A Three-Part Strategy To Effectively Leverage Your Time
By Jill J. Johnson, MBA
people manage their time by treating each of their priorities as if they have
an equal weight. They do not. When you are developing your time management
strategy, you need to break your time down into three different categories. These
types of time include routine activities, project-oriented activities, and
crisis situations. Each of these types of time has a different impact on your
productivity and your daily focus.
a clearer understanding of what type of time you are dealing with allows you
more options for developing a strategic approach to how you focus your daily
priorities. Initially, break down your key areas of focus by evaluating the
urgency and significance of your primary activities. This is followed by an
evaluation of each of your major responsibilities to assess which type of time
it involves. Then, consider the amount of time that will be necessary to
effectively complete each of them. This strategic focus will help you develop a
more proactive approach to managing your overlapping, and sometimes
Routines Creates Chaos
activities involve responsibilities you can anticipate. Activities falling
under this type of time include those with an automatic or regularly occurring
deadline. This may be preparing quarterly reports, tax filings, or actions you
need to process on the first day of each month.
most people procrastinate on assignments that have a routine deadline. They
wait until the last minute to begin working on them. Then they rush to pull
together the needed information. Waiting until the very last minute to focus on
routine activities ends up compressing the completion time horizon. The frantic
rush to meet the known deadline often results in missing critical elements,
errors, or a lack of quality work. This adds pressure and unnecessary stress.
activities are not surprises. Don’t treat them as such. Carve out the time you
need in your schedule and make sure it adequately reflects the time necessary
to completing these assignments. If these activities require research or
advance preparation time, your schedule must allow ample time to work on them
in advance. Shorten or eliminate all non-essential meetings as you get closer
to a deadline. Set up alerts with a reminder of your impending deadline. Then,
send alert notices to others who have critical information or essential insight
you will need.
a strategic mindset to approaching routine assignments encourages you to
complete your preparation work as far in advance of your deadline as possible. The
key is to dedicate the time you need into both your planning process and your
schedule. If it is a new responsibility for you, budget time into your calendar
to accommodate your learning curve.
the routine activity is something you only engage in periodically, create
cheat-sheets with screenshots and notes to yourself on issues you ran into and
how you solved them. These notes can be a huge time-saver the next time you
complete this activity.
Projects Requires A Precise Plan
second type of time is project time. Projects are often complex activities with
a defined expectation for deliverables or a date of completion such as a major
event. With projects, there many moving parts and multiple deadlines. Projects
may also include the involvement of a variety of other team members or vendors.
challenge with most projects is they often have long time frames that allow
those involved to push off key responsibilities because the completion date is perceived
to be far off into the future. Participants focus on day-to-day fires and do
not worry about the project until there is an urgent rush to meet a deadline.
managing project-oriented time requires developing and following a clearly established
plan. There are a variety of formal project management methodologies you can
follow. The key to each of them is to determine all the other people who need
to be involved and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each. Internal
deadlines need to be clearly determined for all of those involved and direct
responsibilities must be clearly delineated. Break your project activities into
smaller components and more manageable parts. Engaging in interim checkpoints
on a periodic basis allows you to stay up to date on the progress being made on
a project. These checkpoints provide the opportunity to determine if you have
adequate resources deployed to the right areas, so you can meet the deadline.
strategy you can implement to manage project time is to engage in front-end
loading. This means completing or beginning work on a significant number of
components of your project when you are first assigned to it. By front-end
loading your work, you will begin to identify challenges in obtaining a
resource or needed information. This intensive work at the beginning of your
project provides you with more time to resolve any glitches before they put
your project completion at risk.
3. Expect The
crisis is an unexpected situation requiring you stop everything you are
currently focused on to address the situation. When a crisis occurs, your
entire focus shifts your priority to resolving the problem or the aftermath of
an unexpected event. This could be a fire, data breach, or the death of a key
employee. You shift from any other activities to solely focus on the issues
associated with the emergency.
biggest challenge when dealing with a crisis is you often do not have warning
that something significant will happen. Few organizations adequately prepare
for a disaster. Then, when something significant hits, everyone scrambles
trying to figure out what to do. It is difficult to think clearly to establish
essential priorities when your adrenaline has kicked in and everyone is in a
highly emotional or pressurized state of mind. Just make sure you are not
treating routine activities or missed project deadlines as a crisis.
a disaster plan for the types of crisis your enterprise is most likely to
experience. When you have the luxury to prepare in advance, you and your team
are more likely to have a clearer frame of mind to identify what the focus of your
priorities must be to develop a clear framework for rapid action in an
you begin to consider demands on your time as being different kinds of time,
you can shift your focus toward optimizing your priorities and activities. This
more process-oriented focus of your thinking on productivity will help you
better prioritize your actions. Then you can more effectively avoid
time-wasting activities and ensure you are focused on getting the desired
results for the energy you spend.
Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.