Throughout my 15 year HR career, I have always been responsible for the appraisal piece of a business – this involves a wide range of practical tasks including organising and implementing the appraisal policy and process; training managers and subordinates on what is involved; how appraisals should be conducted; how to give feedback – both positive and negative; and then finally a training needs analysis based on the “development” or “improvement” areas identified for each individual as a result of their performance.
Without question, the most common area of improvement identified by both a manager and subordinate is improved time management. But what does this actually mean? It means a number of different things to many different people – it could be that deadlines are not being met; there aren’t enough human resources to carry out the work; that too much time is spent on one task when it shouldn’t take that long; too much time is spent on Facebook or other things that aren’t productive; or there simply isn’t enough time to get around to doing everything. People need to be held accountable to delivering their objectives on time and to the right standard.
Outside of work, people wish they were better at managing their time as well. You have that friend that is consistently late; you fluff around at home because you have too many distractions (Netflix is the worst!); or you simply can’t get motivated to do those menial tasks that you never get around to doing. So you procrastinate.
There is a vast difference between being “busy” and being “productive”. How you choose to spend your time (both personally and professionally) is mostly driven by motivation (or lack thereof). We all have the same amount of time – it is the only thing in life that is fairly distributed. What is important is how you spend yours.
Here are three handy tips to help you prioritise the use of your time at home or at work:
Think about what the impact is of doing something, or not doing something. In my profession, advertising for a new vacancy is a high impact task. This is because opening up a job opportunity gives a greater time period of exposure to prospective talent and therefore more time for candidates to prepare their application for the role. Not posting a job advertisement for a day or two is a massive loss – timing is everything in this game. Employment agreements after offer are also a high impact task. Once you’ve made an offer to a candidate, you’ve got to send through their package asap. I had an assistant once who sent a new recruit’s contract off more than two days after offer. The only reason I found out about this was because the candidate called me (the manager) to find out where it was. That’s very embarrassing in the early stages of onboarding.
Invoicing is another great example of impact. If you or your accounts person fails to send out invoices on time or during busy periods – Christmas for example – this can lead to cash flow problems because you won’t receive the money as soon as you otherwise would. Ensure your employees know what is important and what should be prioritised in terms of impact.
2. The 80:20 rule or the Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle sums up the relationship between effort and results, for example:
- 80% of returns is generated by 20% of customers
- 80% of our targets are achieved by 20% of our activities
- 80% of our time produces 20% of our results
A sales manager I know told me she focuses on the 5% of customers who complain. Obviously this is the minority but uses a disproportionate amount of her time compared with the revenue generated from this customer. Think about what generates you the most revenue; this is where you need to be spending your time. Whilst customer satisfaction is important, nurturing those reliable customers is where you need to be spending your time.
It’s the same with low performers in business. Most of a manager’s time will be spent with low performers, having to manage issues such as absenteeism, discipline, performance management conversations and so on, when they should be investing time into high performers, who can actually help to grow the business and themselves.
Although relationships need to be nurtured, low performers who aren’t meeting their KPIs should be efficiently managed out of a business so that your time can be spent on the performers who will increase the return on your human capital investment, as well as your bottom line. This will also increase their engagement and the likelihood that they will stay with you.
3. Important vs Urgent vs Important and Urgent
An urgent task is something that needs to be done right away. An important task moves you or the business forward, such as planning the next year’s work or writing a business case to purchase a capital investment. Deadlines and KPIs are often a driver of what is urgent. You must know what is urgent and important in your role, and not spend time doing only urgent tasks, as the important ones will then become urgent. We recommend organising your time to give enough focus on both the important tasks and the urgent tasks, to avoid important ones becoming urgent and eventually turning into crises.
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