Tag Archives: time management

Making Time for Work That Matters

An article caught my eye in a past issue of Harvard Business Review in the Managing Yourself section, “Make Time for the Work that Matters: How smart knowledge workers delegate tasks—or eliminate them altogether,” by Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen. It’s an eye-catching title, as don’t most people want to find that time to do meaningful work, but I wondered how hard it was going to be to put into practice.

It’s not as hard as you might think to reclaim time.

The authors’ research and case study shows that knowledge workers can become more productive if they can “eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones” (115). While you could criticize this info as overly simplistic, even the skeptical benefit according to their interviews and findings with study participants.

The authors point out, we tend to hold on to things we like to do because they make us look good, or we get personal value from doing them, even if the tasks are not the high value work that matters.

They offer five suggestions for shifting to higher value work:

1. Identify low-value tasks

2. Decide whether to drop, delegate, or redesign

3. Off-load tasks

4. Allocate freed-up time

5. Commit to your plan

According to their research, we don’t have to “ban email on Fridays [although it would be nice]” or “forbid internal PowerPoint presentations [how would we get work done?];” rather we just have to be willing to implement the above five strategies. Their test group of 15 executives were each able to “cut desk work by an average of six hours a week and meeting time by an average of two hours a week” (115). That’s almost a day in the work week freed up to do high value work that matters. Even half that time would be worthwhile finding and putting to better use, right?

We have to want it. Bad enough to get off of Facebook or any other time sucking task. I know it would be better for my productivity if I went for a walk when I need a little diversion or a break from heavy duty thinking and writing. It’s a matter of becoming disciplined.

Your thoughts?

Small Business Social Media Starting Points

stopwatchAre you ready take your business into social media?
If you’re at the research stage and trying to figure out if social media is the place for you, then the following three tips are something to consider as you evaluate whether to get your business into social media.

Because, let’s face it — not every small business owner is ready to start a blog, Facebook Fan page, YouTube channel, or community site. Before you consider establishing a handful, or even one, social media site for your business, you may want to check the following 3 items off your list.

1. Clean up your website. Does your main website represent you in the way that it should? Do you have a professional design? Can users find the information they need or do you have a bunch of broken links that you need to fix? You’ll want to spruce up your main site because this is where you’ll be pointing the new traffic you generate in social media.

2. Evaluate your schedule and interests. Managing multiple sites and showing up online in meaningful ways takes time and creative energy. Is having conversations and marketing yourself online something you would enjoy? It will be a lot easier to maintain your presence in one or multiple social communities, if you can make time in your schedule and would enjoy the process.

3. Consider your content sources. Do you have an opinion or something to say? It can be a challenge to generate enough text, audio, images, or video to keep a site going. Perhaps you can manage 140 characters, but not a blog post every day. Offering enough entertaining, educational, or informative content to keep your fans, followers and subscribers coming back regularly is key, so think about how much you can publish on a regular basis.

In my next post, I’ll offer some tips for large organizations that are trying to figure out where to start in social media. For now, what tips or suggestions would you share with small business owners who have limited time and resources? What should they consider before they hit the start button on their social media plans?

Make 3 Lists

I was reading Are you Leaking at Christine Kane’s blog. In addition to being a great singer songwriter, CD’s & Lyrics, she also talks about life balance and creativity.

In the post above, she talks about energy drains and how any incompletes in our life, from email to laundry to car repairs, can drain our energy when we let them hang over our heads for a long time.

Well, in academia, I think we all have “incompletes” of many types. They’re hanging around just by the nature of the work. Not only is there all that stuff we do for students, but there is always another project we want to work on, or that we finally have to finish.

To connect what she wrote about with this type of work, I think it would be beneficial to make 3 to-do lists for long-term projects.

1. One list would be for everything that needs to be done on all our projects. Think of 43 Folders and capturing all that has to be done and getting it downloaded to paper.

2. Then, for the second list, identify what we want to do on a given day towards finishing that long-term project and being as specific and realistic as possible. For some people, it might work to project plan the whole thing, but I think for many people just concentrating on a week at a time would be helpful.

3. After we’ve worked on the project, I think we want to create a what-to-do-next-time list. I think the habit of always saving time to do this list each time we work on the long-term project will help prevent the energy drains that Christine talks about.

Other people have said similar things before and most often linked making the lists to productivity. I’ve even talked about how I think I’m more productive when I fill in the project name on my daily schedule and cross off the hours as filled.

However, making a what-to-do-next-time list for writing projects seems highly beneficial in order to help prevent massive energy drains from the whole project being one big “incomplete.”

Maybe I’m just slow and everyone else has already made this connection. But for me, it’s the difference between saying to myself:

work on the project to get it done, OR

work on a small piece of the project so you can feel better about what you’ve accomplished for that day and so the whole incomplete project doesn’t drain your energy and make your whole life feel out of balance.

In academia, our in-boxes (physical, virtual, and mental) are never going to be empty. But, this idea might be one way to help us feel better about walking away from them at the end of the day without the energy-draining feeling of them leaking all over us.

How do you do it?

Ok, so there is a lot that I don’t know about being an academic. If any of my readers would care to respond, either here, via email, or at your own place, please feel free.

As an academic, how do you organize your time?
Do you make a list? make piles?
How do you decide what to work on first? do you do what’s screaming at you first?
Do you take a long-term view? short-term?
Bottom line: how are you most productive when there are piles and piles of work to be done?
Note — I’m not, necessarily, asking where you work, but how you organize or prioritize your work.