Be realistic with your time frames. Don’t be a ‘go-getter’ that finds many commitments unfulfilled. You don’t want to sign up for five projects and not do them on time or on budget. You want to be seen as being on top of your game rather than someone who does a bunch of things averagely or not at all. There are times when you need to build in the extra time for testing, for fine-tuning, and building in time for the unexpected. This is called “Under-promising and over-delivering.”
You want to be realistic with expectations. You don’t want a reputation of “sandbagging” everything so you always look like a hero. You can’t say that your team is struggling and will only reach eighty-five percent of the quota, when you know the group will achieve one-hundred percent. This practice does become obvious after a while. The point here is to be pragmatic with your forecasting and communication. Don’t tell the requester it will be done by five o’clock P.M. because you ‘hope’ it will be done by five o’clock P.M. Tell the requester because it will be done by that time. If you get it done early, call it a bonus. If the five o’clock deadline isn’t the right expectation, be honest and tell the requester when the right time is for it to get done. Please note that there will be deadlines that are non-negotiable requests. The non-negotiable deadlines will impact your other work. If you have practiced preparation for this scenario, you will be able to effectively balance your other commitments, adjust time frames, and be realistic with your communication of expectations. If adjustments negatively influence this request or others, it is always important to keep open lines of communication with the requestor.
Have you thought of everything? In any so-called normal day, have you accounted for everything you need to do in that day? This might include travel time, office visits, walking the floor, and casual conversations with fellow associates. Although you may not ‘schedule’ these events, they do take your time. Have you accounted for this time and understood the impact it will have? How many times have you been a few minutes late because of a hallway discussion?
I have consistently heard in focus groups and years of management that one of the biggest employee frustration points is a lack of follow through. Respect for you—regardless of your role as a manager, peer, and colleague—can quickly be lost if you don’t do what you said would be done. This impacts customers, peers, and subordinates alike. Follow-up is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. The follow-up items may pile one on top of another and become countless. I personally can’t remember a lot of things at once. You should make follow-up a mindless exercise. I let my calendar do it all for me and I simply need to wait for the automatic reminder to tell me what to do. If I have done the Day Before, Week Before, Month Before time-management exercise, I won’t be surprised. You can be proactive by using your calendar for follow-up appointments, such as return calls, customer callbacks, or employee requests. If you have requested someone else to complete a task by a certain date, you can also make that a follow-up appointment to check in.
Additionally, you should schedule deadlines and preparation for appointments before they are due. If you owe a deliverable for five o’clock P.M. Thursday, the appointment should not be seen for the first time at five o’clock the day it is due. Build the appointment into your calendar when it makes the most sense for you, as long as you have plenty of time for a second look, revisions (there are always revisions), and time for the unexpected. You can use pop-up reminders to your advantage to not only meet deadlines, but to beat deadlines.
Time management is often misunderstood. It takes diligence and persistency, but does not take a lot of effort once you get comfortable with your own routines. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You just need to do it.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby