopying information in more expensive texts. picking out and understanding key words and concepts. then you can scan the text. This emphasises information in your mind. Active reading helps to keep your mind focused on the material and stops it wandering. Here it is best to skim the material first to get an overview of the subject. Knowing what you want to know The most important thing to know is the goal of your study . Reading Magazines and Newspapers These tend to give a very fragmented coverage of a subject. Would other material meet your needs more closely? Knowing how deeply to study the material Where you only need the shallowest knowledge of the subject. While you are looking at the text. An easy way of doing this is to look at the introduction and the chapter headings. If you need a moderate level of information on a subject. The introduction should let you know who the book is targeted at and what it seeks to achieve. typically concentrating on the most interesting and glamorous parts of a topic while ignoring the less interesting but often essential background. This is obviously only something to do if you own the document! If you find that active reading helps significantly. Only when you need detailed knowledge of a subject is it worth studying the text. You can then read and mark the photocopies. Once you have done this you can read it in detail while seeing how the information presented relates to the overall structure of the subject. Here you read only chapter headings. and helps you to review important points after you have finished studying the text. and may speed-read the contents of the chapters. ask yourself if it is targeted at you.This is an important concept: when you are reading it is often useful to highlight. Typically areas of useful information are padded out with large areas of irrelevant data or with advertising. while the chapter headings will show an overall view of the structure of the subject.
When you decide to act on direct mail. and which ones can be skipped altogether. turning directly to interesting articles.
If you know what you want from an article. and then flesh them out with detail. It is much better to dispose of it immediately. News articles are designed to explain the key points first. Information can be retrieved easily and quickly. Reading Technical Information
. with the middle of the article containing supporting arguments. In this way you begin to build up sets of related articles which may go some way towards explaining the scope of a subject. Opinion Articles: Opinion articles are designed to advance a viewpoint.The most effective way of dealing with magazines is to scan their contents tables or indexes. Effectively written direct mail will convey its purpose immediately. and will assist you in extracting and acting on information rapidly. If you read a paper frequently you can learn which sections have useful information. The magazine can then be binned. rather than by writing a formal letter. and recognising its type. Badly written direct mail is tedious and can take a lot of time to digest. Article types. By applying an intelligent way of reading newspapers and magazines you can significantly speed the time it takes to extract the information you need from them. it is best to do so by phone. Dealing with mail effectively Dealing with junk mail can take up a significant amount of time. you can extract information from it quickly and efficiently. bin it or file it. Here the most important information is contained in the introduction and the summary. and how to read them Articles within newspapers and magazines tend to be in three main types:
News Articles: here the most important information is presented first. Newspapers tend to be arranged in sections. Typically the most important information is in the body of the text. If the articles are useful they can be cut out and filed into a folder specifically covering that sort of information. Feature Articles: These are written to provide entertainment or background on a subject. with information being less and less significant as the article progresses. fax or email. A useful technique to try to apply is to touch each document only once: either act on it.
Technical information is typically less friendly than other information. scanning and studying Using a table of contents for reading magazines and newspapers. and helps you to avoid trivia. Is it too basic to meet your needs. it is easy to accept the writer's structure of thought. and reading appropriately Reading at the appropriate depth: skimming. Manuals are often badly written . If referring to specific information. an effective technique is to compile your own table of contents headings before you open the document. If the writer has a better knowledge of the structure of the topic. it may be effective to photocopy the glossary. and refer to them when necessary. Reading 'whole subject' documents When you are reading a document. this helps you to recognise and adjust your initial view of the best structure. and keep this beside you. It will probably also be useful to note down the key concepts in your own words. which purports to give an overall analysis of a subject. You can then use this table of contents to read the document in the order that you want. and miss the fact that important information has been omitted or that irrelevant detail has been included. it is most effective to use the table of contents and index to find the appropriate section. Where you are reviewing this sort of document. or is it so advanced that you cannot understand it? In the latter case it may be more cost effective to bring in an expert to do the job. As with other sorts of material it may be most effective to skim the material before reading it in depth.a manual is often supplied with a product purely because it is expected. such as a company report. assess who it has been written for. In many cases it will have been given to a junior member of staff to prepare. and will not have been properly edited or reviewed. Before wading into technical documentation. Summary of Reading Skills This section shows a range of strategies and techniques that you can use to improve the efficiency with which you assimilate information by:
• • • •
Using active reading techniques to ensure that you keep focused on the material Knowing what you need to know. Using this technique will allow you to spot where important information is missing or has been obscured. If you are reading large amounts of the material. and clipping interesting articles
. It is often complex and assumes a high level of initial knowledge. Usually the most effective way of making notes is to use mind maps.
The period of time during which the eye rests on one word is called a 'fixation'. the meaning and structure of a document is easier to see. you will probably find that you are fixing your eyes on one block of words. glossaries and Mind Maps to help you assimilate technical information. If you notice the way in which your eye muscles actually move when reading a printed text. and will move on with very few skip-backs. A skilled reader will read many words in each fixation (typically from five to an entire line). then moving your eyes to the next block of words. meaning that reading for long periods can be less tiring. will only fixate for a very short period of time (maybe quarter of a second). improving both the speed at which a text can be assimilated.
. Most people think that they read the way young children read . tables of contents. Why speed read? Applying speed reading techniques gives the following benefits:
• • •
Large volumes of information can be assimilated rapidly By reading faster and absorbing more information into short term memory.• • • •
Understanding how to extract information from different article types Learning how to read junk mail effectively Using indexes. and the level of understanding of the material. These disruptions to the forward flow of reading are called 'skip-backs'. but blocks of words at a time. Your eyes have to do less work. or at best word-by-word. This minimises the amount of work that the reader's eyes have to do.either letter-by-letter. and so on: effectively you are reading not words. increases the volume of information that can be examined in a period of time.
Background Think about the way in which you are reading this text.
Speed Reading What is speed reading? Speed Reading is a method of improving a reader's reading ability. Creating your own table of contents for reviewing subject analyses. You may also notice that you don't always proceed from one block of words to the next: sometimes you may move back to a preceding block of words if you are unsure about something. and maximises understanding of the material.
If you think about the way in which your eyes are moving when you look around the circumference of the circle. you will probably find that your eyes are moving in fixations: actually the track of the movement of your eyes is probably a series of lines. and by reducing the time needed to assimilate it. This may be improved by holding the material you are reading a little further from your eyes. He or she will skip back often. the faster you will read! Summary Speed reading can make reading a much more enjoyable experience. A poor reader may therefore find the text significantly less satisfying. not a circle. however. By pushing yourself to minimise the time you take. spending a lot of time reading small fixations. by reducing eye strain. and may find it harder to concentrate and understand the text than a good reader. you run a pointer around the outside of the circle you will find that your eyes are smoothly following the tip of the pointer. try to expand the number of words that you read at a time. losing the flow and structure of the text and hence overall understanding of the subject. To a large extent the speed at which you read using this method will depend on the speed at which you move the pointer. If. This will help a reader to hold attention on a long document. The increased amount of irregular eye movement will make the reading tiring. If this seems silly.
. Reducing Fixation Time It is thought that the minimum length of time needed for a fixation is only quarter of a second. whether this is a finger.A poor reader will become bogged down. This is a matter of practice and confidence. extracting information from it that would otherwise be neglected. Your eyes will follow the tip of your pointer. or a pen or pencil. Expanding the Fixation Zone As with reducing the fixation time. Improving Reading Skills These are explained below: Reducing Skip-Back It can be useful to scan rapidly the line being read with a pointer. and will be expanded by practice. smoothing the flow of your reading. you will get better at picking up information from a very brief fixation. The more words you can read in a single fixation. increasing understanding of the flow of a document. the point can be illustrated by drawing a circle on a piece of paper in front of you.
however much you are paid. If you get up one hour early for a year. but is intensely effective.get up early! This is an extremely simple way of creating more time. Eventually you may reach a stage where you are awake and ready to move just as your alarm clock goes off. When you work at home on your own projects then this work directly enriches you.Advanced speed reading may be learned from specialist training courses. Most people fail to even attempt to enrich themselves in this most effective way. but in time your body will adjust. The two main topics covered will be:
Delegation skills and getting up early!
Creating extra hours . but every following time will be easier.
Creating More Time In the previous section we examined at ways of using your time more effectively. This section examines the reasons you should delegate. you have effectively created around 10 additional working weeks! An important thing to realise is that when you are at work as an employee. The trick behind this is to get into the routine of getting up at a specific time: the first time you haul yourself out of bed before dawn will be painful. In this section we will look at ways of creating more time. failure to delegate and what should not be delegated. how to delegate. your work enriches someone else.
How to delegating work to other people Delegation involves passing responsibility for completion of work to other people. Even if your work creates huge profits you will only see a small proportion of this coming back as pay rises. Delegation is useful for the following reasons:
. You gain all the profits your work creates. You may find that you are tired for a few weeks. If necessary go to bed a little earlier.
let your assistant get on with it. willing people to carry out jobs: How far you can delegate jobs will depend on the ability. Delegate complete jobs: It is much more satisfying to work on a single task than on many fragments of the task. or less expensive. Alternatively you may decide to use your activity log as the basis of your decision to delegate: this will show you where you are spending large amounts of time on low yield jobs. This leaves you time to plan. Explain why the job is done. Inexperienced or unreliable people will need close supervision to get a job done to the correct standard. you are also more likely to receive a more elegant. Transfer of responsibility develops your staff. Good people will be able to carry out large jobs with no intervention from you. You can develop people to look after routine tasks that are not cost-effective for you to carry out It transfers work to people whose skills in a particular area are better than yours. Review the project on the agreed reporting dates. How to delegate The following points may help you in delegating jobs:
Deciding what to delegate: One way of deciding what to delegate is simply to list the things that you do which could be more effectively done by someone either more skilled in a particular area.• • • •
Once people have learned how to work with you. and what results are expected: When you delegate a job. If you delegate a complete task to a capable assistant. saving time. and improve the efficiency of what you are doing. and can increase their enjoyment of their jobs
The ideal position to reach as a manager is one where your staff carry out all the routine activities of your team. they can take responsibility for jobs you do not have time to do. However if you coach. encourage and give practice to them you may improve their ability to carry out larger and larger tasks unsupervised. but do not constantly look over their
. Select capable. tightly integrated solution. think. Ensure that you communicate effectively: o the results that are needed o the importance of the job o the constraints within which it should be carried out o the deadlines for completion o internal reporting dates when you want information on the progress of the project Then let go! Once you have decided to delegate a task. explain how it fits into the overall picture of what you are trying to achieve. experience and reliability of your assistants.
you surrender some element of authority (but not of responsibility!) This is inevitable. and your assistant will not get the experience he or she needs in completing projects. Recognise that your assistants may know a better way of doing something than you do. Fear of surrendering authority: Whenever you delegate. when coaching and checking are taken into account. Always accept mistakes that are not caused by idleness. then they will not develop the confidence to do the job themselves. but do not do the job for them. with the right people. Bear in mind the cost of your time and the cost of your department's time when you are tempted to do a job yourself. Most people will. however. with time. Accept only finished work: You have delegated a task to take a work load off you. your assistants are standing idle while you do this. Accept that there may be different ways of achieving a particular task. and that are learned from. learn to do jobs properly. Give help and coach when requested: It is important to support your subordinates when they are having difficulties. Give credit when a job has been successfully completed: Public recognition both reinforces the enjoyment of success with the assistant who carried out the task and sets a standard for other employees.fear of mistakes: Just as you have to develop staff to do jobs quickly without your involvement. Perfectionism . however. Enjoying 'getting my hands dirty': By doing jobs yourself you will probably get them done effectively. If. Jobs may take longer to achieve with delegation than they do for you to do by yourself. In time. If you accept only partially completed jobs back.•
shoulders. you will have to let people make mistakes. you will find that the time taken up reduces significantly as your coaching investment pays back. then your department will be seriously inefficient. and also that one of the best ways of really learning something is through making mistakes. then you will have to invest time in completing them. Fear of becoming invisible: Where your department is running smoothly with all routine work effectively
. If you do. you get the benefits of adequate time to do YOUR job really well. By effective delegation. In the early stages of taking over a job you may need to invest time in training people to take over tasks. and help them to correct them. some managers do not delegate.
Why do people fail to delegate? Despite the many advantages of delegation. This can be for the following reasons:
Lack of time: Delegating jobs does take time.
They may take up tracts of time that you had planned to devote to other things. rather than developing their new subordinates to do the job well. Remember that most people do not like doing tedious or difficult jobs . Effective delegation involves achieving the correct balance between effective control of work and letting people get on with jobs in their own way.
It is common for people who are newly promoted to managerial positions to have difficulty delegating. This brings the temptation to continue trying to do their previous job.
HANDLING DISTRACTIONS Avoiding distractions However good you at planning the use of your time and using it effectively. Even incompetent people can be effective. Remember that you bear ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of what you are trying to achieve. however. Now you have the time to think and plan and improve operations (and plan your next career step!) Belief that staff 'are not up to the job': Good people will often under-perform if they are bored. Often they will have been promoted because they were good at what they were doing. Some interruptions from customers. from your boss. You must.•
delegated. some of the time other people will break into the flow of your work. ensure that you do not delegate the control of your team. providing they find their level. If you are receptive or overly co-operative then you may find
. Delegation will often bring the best out of them.if they can shift them onto you. Getting Rid of Unwanted jobs You may find that you spend a lot of time doing jobs that are not core to what you are trying to achieve. People who are not so good will not be effective unless you invest time in them. What should not be delegated? While you should delegate as many tasks as possible that are not cost effective for you to carry out. it may appear that you have nothing to do. or from assistants needing help must be accepted despite the delay that this imposes on you. The only people who cannot be reliably delegated to are those whose opinions of their own abilities are so inflated that they will not cooperate. be careful that distractions and interruptions do not completely divert you from achieving your goals. they will.
At other times you may prefer not to interrupted. Other people may not have as disciplined an approach to work as yourself. but may be happy to take interruptions if they are important. Where you are in a sufficiently powerful position. collaborate with someone else. Sometimes you may be concentrating on difficult work where you do not want to be distracted unless the building is burning down!
. you may find it effective to refuse to accept interruption without an appointment. Distraction by casual visitors Visitors can waste a lot of time. then a useful trick is to ask him or her to prioritise the job in relation to existing work. or are being pestered by salesmen. Where it is important that you should not be interrupted. This leaves you having to complete the job. tables or desks. it may be effective to offer to advise someone else on how to carry out the work. Where your boss is asking you to do a job that interferes with your work. You can protect yourself with barriers such as closed doors. The way to get out of this situation is to say 'No' in a polite but firm way.perhaps when you are tired. Similarly you can prevent people from settling by removing places where people can sit. You do not always need to be welcoming In these cases you may find that you are being too welcoming. You may find that you are extremely busy.that your time fills with irrelevant tasks. or delegate the job to an assistant. Where possible assistants should be encouraged to return to you with completed jobs only. but consistently fail to do your own job. Another area to be aware of is where assistants may return unfinished work to you. You may find that you are wasting time dealing with colleagues who stop to chat and gossip. or should complete the tasks themselves once you have given them the necessary of information. Where this interferes with the achievement of other deadlines. this should be recognised. are having time needed for intense concentration disrupted by assistants needing help on small matters. These make it uncomfortable for other people to be in your space. Alternatively you can avoid eye contact or stand up yourself. Letting people know not to distract you You may have times when you do not mind being distracted . This is particularly effective with salesmen. Whether you can do this obviously depends on your relationship with the person who is asking you to do the job. or doing jobs that do not require sustained concentration.
When dealing with colleagues it is worth being light-hearted some successful solutions have involved wearing arctic ear-muffs when they need to work uninterrupted. To avoid telephone distractions you may consider putting your phone on divert.
Summary This set of articles has explained how to manage your time well. Improving your phone skills can also reduce the length of time you need to spend on the phone. Alternatively. telephone calls can completely disrupt these valuable states of mind. You may be able to get away with only taking calls between certain hours. not on being busy. then it may be useful to develop strategies to let people know whether they can interrupt you or not.
. Taking frequent calls while trying to concentrate can therefore by very stressful. If not. Avoiding Phone Calls Phone calls can be enormously distracting. but also in taking whatever action is decided. leave it off the hook. it may be possible to put your phone on divert. then he or she can screen you from visitors or phone calls. dropped or delegated. As previously mentioned. or to work when no-one else is around. and then in recapturing the mental position before the interruption. Time is spent not only in taking the call. and hence which tasks should be avoided. We started looking at your use of time management by:
Using an activity log to evaluate your use of time. Knowing how much your time is worth. or 'leaving it off the hook'. Alternatively it may be more effective to work in a room without a phone. or have your calls screened. Where you are in the middle of a long train of thought or are in a state of flow on a task. transferring communication as far as possible to Email can be extremely useful. Good time management is one of the core differences between effective and ineffective people. At the heart of good time management is the shift of focus of concentrating on results. or setting up traffic lights where the colour of the lights shows whether people can interrupt or not. and your energy levels at different times of the day.If you have a PA.
Blocking unwanted visitors Letting people know when you do not want to be disturbed. Dropping unwanted tasks. and what constitutes exceptional performance Setting the goals and plans that will lead you to that success
We then looked at ways in which you could use your time most effectively by:
• • • • • • • •
Doing important work in quality time. as you know exactly what is expected of you. you can ensure that:
• • • • •
you are successful in your job. Using travelling time effectively. Eating properly and resting effectively so that you spend more time performing well. and concentrate explicitly on those things you can become more in control of what you do you are productive and therefore secure in your job you can plan and move into job areas that you enjoy and that you can avoid staying late at work.
We saw how we could create more time by:
Delegating Effectively. Improving reading skills. Running and attending meetings effectively. and Handling phone calls effectively
By effective use of these basic skills. and Using delay effectively.• •
Determining and agreeing what is important for success in your job. Using time spent waiting. and Getting up early!
And then looked at controlling the distractions that interfere with effective work by:
• • • •
Getting rid of unwanted jobs.
. giving yourself more quality time to relax and enjoy life outside work.