Protect your time: I’ve learned so much from working closely with Lu, but perhaps my all-time favorite is that “inefficiency on your part does not consistute an emergency on mine.” Don’t let others who are less organized than you monopolize your time.
Leverage technology: She is a heavy user of folders and sub-folders in her Outlook inbox and electronic documents, which helps her spend less time searching for things. Lu also uses e-mail discussions to minimize the need for timely face-to-face meetings and long conference calls.
Delegate: This can be tough to accomplish without being bossy, she says, but it allows others to learn and grow and frees her up to focus on other things.
Chief Legal Officer Jason Hood has a lot on his plate, including managing our active legal department and spending time with his wife and two children. He uses tools like Franklin Covey’s day timer and desk file sorter to stay organized. He also suggests:
- Set goals: Jason’s refreshing management style includes asking his employees to carve out one big professional goal and one big personal goal each year. He then works to support them in both areas. You can focus on maybe 3 or 4 goals at a time, Jason says, but not 12.
- Be flexible: Accept that your best-laid plans will go often astray. When interruptions do arise, address them and then get back to your original goal, or replace it with a new one.
- Discipline: Schedule time for the things you really don’t want to do. Power through to get them done, rather than procrastinating by accomplishing five smaller and less important tasks.
- Write things down: Jason puts his task list to paper so that it’s not constantly scrolling through his head. He also tries to journal what he achieves each day to give himself a sense of accomplishment and clear his focus for tomorrow’s tasks.
Joe Labetti is a regional account executive who is notorious for having the cleanest desk in the office. His secret: never touch a piece of paper twice. It’s a mantra he learned from an old boss that remains central to his approach to work. For example, the only papers on his desk at any given time are those he is acting on that day. After something has been handled, it either gets filed or thrown away. The same holds true for his e-mails–messages stay in his inbox for no more than a day. The rest are sorted into folders. Joe warns against falling into the trap of moving piles of paper around (a.k.a. story of my life), as he finds clutter very distracting. How does he keep up with it all so efficiently? Structure and organization, he says.
Attorney Melisa Spencer is a busy working mom of two young children. Her biggest challenge is the work/family balance that so many of us struggle with. Her tips for staying afloat include:
- Find stable childcare: “I’m not functional if my kids aren’t taken care of,” Melisa says. Knowing that her children are in good hands gives her the peace of mind she needs to focus on work.
- Schedule what’s important: Keeping an up-to-date calendar in Outlook helps her prioritize and manage her time each day.
- Work on yourself, not just work: Meeting personal goals can be even tougher than succeeding at work, but it’s important to remember that you are a person too.
- Master the art of delegating: It’s ok to admit that you can’t do it all by yourself. Enlist help where you can.
Tom Pfingstag, director of program management, is without a doubt the most cheerful person in the office, so he must be doing something right in the area of work/life balance. Tom recommends:
- See the big picture: With so many distractions from phone calls and e-mails, we end up taking care of a lot of small tasks that don’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Stay focused on what really matters. Don’t confuse what you want to get done with what really needs to get done. Think to yourself: What’s the most important thing I could be doing at this very minute?
- Decompress: No one can work 24/7. We all need to relax once in a while to sharpen our focus.
- Know how you work: By trial and error, learn what motivates you and what makes you more efficient.
Like Tom Pfingstag said, no one time management model works for everyone. Chances are that, like me, you work with some really smart people who have different time management styles. I learned so much from my conversations with these five individuals and highly recommend that you do a little crowdsourcing of your own. Get up the courage to ask your colleagues about their time management secrets, and then try them on for size. Some will work for you, others will not, and that’s ok. You can learn from the experience of others and make it your own. As Jason Hood said, no matter how good you already are at something, there is always room for improvement.
What have you learned about time management from the successful people in your life?