Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Making Every Second Count

There are only so many hours in a day... 24.  Only so many minutes...1,440.  And only so many seconds...86,400.  And I think the last thing any of us want to do is work all of them!  So we need to learn how to make every second count.  We can’t always compartmentalize our day into 8 hours of work.  For many of us I’m sure it’s often 10-12 hours and if you’re working remotely like me it’s probably more than 8 hours and broken up into strange times of the day as you work to support clients in time zones that are much different than your own.  We use mind mapping software, we use project management scheduling software and we use spreadsheets and other tools available to us to make our project lives and decision-making easier and more streamlined, but we still need to make every second count so we don’t find ourselves distracted and ending up working around the clock on days when there are a lot of tasks to be accomplished.

How we manage our work and our time will dictate whether or not we can stay sane during these crazy times on our projects where it seems like there is a never ending stream of ‘to do’s’ on our list.  For me, I like to follow these three concepts in trying to stay on track and manage my time well…

Earn your down time

In order to stay focused and get tasks completed, I’ll set goals for myself.  Part of my consulting work involves social media.  The downfall is that when I must be on social media to share content or perform some marketing tasks or team collaboration, it can sometimes be easy to get distracted and sucked into staying on Twitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn longer than anticipated and start to follow threads other than what I was intending to work on.  I like to reward myself by setting goals such as… when I finish this big tasks I can put work down for 30 minutes and Facebook with family/friends or read an article on an interesting topic, etc.  That way, I know it’s out there, I know I get to take that break, and when I finally do I know that I’ve accomplished a big task and I’m still on track with what I need to do on that particular day.  I’m not off chasing rabbits and getting behind on my work.  I’ve earned my down time.

Lump like tasks

Throughout the day and throughout the week, we’re often doing similar tasks.  Responding to emails, revising project schedules, reforecasting project budgets, and making calls that need to be made.  Whatever seems to be critical at that moment is usually what has our attention.  However, if we look at logically lumping similar tasks together – like revising all project schedules at once across all of our projects and then moving on to budget management and forecasting, etc. - then we can make more efficient use of our time.  And if that doesn’t work – if you need to stay focused on each project before moving on - then do all tasks for one project (revise the schedule, get the status report ready, make calls, reforecast the budget, etc.) and then move on to the next project.  

By staying focused on one type of task or one project as a whole before moving on to the next group of tasks, we can be more efficient and effective in how we work and how we accomplish the regular tasks we perform on each of our projects.

Be unavailable

Finally, if you must complete some critical tasks and interruptions tend to throw you completely off track, it’s ok to go underground for a while.  Make yourself unavailable.  If you work onsite, go offsite for a day or two.  If you work offsite, go to Starbucks for a day or two (or forever?!).  However, you still must keep in mind that the project manager IS the point person for the engagement so you should never go completely off grid.  You still must tell a few people where you are and how to reach you.  Make sure you give them a timeframe that you’ll be out of touch so they know when they can reach out to you.  If you don’t do that, they might panic and contact you unnecessarily when it could easily wait till you return to ‘active’ status.

Brad Egeland is an IT veteran of 27 years having worked as an application developer, manager, project & program manager, consultant and business strategist and is the author of

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