Forgive me HR Floridians, for I have sinned. It has been I don’t know how many days since my last blog post as Immediate Past President. Boy, time flies does it not? I thought my life would slow down a bit after my term as president was complete, but that is nothing further than the truth. Since I have gotten back into the corporate world full time, I’m even busier than before!
Like all professional women, I’m constantly looking for time. Time to finish the report that was due an hour ago. Time to grab lunch that’s not a bag of pretzels and a Diet Coke. Time to leave early to watch the kid’s swim meet – and have enough time to pick up the Gatorade and snacks since it’s my time to feed the swim crowd. And of course, time to get creative and write for the Mouth of the South.
Yes, I’m one of those people who multitasks like crazy and also the one on the iPhone while in the car. (Maybe in the interest of safety, I shouldn’t confess to that!). Anyway, I LIKE being busy and do consider myself organized in spite of all the chaos of a busy professional and personal life. Pondering this dilemma though, got me thinking about the concept of time management and what that truly means today in the world of work and people. Behaviorally speaking, if someone has problems organizing his or her time, just what obligation, if any, does the employer have in fixing that?
None. I don’t think employers have any obligation in fixing how a person spends their time – the only influence they have and should have is in those 8-12 hours a day that the person is at work. And even then, the amount of control depends on the job function. Employers can expect and measure results, though, which is completely different from expecting and measuring activities. But to get results, you have to manage time well. And of course, some do it better than others.
We can’t deny the importance of really good time management, especially today in the crunch of work and life and the messy blending of the two. Researcher that I am, I took to the web to find out what others have to say about time management. Came up with an oldie, but goodie – The book, “First Things First” by Stephen Covey (1994) .
Written with Roger and Rebecca Merrill, Covey’s “First Things First” offers a time management approach that helps a person to focus on priorities or the “first things first.” Suffice to say, this comes from one of Covey’s more inspirational books, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. Covey talks about the four generations of time management: task lists; personal organizers; goal setting and prioritization and values clarification.
The first generation focuses on using notes and checklists that serve as reminders. I find that people who are highly task- and quality-focused like to do this. As things get done, they get checked off. I confess, there is some sort of emotional satisfaction about checking something off the to-do list.
The second generation uses planning calendars and appointment books, a.k.a. MS Outlook, Blackberries, iPhones, , etc. Electronics now take the place of paper and pencil calendars. Goodness knows what I’d do without my iPhone and iPad!
The third generation of folks take TM to the next level by scheduling and prioritizing goals. These individuals identify the stuff they need to do first and arrange their activities around getting those things done. That’s me – on a good day.
The gods and goddesses of all generations, the fourth generation people are the ones with the line of sight. They understand the difference between something urgent and something important. They are the ones who can and will make decisions based on their moral compass and so don’t forget about the things that are important in their lives. Like family, friends, and down time. I like to think that this is me most of the time.
Covey asserts that people have a need “to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.” If a person can move beyond “urgency addiction” into “quadrant two” management, then he or she can begin to prioritize work for achieving both short and long-term goals, while still maintaining a holistic life balance.
So what can you do to help your time management?
Focus on what YOU believe is important. Plan the work and work the plan. The 80:20 rule argues that 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of results. The other 80% are achieved with only 20% of the effort. Good things come to those who sweat.
Managing time well does take a sustained effort. Look at the roles you play in life – which are the most important? Which are the ones that you can put to the side now and then?
Think about what you must do to ensure you play each of your chosen roles well. Can you distinguish between urgent and not urgent? The answers all of these questions will help you focus your energy on the things that matter. My chosen roles are family woman, HR pro, volunteer and blogger; in that order.
And that’s why I only write when I have something to say.
About the Mouth
Heather Vogel, SPHR is head of organizational development and leadership with Ashley Furniture HomeStores where she drives corporate culture, employee engagement and leadership development strategies. Prior to joining Ashley, she booked 15 years of HR/OD leadership experience in private consulting with global companies such as AT&T. Heather’s alter ego is the HR Whisperer, who is known for blogging on all things behavior. She is also a past president of the HR Florida State Council.