Feeling too busy than being productive?
Unfortunately there comes a time in our lives that we realize that we are no longer productive as we used to be or just too busy for anything. We do so much stuff and sometimes when we call it a day, it is way past bed time and the list of things undone is still starring at us waiting to haunt you the next day.
We as project managers put down plans and schedules to our projects and follow up on project plans with the teams on a daily basis to make sure that the projects are progressing positively. While we are busy scheduling and planning the work items of our team members, we end up having none to minimum time to ourselves to carry out and manage our own daily assignments. One of the main reasons for our failure as project managers to manage time effectively, is our reactive approach to doing things.
Next thing you know, we are already several steps behind when we start our day.
The Culprit: Meetings Taking up Most of the Day
After getting myself entangled in couple of extremely busy weeks it was time to take a couple of steps back and reflect on my daily activities for that time period. Immediately, I was able to identify that the culprit responsible for taking away at least half or sometimes more than half of my work time were Meetings. Scheduled as well as un-scheduled meetings kept on creeping into my calendar, leaving me with a pile of work undone on a daily basis and this list kept getting bigger. Second thing was important / urgent matters that needed immediate attendance. There was literally an urgent matter to attend to everyday for a period of about 2 weeks, where some requests came in the morning hours, some during the day and some in the evening, which indefinitely meant that it is going to be another long day.
A Timetable to Find More Time in Your Schedule
Though I did not have all the right answers to the problem I was facing, the first thing I was advised to do was to follow the most simple and obvious time management technique; the timetable.
So I put down a simple timetable for the next day with the scheduled things first, like meetings. Then the next step was to list down the things I need to achieve, prioritize them and allocate time for those tasks around the scheduled meetings. This made me see the un-tapped time that I had in a day, to work on the things that I have to work on. This was continued to the next day and then the next until I had an idea of how my week is going to be like.
Planning vs The Reality: Chaos doesn’t Stop but…
With an idea on what to expect during my week and what I need to do for the day, I started off my week.
I was not able to go far. As usual, I was bombarded with un-planned meetings, discussions and urgent matters that needed immediate attending. While avoiding them is not the right thing to do, I was able to re-schedule some of them to the free slots I had already discovered and looked in to the others. Having a schedule for myself helped me prepare for planned work and allowed to a certain extent find available timeslots to be allocated for the un-planned work. At the end of the day, I reflected on the things done and yet to be done so that I can re-prioritize the undone tasks and take them forward for the free time slots I have on the next day.
The conclusion that I can draw from practicing this technique for one week is that I was better prepared. I knew to a certain extent what to expect and how much of time will those tasks take, what tasks I need to attend to and what time slots I have to tackle the unknown.
And it helped me keep track of the undone work and reprioritize them and take them up in the next day (if possible). Having a simple work plan for the week helped me to a certain extent see through the chaos of unplanned work, the work that I had already planned on achieving for the week.
My Experience: Being Reactive has a lot to do with it…
In order to start this exercise, I believe from my experience that it is absolutely necessary to have a clear and relaxed state of mind. If you are already stressed, you will take down a very reactionary approach to doing things by stressing out on the things that is already on your plate. This approach has given me a little bit of breathing room to question why are we are doing it? What is the priority? How are we going to complete it? When is it expected? What is the outcome and expectation? And who (if it can be delegated) can get it done?
Unfortunately, most of the time we jump into execution mode without knowing the answers to these simple but important questions.
Food for thought
A question that we can periodically ask from our busy lives is that while we are caught up on doing so many stuff and being busy, do we take a minute to realize what is around us that we are missing? And does being busy help us focus on achieving what we need?
Listen to an interesting talk on “The Art of Stress-free productivity”,
Sean Lee is a Project Manager at Zone24x7. You can follow him on LinkedIn.
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