There are three myths for not owning your time. I have to call them myths because calling them bullshit lies may offend some people. These are the rational—lies we tell ourselves. They’re rational, they sound good, they make sense but, they’re lies. I don’t know why we tend to fall on these rational-lies. Maybe it’s a form of procrastination, maybe it’s an excuse to not push against office status quo.
We can all own our time. To say you can’t effectively manage your time is saying that you don’t own your time. But you do own it, it’s yours to protect and nurture. We protect our time by not allowing people interruptions, not letting meetings run wild and by being in charge of the phone and emails.
When I was doing some work for Honeywell in the 1990’s I was leading a workshop on time management. After what I thought was a successful workshop someone in the group raised his hand to speak. He said, “Mark, these are all good ideas but, we’re never going to do them,” When I asked why he said, “It’s just not the Honeywell way.” And every participant nodded in agreement.
Every company and every position within the company has a unique set of needs. A tip to own your time may work well for you but not your coworker. Whenever I give a tip I always remember to tell participants to try the idea before judging it.
I have to always be available to my staff
I remember the ‘olden days’ of time management when managers would declared themselves to be ‘open door’ managers. Their door was always open to their staff. They could come at anytime to discuss an issue. The manager felt they were being a good boss. This is a myth of epic proportion.
You need to apply the same rule on your staff as you would with your kids. It’s been proven that saying no to your kids will teach them self-reliance and delayed gratification—two traits that will benefit them greatly. Well, the same is true for your staff—you have to learn to say no to them. They have to learn to solve their own issues. You need to empower them and then trust they will do the best they can. And if they don’t reach the desired outcome, then you can step in and coach them.
Back in the good ol’ days we used to say, “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.” It was also popular to say, “If you come to me with a problem, come with three solutions as well.” Now I coach my staff, “Don’t come to me at all. If there’s a problem, fix it.”
Meetings are my biggest time wasters
This myth I hear all the time but, I have found through the years that it’s not so much the meetings that waste your time, it’s the undisciplined meetings. Communication with our staff is critical for success. The most effective communication is face to face—there are fewer breakdowns. We need meetings—they are a necessary evil. Too many meetings start late, don’t follow an agenda, allow objectives to go unmet, topics are discussed that are not on the agenda—typically called new business–and meetings are not stopped on time.
Years ago I had a boss who ran undisciplined meetings. If he had the meeting scheduled for an hour and we got done in 45 minutes, he would say, “Well, we still have 15 minutes, is there anything anyone would like to discuss?” Every time he said that I wanted to open my veins. If you reach your objectives on your agenda, end the meeting.
Productive meeting have agendas. They start and stop on time. Only the people needed in the meeting are invited to attend. Leaders get closure on discussions. Don’t have meetings for planning—there are software and apps for that.
I can’t ignore my phone or emails
This is one of the biggest myths I come across. We have to be able to say no to replying to emails and answering the phone cold. People tell me all the time, they can’t get away from their phone and email. And then they tell me they spend so much time in meetings. When I ask if they check email and answer their phone during the meeting the answer is always no. So of course there are times when you can go without answering the phone or checking email.
Why not have an appointment with yourself? Uninterrupted time is a valuable resource—they say we can be as much as five times more productive in uninterrupted time. Set an appointment with yourself, coach your team not to interrupt you, hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign, turn off your phone and email.
This is where I think people get caught-up on their own self-importance. They are deceived into thinking they are too important to be away from the computer and phone.
I like telling people to never answer their phone cold—answering it puts you in a reactive position plus, it’s another interruption you’re allowing. Sometime I get a visceral response to that idea. “My customers depend on me!” is the pushback I hear the most. If your customer calls you and you answer the phone cold and the first thing the customer says is, “I need you to reduce your price.” How prepared are you going to be to give a response?
Maybe your customers depend on you but, not right this second, they can wait. But if they are dependent on you, then don’t answer your phone cold for 50 minutes out of an hour, or 30 minutes or 20 minutes out of an hour. Try the idea out, see where it takes you.
I love it when people say to me, they would never go to the supply closet, take a pack of Post-it notes and take it home with them because that would be stealing. But these are the same people who allow staff interruptions, conduct ineffective meetings and are ruled by their phone and email. What’s the greater loss to the company? Which costs more?
I’m very passionate about this. My book on owning your time will be called, “Go Ahead and Steal the Post-it Notes!” And the subtitle will be, “You’ll Be Doing Your Company a Favor.”