As managers, we want our people working smarter not harder. Why put in long hours if the yield isn't worth it? Mix this with the fact that more of us are utilizing a more mobile and distributed workforce, and another facet comes into play: how do we keep the mix of what people are working on fresh and active and targeted on the right things? Here's a new recipe for you to consider: time chunking.
TIME CHUNKING - THE BASICS
We all have the same clocks. They roll over every 24 hours. But how we use time, how we see time, how we slice it, is up to us. Instead of looking at our day as a time-fixed schedule, what if we look at it as a recipe that needs assembly? Here's the basic idea:
- Take your employee's number of hours in a work week. Use this number as the main pool.
- Decide what work best impacts what matters most for that employee's role.
- Decide what activities are necessary-but-not as important (like meetings).
- Allow for some administrative time.
- Allow in some creative or networking or research time.
- Javier - 50 hours / 10 a day
- Project work - 3 hours
- Meetings - 3 hours
- Admin work - 2 hours
- Meals/bio/free - 1 hour
- Creative time - 1 hour
WORKING WITH TIME CHUNKS
Now, consider how this time would reasonably be used in a day. For instance, meetings at your place run for 30 minutes? Great. Then give Javier 6 "chunks" for meetings. Project work requires lots of thought? Give Javier 9 "chunks" of 20 minutes each, so that he can slot in and out of this work. Creative time might be all dumped into one 1-hour chunk.
The chunks become puzzle pieces that the employee can now assemble however it makes sense in the day. What Javier would see is something like this:
- Project Work - 20 minute slots - 9 chunks.
- Meetings - 30 minute slots - 6 chunks.
- Email/Phone/Admin - 20 minute slots - 6 chunks.
- Meals/bio/free time - 1 hour (your call)
- Creative time - 1 hour (your call)
Add a free software egg timer (or a real egg timer from a kitchen store), or the timer on one's phone, and you've got a really simple system for counting and keeping track of how one uses time.
The important part is to encourage the employee to stay focused on which chunk he or she is working in. If Javier is in his "email" time chunk, then he shouldn't be also mixing in his project work or his creative work. Bleedover negates all the effort.
THE ADDED BENEFIT
Your team will feel that they have a better way to allot their time. You'll feel like you've set some guidance on what kind of work matters to the employee. Everyone will understand that basic expectations on one's time.
VARIATIONS AND YOUR CUSTOMIZATION
This won't fit every work environment. If your employee is in customer service and answering phones all day, chunking isn't the right method. Several team members might have non-flexible time built into their role. It's up to you to tweak it. This is merely the baseline recipe for your consideration.
What do you think? Make sense? Would it work where you are?
Chris Brogan is co-author of the NYT/WSJ bestselling book, Trust Agents. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at [chrisbrogan.com].