Time management means being able to say no. Whenever someone comes running to you saying “I need your help,” it’s automatically an emergency. You’re a team player, so you may say “Sure, I can help you with that” without thinking.
That emergency has the momentum of a speeding locomotive, and it will derail you if you’re not strong enough to stand against it. Is it really is more important and urgent than your project? Are you really the only one who can do it? Estimate what it will do to your schedule. If you aren’t completely in charge of your assignment list, ask your manager to make the decision. You don’t take the blame for schedule changes when your boss is in charge of signaling and switching the tracks. If you work on the emergency project, notify the rest of the project team – don’t wait for your boss to do it.
Speaking of locomotives, training can also derail you. My own time management epiphany came when I went to the office to put in a few hours after a full-day seminar at a nearby hotel. Then it hit me: “I just piddled away an entire DAY on a time management seminar that my boss sent me to, and my deadline’s Friday.” I think I bent the needle on my irony-meter. My boss (evil man!) smiled knowingly when I confronted him the next day and asked him never again to schedule me for training near a deadline.
Less obvious but more common is the failure to prioritize tasks. How many times have you worked on a diagram, tweaking and tuning and rearranging until you realize you’ve spent half a day on a picture that only reinforces existing text? Was that critical to the project? Hardly.
Remember the project spreadsheet I described in the last post? It prevents train wrecks. With two more columns, it becomes the train schedule. On your master list of information changes, add a column for prioritizing each item and a column showing anything that blocks you from getting it done. (Yes, it’s getting to be a great big spreadsheet with lots of columns. Hide the ones you’re not using at any given time.) Now you’ve got a system. Whatever you’re working on, you should be done with all the higher-priority items except those on which you’re blocked.
To review: your spreadsheet includes a master list of changes, with separate tabs to show the changes to each of your deliverables. Columns on these tabs are:
- Information change
- Work required
- Subject matter expert
- Date completed
- Date sent to review
- Date corrections received