I talk about planning a lot. The reason for that is twofold: One, I’m
a consultant and I know darn good and well that when I am in the middle of, say, writing an employee handbook, clients are going to call and need me to address an urgent matter like, “I just found out my accountant is embezzling from me!” And if I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to manage my time, I’m sunk. The other is that I’ve watched folks fall into utter panic about issues they simply didn’t plan for. For me, the most important factor in planning how you use your time is to respect your time and prioritize. This means paying close attention to where you’re spending your time, and it’s not easy for a lot of us.
Remember your time is valuable! If you need to, put a dollar sign to it. What does each hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes cost ? Is the task you are working on worth that money? Respecting your time means different things to different people. Some people might be able to have a fairly rigid schedule: From 8-10am, I deal with emails; from 2-4pm, I meet with employees, and so forth. But not every organization or every employee can work that way. If yours is a job dealing with customers, donors or managing projects, for example, you may have to drop everything regularly to interact with someone who needs to speak with you in that moment. In that case, respecting your time might mean spending some prep time creating parameters or expectations for the people you need to deal with. That might mean that you have to establish regular meetings so that they’re not popping in every two seconds with a question. Or it might mean that you devote some time to creating materials they can read to get answers to basic questions without contacting you. FAQs anyone?
Respecting your time might focus on making sure you’re delegating things that, really, someone else could do. Do you need to decide what’s being ordered for lunch or is that something you could delegate? And do you actually have to moderate that discussion between the slightly controlling account manager and the mildly diva-esque creative or can they work that out between themselves? And what about getting some kind of software or Software-as-a-Service that manages those mundane tasks for you?
For many people who run their own businesses, respecting your time might mean not answering a client call at 9 p.m. on Sunday night because—for crying out loud—unless you’re a trauma surgeon, no one is going to bleed out here. It’s 9 p.m. on a Sunday and if you take that call now you’re training your clients that you are at their disposal 24/7. That’s just not sustainable.
One of the biggest problems people have with respecting their own time is prioritizing. Really, some emails and calls are very important. For those, there are notifications—bings and buzzes and desktop alerts and shockwaves on your Apple wrist thing or whatever—to make sure those get through. The others can wait while you focus on what you’re doing. They’ll still be there and when you get to them in proper order, you’ll probably handle them better. Multi-tasking, trying to dash off an email response while you’re in the midst of a meeting or meeting a deadline, often leads to mistakes.
Its not always easy and we don’t always want to prioritize. First, we often believe we can get done more in a day than we really can. Yes, I can leap tall buildings in a single bound, can’t you? Also, we can be uncomfortable with assigning any tasks a 2,3, or 4. But everything isn’t a 1 and if you treat priority 3s like priority 1s you might goof up on a priority 1. Like drop the ball and forget to send a proposal.
Think about the things you do when you’re in a fresh state-of-mind with ample brain to turn to an issue versus those you do when you’re trying to squeeze in everything. The meeting you schedule that you have to cancel because you didn’t put the other one on the calendar; the email with the embarrassing spelling mistake, the decision that pissed everyone off. You’re in your job for a reason. You’re probably good at what you do when you do it right. So in order to exercise your knowledge base, skill set and smarts, you need to respect your own time.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267