CHAPTER OVERVIEW • This chapter describes basic techniques of time management and stress management. • It identifies ways supervisors can control how they use their time. • It also discusses how they can manage their own stress and help employees.
Time management can be improved through the use of time logs to determine how time is being spent. • Data from the log can be utilized to categorize tasks and plan for future time usage.
The chapter also lists time wasters such as • meetings, • phone calls, • paperwork and reading material, • unscheduled visitors, • procrastination, • perfectionism, and • failure to delegate work.
Methods are suggested to handle each time waster. • For example, when the supervisor calls a meeting, he or she can • start the meeting on time, • keep discussion on track, and • end on time.
Stress can be stimulating, but an excessive amount of stress leads to illness and lower performance, as well as aggressive behavior, and feeling frustrated, tense, and moody. • When a person cannot cope with stress over an extended period of time, the person may experience burnout.
Some people are more likely to feel the effects of stress than others. • In addition, certain job factors have been linked to stress. • These involve the • organization’s policies, • structure, • physical conditions, and • processes.
When employees feel out of control and if the workplace is unsafe or unpredictable, employees will suffer more from the effects of stress.
Stress can be managed by • practicing effective time management, • maintaining a positive attitude, • getting exercise, • using biofeedback, • meditating, and • leading a well-rounded life.
These actions do not reduce the amount of stress the person is under, but they do make a person better able to handle the stress. • Organizations can help employees manage stress by such practices as • job enlargement and job enrichment, • modifying jobs and training to make work more interesting, • giving employees more control, and • making sure employees understand their job.
Time Log: A record of what activities a person is doing hour by hour throughout the day. • The time log can be used when you are having trouble fitting everything into your day and when you want to monitor your behavior to stay in charge of your time.
The chapter approach to time management is similar to the problem-solving method of Chapter 10: • a. Identify the problem. • b. Identify the alternative solutions. • c. Gather and organize the facts. • d. Evaluate the alternatives. • e. Select and implement the best alternative. • f. Get feedback and take corrective action.
Before you can take control over the way you use time, you have to understand what you are doing, or identify the problem. • Identification of the problem requires the collection of data. • The log is a method of data collection.
The time log is developed by writing down what you did during the previous half hour. • Don’t wait until the end of the day because it is too difficult to remember the detail of the day.
After keeping the log for at least one week, review the log for the following information. • How much time did I spend on important activities? • How much time did I spend on activities that didn’t need to get done? • How much time did I spend on activities that someone else could have done (perhaps with training)? • What important jobs did I not get around to finishing?
Also look for patterns such as certain times of the day spent on telephone calls and in meetings. • Did you do the most important jobs first or the easiest ones?
Supervisors need to make sure that the most important things get done each day before moving on to less important activities. • Thus, your first step of planning consists of deciding what you need to do and which activities are most important. • Review yearly objectives, figure out what you need to accomplish in shorter time periods, and use them to plan what you will need to accomplish each week and day.
A “to do” list is helpful. • Spend a few minutes at the end of the week to write a “to do” list for the following week. • Write an “A” next to all activities that must be completed that week. • These are the top priority jobs. • Write “B” next to important activities that can be postponed if necessary. • Label everything else “C.”
Schedule time for working on the “A” and “B” jobs, and if you have time, work on the “C,” jobs.
Scheduling Your Work • Schedule first all regular activities, such as Monday morning staff meetings or appointments you have made.
Find time for your remaining “A” activities. • Avoid putting them at the end of the day or week. • If a crisis comes up, you will need another chance to finish these activities. • Schedule the most challenging and most important activities for the time of day when you are at your best. • Schedule time for thinking, not just for doing. • The creative process requires time for reflection. • Don’t fill up every hour of the day and week. • Leave some free time to handle unexpected problems and questions from your employees and others. • Use any time you are not busy to do “C” jobs.
A supervisor who has access to a computer will be able to benefit from time management software. • Examples are Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, which allow users of a computer network to plan their own time and to coordinate their time with others on the network.
Other software programs include the Windows operating system which includes some desktop organizer features. • 3Com’s PalmPilot, a handheld “personal digital assistant,” is also a popular and easy-to-use scheduler.
We all are likely to have habits that lead to wasted time. • Overcoming these habits is a matter of • recognizing the time-wasting behavior, • developing new behaviors, and • practicing the behaviors until they become comfortable habits.
Reducing wasted time does not mean there is no time to relax, but it is necessary that supervisors accomplish the organization’s and their own goals. • If this is not happening effectively, then supervisors need to work on better use of their time.
Many supervisors find that specific activities and attitudes are what most often lead them to waste time. • Some time-wasting activities are necessary, but the problem is that supervisors don’t always handle them wisely.
The common time wasters include: • Meetings. • Telephone calls. • Paperwork and reading material. • Unscheduled visitors. • Procrastination. • Perfectionism. • Failure to delegate. • Inability to say “no.”
Meetings. • The main reason many supervisors hate meetings is that meetings often waste time. • Common problems include • lack of promptness by attendees, • chit-chat about nonwork-related matters, • the discussion drifts off target, and • perhaps the group never even completes the task it gathered to carry out.
The supervisor may not be able to control the wasted time in a meeting chaired by someone else. • Encourage the careful use of time by being prompt, and help keep the discussion on target. • If the discussions seem irrelevant, try to tactfully ask the speaker to explain how the current discussion will help accomplish the goal of the meeting.
When you call a meeting, set a time to start and end the meeting. • Start promptly. • If you can’t solve the problem in the time allotted, schedule a follow-up meeting.
Telephone calls. • People who call you usually have no way of knowing whether the time is convenient. • Because they interrupt the flow of work, telephone calls can be time wasters. • To take control of your time, have your calls screened, if possible, when you are working on top-priority jobs. • If you answer the phone while you are in a meeting or involved in something important, explain that you cannot give the call the attention it deserves at that time, and schedule a time to call back when it will be convenient for both of you.
If the person calling is your boss or a customer, the phone call may be your top priority.
Procrastination: Putting off what needs to be done. • One of the reasons people say they procrastinate is that they can do a better job under pressure. A supervisor’s job has many sources of pressure or stress. This may be one behavior that can be changed to reduce stress.
Think ahead when placing calls. • Consider different time zones when making long-distance calls. • Make sure you have all information you will need close at hand. • If the person you are calling is not available, ask when you can reach him or her, rather than simply leaving a message.
Time savers by telephone include calling ahead to confirm appointments and verifying directions. • Telephone calls can take the place of meetings, especially if the matter to be discussed is straightforward or uncomplicated.
Paperwork and reading material. • Supervisors spend a lot of time reading mail, reports, and magazines. • They also must prepare reports, letters, and memos to send to others. • These are not necessarily a waste of time, but they can become time wasters when done inefficiently. • Most advice on how to manage paperwork is based on the principle of handling each item only once.
Set aside time to read all the papers that cross your desk. • Decide whether each item is something you need to act on. • If not, throw it away immediately. • If you must act, decide on the most efficient response. • An efficient way to respond to a memo is to write the response across the memo and return it to the sender. When possible, answer a letter with a phone call. • If you must prepare a report, set time aside in your schedule immediately.
With regard to reading material--magazines, newsletters, and newspapers--decide which ones are useful and stop receiving the rest. • Review internal reports. • If the report is not providing useful information, ask to be taken off the distribution list.
Unscheduled Visitors. • Supervisors are interrupted at times by unscheduled visitors, including • customers, • peers, • employees, • salespeople, or • anyone else who turns up without an appointment.
The key to controlling your time is to know which interruptions are important. • An angry customer or your boss dropping in to discuss an idea are interruptions you will probably need to work around. • But when a coworker in another department stops in to talk about personal things or a salesperson shows up unannounced, the interruption is not such a high priority.
With low-priority interruptions, the supervisor needs to take control diplomatically over his or her time. • Set a time to talk later or limit the time commitment by saying, “I’ve got five minutes. What’s on your mind?”
When employees interrupt, remember it is the supervisor’s job to listen and help them. • If they come to you with problems, listen, then ask, “What do you suggest we do about that?” • This shows the employee that the supervisor expects him or her to participate in finding solutions. • With practice, the employee may learn to handle problems more independently.
For problems that are not pressing, the supervisor may want to schedule time later when both the employee and supervisor can meet and work on the problem. • At that time the employee should be given priority by eliminating other interruptions.
Procrastination. • Procrastination: Putting off what needs to be done. • One of the reasons people say they procrastinate is that they can do a better job under pressure. • A supervisor’s job has many sources of pressure or stress. • This may be one behavior that can be changed to reduce stress.
Procrastination is a time waster because it leads people to spend time on low-priority activities while they avoid higher priorities. • The best cure is to jump right in. • Decide the first step to be taken, do that step, and then do the next step. • You’ll find that you’re building momentum and that the big job no longer feels so overwhelming.
If you need more incentive, set deadlines for completing each step, and give yourself a reward for completing each step. • If the project seems thoroughly unpleasant, you can concentrate on the rewards. • Of course, the ultimate reward will be finishing the job.
Perfectionism. • While high standards can inspire high performance, perfectionism can make some people afraid to try at all. • It may sound like a noble goal, but the fact is that human beings are imperfect. • Expecting perfection dooms a person to failure. • Determine the highest standard you can realistically achieve. • You may be able to meet a higher standard by drawing on the expertise of employees and peers.
Failure to Delegate. • Perfection often underlies the failure to delegate work. • Even when someone else can do a job more efficiently in terms of that person’s cost and availability, a supervisor may resist delegating because the supervisor believes he or she is the only one who can really do the job right.
Inability to say “no.” • Control who and what your time is allocated for. • It’s easy to let other people and their demands control how we use our time, so we end up overextending ourselves by taking on more tasks than we can possibly do well.
If someone comes to you with an opportunity that will require a significant commitment of time, learn to tell the person politely that you will consider the offer and will reply at some specific time, say, by the end of the week. • Then assess what you’re already committed to do and what your priorities are. • In some cases you will decide you don’t have enough time to do justice to the new task, and you will have to decline. • If your life is already busy but the opportunity seems important, it can be useful to ask, “What activity am I willing to give up in order to make time for this new one?”