Solutions to time wasters are Ihe converse of the cause of the initial waste and so should be easy to effect when the problem is recognised II managers are conscious of the value of time management, then they are on the lookout for wasters and know how to deal with them The newly elected chairman of a senior Defence committee once told his secretary that the other senior members allocated a whole afternoon for a meeting, regardless of how long it might last When I am running the meeting in my office, you and I will leave when the last item on the agenda has been discussed — I will then offer my otlice to anyone who wishes to slay and chinwag Needless to say the meeting finished earlier than some had anticipated and the chairman offered to vacate his premises — I think the others got the message!
Effective executives know the value of time, and plan so that they can use what is available to most effect. Those who are fully prepared can then follow a relaxed rather than a frantic pace; crisis management and intense activity are not always a sign of intense achievement
A truly good man does nothing.
Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing.
Yet much remains to be done.'*
Managers should be aware of their diurnal rhythms, the times of day when they are most productive, and try to plan so that they can use those times uninterruptedly for direct tasks They should allocate blocks of time for important tasks — for knowledge work (as opposed to manual labour) requires concentration and intellectual effort which cannot be achieved with an ever-open door and a phone on the hook. People should be put off till that block is completed, and be told politely that the manager wishes to be
uninterrupted; most will not be offended if they are given another time or a promise of a call later. Many will reply that it probably does not matter anyway, and if they are the managers staff, may learn to think for themselves. The other side of this coin is that managers should not interrupt other staff or colleagues unnecessarily.
Delegation involves not only delegating more tasks to staff who are quite capable of dealing with them, but it also means giving them the authority to complete the jobs successfully so that they do not have to interrupt their supervisors constantly for signatures and permissions. The real definition of delegation is allowing staff to get on with the jobs which are rightfully theirs, whilst leaving the manager free to get on with the jobs which are rightfully his< hers — managers and supervisors are paid to manage, not to do. and their priorities should be in the realms of planning and organising, not directing and controlling (to use some of those classical terms). Each day should end with the questions — What have I achieved today?' and What is to be done tomorrow?' The tomorrow tasks should be put in terms of Must Do. Should Do and Could Do — and unpleasant tasks must not be put off, nor easy ones given a higher priority than they deserve. The effective manager will also prepare a list of those things the manager will not do, le. the minor, the petty and trivial, those jobs that can be delegated to advantage.
Controlling conversations is an obvious time saver, but one which many people are not prepared to develop because it might make them seem rude. However, there are ways of explaining tactfully that managers wish to complete a task undisturbed, and if Ihe interruption was aimed at social chitchat only, then people will soon learn that although the manager is possibly interested to hear about it — he/she would prefer a more convenient time. We all need to have social intercourse during the working day. but only in moderation and at suitable limes; for example, the law of diminishing returns states that executives involved in knowledge work require a break at regular intervals, depending on individual spans of concentration — but managers should not use that break in mental activity to talk to someone else when he/she wants to work without interruption. Any manager aware of the importance of time management would accept a polite and reasonable rebuff; but handing one out requires a firm mind and some practice.
Business calls and meetings always seem to drag on for hours if they are uncontrolled Managers and supervisors should stand up
when they visit someone else's workplace, and when they make phone calls, answer the phone or receive visitors — discomfort leads to early terminations! One can terminate calls without giving offence, but you have to practice the art, and being aware of the cost of your time is a good help. And managers should never take on more than they or their staff can handle; as Mackenzie points out, requests from above tend to increase in magnitude and urgency as they descend, so managers respond with more time and effort than was envisioned or desired" — managers should be brave enough to check on other people's priorities, as well as setting their own with reason and effective communication On of the Taoist principles referred to earlier was that of treating all people as equals, and in order to do this, one must be courteous at all times. Toleration of opposites is a basic principle of Taoism, for there is no good without evil, no night without day. Thus, it takes all sorts to make the world go round — managers recognise others' strengths and weaknesses whilst trying to use their own to advantage:
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; It is the centre hole that makes it useful. Shape clay into a vessel. It is the space within that makes it useful. Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there."'
Managers and supervisors should always be punctual: for work, for meetings, for tea breaks, lor return to work after tea break. How much does it cost in a year if 20 workers earning an average of $20,000 pa each are always one minute late for the start of each activity? (Say 6 minutes a day times 20 2 hours $10.87 times 2 = $21.74 times 230 working days $5000.20 ??????) Could you afford that if you were running a small business' Is my estimation more than generous for the time lost in your ship'
The last word of advice for those who have persevered so far. is to plan, but be flexible. Managers should know what they are doing each day and know what the priorities are — but as tasks change, so should the order of priorities Having created blocks of time for important tasks, the effective executive quickly fills any gaps that may appear with useful bits and pieces — when the meeting finishes earlier than expected, when the chairman is late arriving, when the transport does not appear when it should, then there are bonuses to be utilised Such gaps add up to a considerable amount of precious time — they should not be wasted. Doing my best to concentrate on the road and the traffic, I use the time driving to work by going through my lectures, planning future lectures.
November 86. Journal ol Ihe Australian Naval Inslitule — Page A3
woe And sight.
setting exams .... I had an advertising friend in Melbourne who sold his car and travelled to work by tram — he got 15 minutes exercise at each end walking to the tram stop and the agency, he read books, papers, reports etc on the tram, and he saved money!