Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WLA 2006: Conquer the Clock

Wednesday, 11am-12:15pm

The program was presented by organizing coach Nancy Kruschke McKinney.

Organizing is a learned skill, you don't need to be a born organizer. :-)

Her goal for each of us in the presentation is that we take one idea back, and implement it.

Her #1 idea, the one people tell her is the best idea she gave them:
Use post-it notes as file folder labels if you don't know what to label it; don't stress out about making a fancy or permanent label

Ways to tackle time:
  • what we control is what we choose to do with time
Think of how you're investing your time.

Resources she recommends:
Time wasters:
  • Too much paper -- trim the F.A.T. (file, act, toss) and stop bringing in paper
  • Time spent waiting
  • Interruptions -- remove the guest chair from your office
  • Long meetings
  • Lack of focus
  • Phone calls and email messages
  • Junk mail
  • Technology
Time savers:
  • Make your paper inbox a limited space so it can't grow too large.
  • Create rules in your email mailbox so items go into folders
  • Have a free email account (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) to use for signing up for stuff, so junk mail goes there
  • You can gain an hour a week by not having to go through junk e-mail
  • Plan and prepare for waiting by carrying stuff with you, so when you end up waiting somewhere, you can make good use of your time to catch up on reading; or close your eyes and de-compress -- there's nothing wrong with doing nothing
How to minimize interruptions:
  • People who drop in at your office -- remove visitor chairs to prevent co-workers from dropping in and spending too much time
  • Meetings -- hold stand-up meetings; people don't want to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time.
  • Ask what the issue is, and if you don't have time to talk right now, schedule 15 minutes with them later on at a time convenient for both. "I want 15 more minutes to work on this, and after that I can devote 100% of my energy to listening to you."
  • Learn to say no -- before answering yes, say "let me consult my calendar; I want to make sure I can give you 100% of my time" or say "I need to consult my calendar, call me about it next week." Say "ask me again in a couple of years". Choose what projects in which to invest your time. It's OK to say no after the fact if it isn't working for you, or your schedule has changed.
  • Schedule an hour of "red flag" time, a time of no interruptions, as in "if the red flag is up, please don't bother me." Use it only when you absolutely can not be bothered. Protect your time from interruptions. Ask your staff to deflect interruptions by saying phrases like "I'm sorry she's not available; is there anything I can help you with?"
  • Any meeting you're having, make sure you're sticking to the agenda. Assign each agenda item a timespan, to set expectations for the length of the meeting. Encourage attendees to send additional agenda items ahead of time.
  • Delegate to an attendee the job of being a time-keeper to help keep you on schedule.s
  • Have meeting before lunch.
  • Have meetings before the end of the work day.
  • If a meeting goes on too long, perhaps there were too many items on the agenda, or maybe you don't have enough face-time with those folks and they feel this is their chance to have a voice.
  • Can you send someone else in your place?
  • If you're invited to speak at a meeting, ask to be first on the agenda so you may absent yourself after your contribution.
Lack of focus:
  • Prepare ahead of time; know what your day is going to look like. Maybe the last 5-10 minutes of your work day, look at what's coming up tomorrow. Look at what items you didn't get to today, and see where they can fit in the following days. This way you can put your day "to bed", so you're not thinking of your day when you're at home or trying to fall asleep.
  • This motivates you to get started on your day, to get started on your to-do list. You've made a conscious decision of how to invest your time for that day.
Junk mail:
  • Get yourself off of mailing lists.
  • Stand over the recycle bin as you look at your mail; don't let mail make it into a pile on the kitchen table or counter.
Magazine subscriptions:
  • What do you subscribe to, that you don't necessarily need?
  • If you take it out of your mailbox and just put it on a pile, maybe it's time to cancel the subscription. You might get a refund on the un-used portion of your subscription.
  • Learn to use your software efficiently; take a class or ask a techie.
  • Delegate to someone else on staff who has skills in that area or software.
Tools you can use:
  • Put dollar amounts on the items on your to-do list. If it's just a pennys-worth = doesn't need to be done, it can be delegated, or it can wait until another time. Group these low-value items together and get them done when you can.
  • Focus on the items that have the highest return on your investment of time.
  • Use the Time Management Matrix from Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Find when you're at your peak? When can you focus the best? When are you the most creative? That's when to schedule in the urgent activities on your Time Management Matrix.
  • Does the project seem to be too huge? If so, break it down and allocate 15 minutes in your calendar to focus on that chunk of it. Block that time in your calendar. Maybe make this red-flag time.
  • Be present in the moment when you've chosen an activity in which to invest your time.

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