Did you know the subject of time-management is one of the most often Googled terms in the field of professional development? Surely by now, with all this wonderful technology and the amount of personal planning systems available, you’d think we’d have solved this one.
Technology, as helpful as it can be, doesn’t seem to be the answer. Author and teacher Robert McCracken wrote in 1960: “A forty-hour work week is now common, and automation and technology will probably reduce it within the lifetime of the rising generation to 25 to 30 hours.” How’s that working out for us?
Even though McCracken was a wonderful author and teacher, I believe it would be fair to say he was rather inaccurate in his prediction. From a time-management perspective, technology can, if we’re not careful, just bring the next task, quicker.
I’d suggest there are really just two types of time-management challenges — people and process. The goal with people is to build trust and the goal with processes is to reduce time, safely.
Trust is character (who we are) plus competence (what we do). As Stephen M.R. Covey said in his book, “The Speed of Trust,” “When trust is high, speed increases and costs decrease.” There’s an economic value of trust.
Think about someone you work with — someone you have a high level of trust with. I believe you’ll find when you run it through this filter, you have less time-management issues with this person because the trust is so high.
Conversely, think about someone at work — this could be your boss, a direct report, a peer or maybe a vendor or even a client — with whom you have a low level of trust. It could be you doubt their character, you think they’re incompetent, etc. Hey, they may think the same of you, and so the level of trust between you is low. Now think about your dealings with them. Fast or slow? I’d suggest everything slows down when you deal with them.
The antithesis of Covey’s model, though, must also be true — when trust is low, speed decreases and costs increase. We have all sorts of time-management challenges when the trust between people is low. “Facts” have to be double and triple checked; we have unnecessary meetings and even meetings about meetings. In low-trust relationships there’s more email and more cc’ing (copy) of people and worse still, bcc’ing (blind copy) of others. That’s just what we need, more meetings and more email.
I used to work as a regional finance director for a major corporation. One of my head office colleagues — let’s call her “Sarah” — exhibited a low level of trust with her colleagues and most certainly, her direct reports. Not many people liked working with Sarah.
I had a choice to make — I could either believe everyone’s gossip about Sarah and see her in the way they did, or I could choose a different approach. Thankfully, I chose the latter. I focused all my efforts on being a person of high character and high competence. I didn’t gossip about Sarah. Instead, I focused on being of service to her. I tried to anticipate her needs and ensure all of my work was of the highest quality.
Did Sarah and I become best friends? Did we hang out socially with our respective spouses? Are we buddies now on Facebook? No, but I realized we had to work effectively and efficiently together to get done all we needed to get done. Over time, I found I was able to influence her and others around us by focusing on my character and my competence. Sarah began to trust me. Over time, I found the time-management challenges between us decreased because the level of trust increased.
To recap, the goal with people is to build trust whereas the goal with processes is to reduce time — no one ever started a process or procedure thinking, “I hope this takes me as long as possible.”
In the next article we will look at the process side of time-management; specifically, best practices to reduce time when it comes to what I refer to as the five time thieves: (1) email (2) phones (3) interruptions (4) meetings and (5) procrastination.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].