Time is the one resource in an organization that is truly finite. You simply cannot stretch a day into more than 24 hours. Sure, you can ask hourly employees to work overtime (at a huge cost), or you can, to a point, ask salaried employees to burn the midnight oil. But even then there are limits.
Yet, almost every organization does not recognize this basic tenet of reality. Time is frequently treated as an unlimited resource. If someone has an idea for an initiative, they go ahead and launch it. If someone has something to say, they go ahead and schedule a series of meetings to say it. If someone needs help from another department, they will often assume that the other department has time to spare.
However for a company to remain successful, there is a certain amount of time that needs to be devoted to mission critical work: serving customers, making sales, developing employees and producing product. The difference between the time needed for mission critical work and the total time available is the task capacity. That capacity is a fixed and quantifiable resource. It is a number that should be closely monitored and managed for different job types, and yet it is a complete unknown in most companies.
What makes matters worse is the priority. Extra administrative tasks, meetings and initiatives should come after all mission critical work is done. Usually, however, these meetings, reports and conference calls are not optional. The extra stuff takes precedence over the critical stuff, not intentionally, but because the extra task capacity is not known or considered.
You can solve this dilemma, by following these four steps:
1. Define time. It's crucial to determine exactly how much time is needed for mission critical work, and how much is left over. These parameters will vary based on time of day, day of week, or which part of the month, but they nevertheless must still exist.
2. Evaluate extra activities. Now, look at all of the “extra” activities, and ask yourself: How does it benefit the mission and company as a whole? Prioritize those activities based on the degree to which it will help build financial success, stronger customer relationships, a better workplace or lessen risk.
3. Eliminate the time sinks. Next, you need to adjust, automate or change the "helpful" tasks to fit within the available time capacity and eliminate the others. This step will often require some negotiation and arbitration, but it can be done.
4. Manage future time effectively. Finally, create a process for managing future tasks to help increase the effectiveness of mission critical work, without taking away the time required to do what must be done.
These four steps aren't easy. They require analysis, negotiation and, in general, a different way of thinking about time and types of tasks. But once these steps are completed, you'll find that time can be on your side, and help bring success.
What do you find to be the best way to manage your employees' time?
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