Tag Archives: Schedules

Regain Control of Your Time – FREE Webinar

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Are you struggling with all the things you have to do each day?  Wondering how to get it all done?  Managing your time is a critical skill to help you achieve your goals and get things done.  In this webinar we will cover the benefits of time management, the types of activities that we all face and review key strategies to gaining control over your time and activities.

Topics:

  • Why Manage Time
  • Types of Activities
  • Keys to Controlling Your Schedule
  • Next Steps

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: April 17, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Regaining Control of Your Schedule

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

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Schedule Time to Develop Yourself

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When you look at your weekly / daily schedule do you have time available for growth and development?  Is there time that you spend learning new things, using new skills or doing something new?  If not, why not?  Often these activities are squeezed in when there is a free block of time that feels empty unless we do something with it or they get scheduled in time to meet a performance goal requirement.  Yet growth and development is a crucial part of your career and life.  To move upward, or into any new job, you must have new skills so you must make the time to acquire those skills.

With all the tasks and activities that are part of your day it may seem impossible to find the time to learn something new.  However, if you are committed to advancing your career it means you will need to find that time.  Here are 4 tips to making time to develop new skills:

  1. Listen to an audio book while commuting.  If you drive to work or take public transportation this can be a great time to listen to an audio book on a topic you want to learn more about.
  2. Read blogs / articles during lunch.  With the ease of accessing the internet from smart phones or tablets taking 15 minutes during lunch to read up on new topics or trends can be a great break from your daily chores.
  3. Plan a lunch and learn once a month.  Bring a lunch and take your lunch break to schedule a group discussion on a new topic once a month.  Get others involved and spend an hour in a lively discussion with others on something that is relevant to your workplace.
  4. Take a class.  Find a class on a topic you want to learn more on, sign up and put it on your calendar.  Maybe it’s something you can do during lunch, or do online at your convenience, or it’s a class that meets once a week for several weeks.  Whatever it is invest your time by getting it on your calendar and committing to completing it.

Where you go during your life and career is largely up to you.  You make the decision of what to path to follow and what interests to pursue.  If your goals include advancing in your current field or to enter a new field you will need new knowledge, skills and abilities.  It’s up to you to get them so find the time to develop.  Make it part of your daily or at least weekly routine.

When you learn a new skill, put it to use or share it with someone else.  Be open to new ideas and new information.  The amazing part is that you may discover a new area of interest that had been previously unknown.

The world awaits – go out and find your place in it.

photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Time Management Myth

HourglassThere is a prevailing myth that we, as humans, can manage time.  We really can’t.  There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day – every day and it’s the same amount for everyone.  So why is it that some people seem to get so much more out of their time?  They recognize that they can’t manage time; however, they can use that time effectively to get things done.

Time management is about effective time utilization.  It’s that easy and it’s that hard.  So how can we get the most out of our time each day?  Here are three keys to get you started:

  1. Know what’s important.
  2. Understand time needed for what’s important.
  3. Block out time for the important.

The first thing to do is to get clear on what’s important.  These are the things you need and want to do.  On the job they are your job responsibilities and goals.  This may be a weekly report, month end statements, or the project that is due on Tuesday.   In your personal life, these are the things that are important to your life goals.  These may be spending time with family and friends, exercising, enjoying your hobbies.  Whatever is important, make note of it, take the time to get clear and stay aware of what’s critical to your job and your life.  Make a list so you can stay on top of them.

Now that you know what is important take the time to figure out what is required for each item.  The weekly report may take an hour each Friday; okay make a note of it.  If the month end statements take a day, recognize it.  If you want to exercise an hour four times a week it’s important to take that into consideration.  Assign time for each of the important items on your list.

Finally, when you know how much time is needed for the important things you can open your calendar and start blocking out time for each item.  The weekly report that takes an hour every Friday should have an appointment with you every Friday.  If you need an hour four mornings a week to exercise, schedule it – make an appointment with yourself to get in shape.  When we look at our calendars the things that are scheduled and have time blocked out are more likely to get done as planned.  These items are compelling on our calendar so put the items from your important list on your calendar.

People who effectively use their time to get things done recognize these three steps and follow them.  Their exact method probably varies, but they acknowledge and make time for what’s important to them.  This gives them control over what they do each day and they are focused on accomplishing the important goals and spending their time on important things.

We each have the same amount of time each day, what we do with it is up to us.  Make this a great day!

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Forest vs Trees?

Do you focus on the forest or the trees when you look at projects or all the things you have to do?  I know some people who only look at the trees; they see each individual tree and can’t see that they make up something much bigger.  Other people I know only seem to see the forest; the individual trees don’t exist to them.  Unfortunately, these folks are both missing part of the picture which can hamper their ability to get things done.

I’ve known a few unique people who seem to be able to see both the forest and the individual trees at the same time.  These are a rare breed of people and yet they are the ones who seem to get the most done in the most efficient manner.  So how do they do it?

First they look at the overall picture to see the overall scope of the project (the forest).  This allows them to understand the size and shape of what is to be tackled.  Looking at the bigger picture can really help identify the boundaries of the project, anyone else who going to be impacted by it, and what resources are going to be needed to get it done. 

Once they get the lay of the land it’s time to look at the details (the trees).  This is the time to get into the nitty-gritty of the tasks.  What needs to happen, when it needs to be done and by whom.  Taking the time to identify all the steps in the project along with the specific timeline and resources is critical to the successful completion.

Most of us can, and do, look at projects from both perspectives.  The trick is to be able to switch back and forth between them on a frequent basis.  It is so easy to get caught up in the details that you totally lose track of the bigger picture.  Focusing on what has to be done next, what the current obstacle is, or who is not keeping up are all vital actions.  However, they aren’t the only critical things to keep track of during a project.  Take a few moments to step back from the details and make sure the project is still on track and heading in the right direction.  Evaluate if the scope has crept up (gotten bigger) or if the project is going to impact other people who were not previously identified.  These can only be done by looking at the forest.

When things are overwhelming and there seems to be too much going on shifting your natural focus is difficult, if not seemingly impossible.  The good news is it doesn’t take long to make the shift for a status check.  Looking at the forest if you are a detail person can really help you keep things in check.  As well, if you are a big picture person looking at the trees will help you make sure all the needed steps are being taken.  The other perspective will help you get a handle on the whole picture and may reduce stress because you now have a better understanding of where you are and where you need to go.

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Activity vs Results

I’ve seen a lot of information lately on the idea of what constitutes productivity.  Is it getting things done or is it getting results?  I love this debate because it really is relevant to today’s world. 

So often we get caught up in the idea of checking things off the list and we focus on that list.  But do we look at what are the results of the actions we take?  Many of the time management systems out there tell us to prioritize our activities, identify what is important and make sure we look to the important things first.  This may still be a focus on the things we do.  Many jobs are geared towards getting things done and people are rewarded for getting things done.  I know I’ve been proud that people see me as someone who “gets things done” and yet at times it feels very hollow.   I’ve gotten true satisfaction from the results I’ve achieved more than the things I’ve done.  This distinction is important for productivity.

The idea of lean processes is to get rid of waste and focus on the things that create value.  This really is a results based thought process.  By zeroing in on the things that create value in a business process the company can eliminate waste, save money and be more profitable because their efforts are centered on the things that matter and will provide the best results.  Going through a process mapping exercise can be enlightening to the people involved.  They have been focused on all the things that they do get complete the process and often they have never stopped to think about which of those things really have no impact on the results.  They just do the steps to get it all done.

What if we looked at our daily to-do list from that same perspective?  What results do we need to achieve and what steps do we take to get there?  Are there things on our list that can be skipped without jeopardizing our results?  How much more time would we have in the day to really accomplish the results we want if we work only on the things that impact the results? 

Now I know there are many things that we do because they are required by others, so we can’t just stop doing those.  However, do you know why that report is needed or why something is required?  If not, ask about it.  It maybe something that has always been done so it must continue, but if no one uses the information to get the results they need, where is the value in it? 

The key to making this work is to know needed results of what you are doing.  Understand the why of the activity that is on your to-do list.  This accomplishes two things for you.  First you will know how important the task is for you and / or the organization.  Secondly it will tell you what you need to do to successfully complete the task.  This allows you to do the things that will make your efforts valuable without wasting time and energy doing something that has no impact or no value to the end product.

For you is productivity about results or completing tasks?

photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Leveraging Resources

To really get the most out of your day it is critical that you get help.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have too much on their plate and no matter how much you do each day there’s always more, so to really make a dent in that list it is important to use resources that are available to you.  This may be in the form of other people or electronic tools.

First let’s look at how to get the most help from the people around you.  This is the biggest asset you have in your arsenal of resources.  If you are a manager you need to delegate to your team.  This helps you get more done and it helps them grow.  There are some routine tasks that can be more effectively done by others and there are tasks that will stretch members of the team.  Keep in mind the abilities, goals and strengths of the people who work for you when you are delegating.  Explain what is needed, when it is due, and check for understanding of the requirements.  If this is a stretch for someone you may need to create checkpoints to make sure they are on track and not struggling.  Their failure becomes yours if you did not set them up for success.

If you are not a manager then you still have people around you that can help.  This is a harder thing to make happen since you do not have the authority to give them work.  You are asking for help.  Doing this wisely will go a long way to reducing your load and building your credibility for future leadership roles.  The keys to doing this successfully are to be sincere in your request for help and to pick your helper wisely.  Someone who is always complaining of being overloaded is not going to help you at all.  If there is a person who is really good at something and does it with ease, asking them to do that kind of task for you can work well, particularly if you ask them to help you become as good as they are at it.  Other people love doing certain tasks, if you need help in these areas they can be ideal helpers.  Again, be sincere in your request, no dumping all the trash tasks on others, and offer to help them in return.  Make it a true case of give and take and live up to your agreements and you will find support around you. 

The other area where you can get help is by using technology to help you out.  If you have to update monthly data and produce charts and reports you can set up programs like Excel to make it easier to do these.  I’ve often set things up so that all I do is enter the data, refresh the charts, print and I’m done.  Much easier.  Also, you can use other electronic tools to help you manage files and data.  Many programs have ways quickly update information.  The best bet is to take the time to learn how to get the most out of the programs you use.  Find a skilled user to teach you, take a class or use on-line training to get smarter on the tools you use.  It can add work initially, but in the long run your time is available for doing things that add value to your organization or for doing the things you love to do.

Look around you and identify the resources that are available to you.  Make a list of people who can help you and where you can learn to do more with the programs you use regularly.  This will help you get the ball rolling on leveraging your resources.

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Adaptability

So how do you handle that curve ball that comes at you and totally throws your schedule/ plan off track?  What do you do when opportunity knocks and changes the environment around you? 

This past weekend I put a plan together to address all the things I have coming up over the next couple of months, including relocating the family from the desert southwest to the upper Midwest.  All was on track to work out pretty well, some finer details would come as the dates got closer, but the overall plan was established.  Then a friend contacts me about doing some consulting work for her company until I move, could I come in to discuss it with the key people today.  On the surface this doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, however this project would preempt another project that was gearing up to start at the end of this month.  Now I have to look at everything and re-evaluate what I can tackle and what has to be dropped.

I could spend days looking at the pros and cons of the two work projects and how they affect the family, the move, and my long-term goals.  Reality is I have less than 24 hours to decide what to do.  If I choose the new project I will need to re-evaluate the plan for the next couple of months and possible shift around dates for the move.  It’s has quite the impact on the bigger plan.  It’s a good problem to have, so here’s how I’m tackling it.

  • Time Requirements:  First I looked at what the new opportunity would require of me in terms of time vs. the other project.  Which gives me the best schedule for me and my family?  How does each project fit into the overall plan for the next several months?
  • Alignment with Goals:  While both projects support my long-term goals which one would really help me get where I want to go quicker?  Does one have a higher impact than the other?
  • Side Effects:  Like most things there are side effects to taking the projects.  One requires significant travel while one is local but could impact my move date.  So which ones can I live with?
  • Financial Impact:  Lastly I looked at which would have the best contribution to my income.  I will be working as a contractor in both cases so cash flow is a real consideration for me; however it was the last of the items.  I am more interested in fit than the money.

As I went through this exercise I realized this is a good process to use to quickly evaluate new opportunities that drop in on you.  Over the years I have done this when considering job transfers, promotions, and relocations.  It helps put things in perspective as part of the bigger picture.  So when a curve ball comes your way, or even just a new opportunity, stop and follow these four steps to see what will work best for you.  Once you are clear on your direction you can adjust your schedule to meet the new demands.  Your priorities will help you align your tasks.

How have you handled the need to adapt to a changing world?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Team Project Scheduling

When working as part of a team on a complex project scheduling is critical to the successful completion of the project.  Creating this schedule is a major undertaking of its own.  Of course there are many tools that can be used to document the schedule, but the team has to determine the individual tasks and the timing of them to make the schedule work. 

The best way to have successful completion of a team project is for the entire team to buy into the schedule.  If they are committed to the tasks and the schedule it is much easier to overcome the inevitable obstacles.  One good way to get this buy-in is to involve the team in the development of the schedule.  This doesn’t mean every member has a vote; however soliciting input on the areas each person will be involved in can be critical to the success.

Several large projects I’ve been involved in over the years have had a pre-defined end date as well as multiple sub-teams that were focused on specific areas of the project.  The schedules were developed by each sub-team and fed into the overall project plan.  Everything had to meet the defined end date due to larger business concerns.  As part of the integration of the individual schedules the sub-team leaders met to review how their schedules interacted and impacted each other.  This allowed each area of the project to be heard on what is important to them and to air out any constraints, particularly those caused by other aspects of the project. 

As each area defines their tasks and the time required for each step the people working on those steps start to own the work they will be doing.  By stating what they are going to do and by when it helps create a sense of ownership for the tasks.  By documenting the schedule everyone knows what is due and by when.  If the project schedule also has a name assigned to each task then it furthers the ownership and creates accountability for the tasks. 

The final tie to this process all together is to have regular reviews of the schedule with the team leaders and then with the individual sub-teams.  At times this is once a week or more and then it may become less often.  There are projects where the review becomes daily as the project approaches the end just because of the number of items that must fall into place during a short period of time right at the end.  The frequency of reviews is variable and should be decided by the project manager and his leadership team.  As well, frequency should be re-evaluated periodically to make sure it’s still appropriate to support project success.

How do you get team member’s to support the schedule?

photo from iStockphoto.com

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