Monday, October 17, 2011

If You Don't Schedule Your Time...

I had lunch with a new acquaintance recently. It was interesting. He was curious about my experiences as a PM and how he might move from a BA position to a more Project Manager style role. I shared some stories, some guidance, and a couple of "tasks" that were meant to get the ball rolling (if he chooses to follow them, yet another blog entry for the future).

Towards the end of the meal, my new friend told me he found this blog from my LinkedIn account, and wanted to know why I wasn't writing anymore. He liked some of my previous blog entries, in particular, this one; where I could have been a hero, but ended up a zero...

Anyway. I think the last thing I told him at lunch was "If you don't schedule your time, somebody else will." It is actually the last line in a speech I give on multitasking, which has proven very popular at Project Management Institute events. In fact, it's gone beyond that, because I will be presenting the speech again at the Toastmasters International District 56 Fall Conference next month. If you are in Houston, I think it will be worth showing up, not just for me, but for the Humorous Speech Contest. I've been to several Area Contests, and some of the speeches are hysterical...

Back on topic, later this same gentleman emailed me back and said he printed out my tag line and posted it on his wall. Why?

Well the answer is because our days are often filled with little fires that literally only eat up a couple of minutes. The problem is that as you allow those minutes to be eaten, you lose the time to complete your own goals. You blink and it's 5 o'clock, your exhausted and your "to-do" list isn't any shorter. You leave for the day, come back the next, and the exact same thing happens; so you are even farther behind. Before you know it you are sacrificing personal time (vacation, family, sick days) to catch-up, or at least not fall further behind. Sound familiar?

So, how do you combat this? My recommendation is to take a long hard look at your calender (in Outlook, probably). Each week, schedule time to get specific things done (project proposal, evaluations, whatever). Then STICK TO THE SCHEDULE. When people come bursting in with their hair on fire (as always seems to happen), point them to a bucket of cold water (figuratively) and tell them you are busy for the next (however many hours you are scheduled) and YOU will FIND THEM when your schedule is open. Ask them to have solutions prepared by the time you get there.

In my limited experience, I've found this to be a very useful tool for development (as well as my own sanity). The reason is that by the time I go find them (and that is the important part), they usually not only have a solution suggested, but are executing said solution. That transfers command to your staff, and gives them more pride in their work.  It is EMPOWERMENT. If the solution is wrong, then usually it is easy to backtrack, because they only just started down that path.

There are several other tricks that I talk about in the presentation, but I won't share them here (if I did, why would you need to come to the conference?). I am hoping to tape this one, so if you are lucky, you might actually get to watch my presentation. Stay tuned for more.

P.S. thank you, my new friend, for getting me to write again.

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