Time is money - managing your own time and your team's time
In the pages of this series, we have repeatedly mentioned that one of the most important features of a good leader is the ability to think strategically (also known as visionary), which determines the direction of the activities of the entire organization. It is very important for the leader to be able to set for himself and his subordinates a clearly defined and achievable goal that will be the driving force of all actions. You also need the perseverance and consistency of all those involved in achieving this goal. But that's not all. Among the multitude of tasks to be done "yesterday", even the best-defined and well-thought-out pursuit has no chance of success if the leader is not able to properly manage his own time and the time of the team. Time is one of the basic resources of the organization, which when properly used can contribute to success without straining the strength of the leader and his subordinates. So how can you tame this element? What can get in the way of our daily duties? What is procrastination, and why can't it be called laziness? You will find answers to these questions in the penultimate part of the series on leadership in an organization.
Why is our time running out?
Before we move on to managing our own time and the team's time, we will first look at the factors that prevent us from using it effectively. As already mentioned, this is a very important resource, the amount of which is unfortunately strictly limited - a day will always be 24 hours, an hour 60 minutes, and a minute - 60 seconds. What's more, it cannot be recalled, stored, bought or replaced. It might seem that 168 hours (a whole week) is a lot of time, during which you can do a lot. Of course, it is, provided that it is properly used.
A common explanation that appears when someone did not complete the task entrusted to him on time is "I did not make it, because time somehow quickly passed me by". Exactly what makes this happen? There are many factors responsible for this, which can be divided into internal - dependent on the human - and external, that is, everything that happens "outside" him. Let's look at each of these groups.
Among the internal factors contributing to the "fleeting" of time, the following can be mentioned:
- ill-considered actions - doing something just for the sake of doing, without plans or defining a goal,
- lack of knowledge - time is spent on constant reading, searching for information,
- lack of experience, which translates into inefficiency in operation,
- lack of assertiveness - the inability to refuse is associated with the fact that on our desk there are piles of documents and tasks to be done,
- lack of motivation - who does not remember how interesting a wall can be, when we have to learn something uninteresting, read a report or read a manual,
- lack of internal discipline, which translates into being on time and constantly on the run,
- irregularity - postponing subsequent tasks, piling up duties,
- mess - people spend a lot of time looking for things, documents, "which were here somewhere",
- inaccuracy, which may translate into the need to perform the same activity several times,
- excessive talkativeness - or rather the inability to separate the time that should be devoted to work, and the deficit of free time that can be spent on "gossip".
Man's worst enemy in the fight against time is the lack of awareness of the existence of the above-mentioned. factors that make it impossible to control them. This is a very common problem that makes the vast majority of people unable to rationally manage their own time. Of course, many of them are personality traits that are difficult to change (such as procrastination discussed later in this article), but as many people who have had contact with time management programs show, it is possible to tame them. But more on that later.
Let us go back to the causes of time slippage. In addition to internal factors, external factors, such as:
- unexpected events on the way to work,
- sudden gathering of employees,
- unplanned trip to a contractor,
- a call from a dissatisfied customer,
- working conditions unfavorable for concentration (noise, traffic, etc.),
- breakdowns of equipment necessary for work,
- timeliness of people with whom we have an appointment
- and many others.
As you can see, most of them are beyond our control, but proper preparation can prevent the catastrophic consequences of such unforeseen events.
Procrastination, i.e. the willingness to postpone everything for later
In recent years, the "disease" of the 21st century has become very loud, consisting in the tendency to constantly postpone certain activities to later - called procrastination. Its effects can be seen not only at work or school, but also in private life. Very often you can meet opinions according to which it is just laziness called in a more professional way and looking for excuses for people who simply do not belong to the workaholics in the world. However, it was not without reason that psychologists recognized procrastination as a mental disorder. People who have been affected are known as procrastinators. What characterizes them?
A typical procrastinator, when faced with a task that requires more effort from him, loses all motivation, self-confidence and feels very anxious. Despite his willingness and decision to start work, he fails to implement his assumptions, which is mainly due to the fear of failure. The next step is to become aware of the negative effects of procrastinating, which increases the anxiety that prevents you from getting to work. The procrastinator starts making excuses to get away from the problem. The entire process results in a last-minute stress-completed task, late completion, or non-completion, followed by the promise of not repeating the pattern.
This procedure makes the task more and more difficult to complete. Also, prolonging it in time does not help, which increases the feeling of discouragement and helplessness. Procrastination can take various forms - from mild, where stress management techniques will be effective, to very severe, even requiring pharmacological intervention.
Time management and team time - how does it work?
After a digression about procrastination and other factors that make us run out of time, let's move on to the clue of this article.
Time management is nothing more than the planned and systematic performance of tasks aimed at achieving a goal.
There are three aspects of this definition that should be noted. First of all - it is a planned action, i.e. based on a previously prepared, well-thought-out plan or schedule. Second - being systematic, that is, doing something regularly, carefully, in an orderly manner, according to a certain system. The third important aspect is the often mentioned goal, which should be clearly defined before an action plan is drawn up. People like to know and see what they are striving for, so he should accompany and be reminded of the team members at every stage of the implementation.
The general flow of the time management process for own and team time includes:
The stage of setting goals - both at the individual and organizational level, it is the most important moment, because here it comes to the identification of activities that must be performed in order for the set goals to be achieved.
Planning stage, i.e. predicting the time needed to perform individual activities. If this applies to the entire organization, the leader may ask for help from team members, who will later be involved in the implementation of individual stages. It is worth remembering about the margin of error, i.e. allocating a little more time for each task - thanks to this, it will be possible to avoid possible delays caused by underestimating the necessary time and the occurrence of unforeseen events (such as employee illness, machine failure, etc.).
The stage of deciding how to perform the tasks is the moment of determining who is responsible for what, how the next stages of the activity are to be performed, which is considered to be the result of a given activity.
Implementation stage, i.e. creating an action plan / schedule for the activities performed. It is very important to determine the sequence of activities, the time needed for each of them and specify the resources necessary for their implementation. If tasks of the entire team are planned, everyone should have access to them in order to be able to participate in their creation and later, at the stage of task implementation, to control the progress of work.
The stage of monitoring, i.e. ongoing monitoring of the achieved results and possible correction of goals. This is a very important task of the leader who should watch over the implementation of the plans made at all times. Of course, he does not have to do it personally - he can determine the form of reporting the implementation of works or appoint people responsible for controlling individual stages.
The above steps are the general assumptions of time management. For many years, however, many different techniques have been developed - there are many books available on the market by various authors who - often based on their own experience - introduce the secrets of controlling the passage of time (e.g. David Allen's GTD model). It is worth reaching for such reading in order to develop your own time management method, which can later be transferred to the functioning of the entire organization. Each of them helps to overcome the internal causes of time-passing and prepare for all external, unforeseen events that may (but do not have to) thwart meticulously prepared plans.
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Mono and polychronic culture - the tasks of a leader
Currently, more and more organizations are so-called multi-culti organizations, i.e. those in which a lot of very "diverse" people work. Please note that depending on the culture we come from, we may have a different sense of time.This translates into a certain way of functioning - both in private and professional life. A good leader at the head of a team whose members come from different parts of the world should be aware of these differences and manage time in the organization in such a way that all people are able to freely carry out their tasks.
What's with this sense of time? Certainly not about other methods of counting it, but about a different interpretation of time. What may be early for one culture, late for another. What may mean "on time" for a person from one country is "definitely too late" for another. Cultures in the world in this regard can be divided into three types:
- monochronic cultures,
- polychronic cultures,
- mixed / moderately monochronic cultures.
Monochronous cultures are very well ordered, they work with a watch in their hand. Their main motto is "time is money". They focus on the task assigned, sticking to the plan. They like to create schedules that set the rhythm of their lives. People from these cultures believe in order and adhere to the principle that there is time and place for everything, therefore they do not combine professional and private life. Germany and the United States are good examples of countries with a monochronic culture.
Polychronic cultures tend to mix private and professional life. The main motto of people from this type of country is "what is delayed does not run away". They do not care about being late, not only for social meetings, but also for business meetings, and even in the implementation of plans made by the entire organization. The hallmark of these cultures is the value of interpersonal relationships above all else. Examples of such countries are: Arab countries, most African and Latin American countries.
The third type of cultures are mixed or moderately monochronic cultures. They show features of both types described above, i.e. they like to work according to a schedule, but do not stick to it as tightly as purely monochronic cultures. They do not like latecomers, but they can easily accept a one-time slip-up. They separate private and professional life, but sometimes they combine both - and they don't find it unnatural. Poland is an example of a moderately monochronic country.
How to work with people from monochronic cultures?
- Don't be late for appointments.
- Make schedules and stick to them.
- Have a list of goals and tasks at hand for each position.
- Control how the implementation of individual stages of activities looks like.
How to work with people from polychronic cultures:
- Maintain a pleasant atmosphere at work.
- Set a deadline, but don't be in control all the time.
- Accept that they may need a little more time to complete their tasks.
Appropriate time management of your own and your team's time can bring a number of benefits. The advantages for the organization include increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the team by reducing errors and failures; crisis prevention; improvement of activities by using the experience and knowledge of employees. On the team's side, it is necessary to mention the increased satisfaction with the work performed (they see the goal in it, it is orderly, they know what awaits them) and the related decrease in stress and emotional tension; better use of time to rest and relax, and to increase creativity. It will take time to implement the new behaviors at first, but each month they will become more natural and beneficial.