June is one of those months where the way we view time shifts a little -- or sometimes a lot. Vacations, holidays, out-of-town conferences, finding ways to engage our children while school is out for the summer … all of these activities change the way we interact with our schedule, and for some people, the changes can be as vexing as they are potentially liberating.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed a book by author Laura Vanderkam, I Know How She Does It, that takes an in-depth look at how highly successful women with families choose to spend their time. Vanderkam always seems to have really insightful things to say about time management, possibly because she has spoken with so many other working mothers about it, and possibly because she’s balancing her writing career with caring an active family with four children.
One of the most astute observations of hers I have ever read came after the publication of her first book on time management, 168 Hours. Here is what she had to say on the topic on the CBS News website at that time.
“Time will pass. It will be filled with something. You have to sleep and eat. But in our free and prosperous society, what else transpires during that time will be a choice. It will be a result of a choice you make during that week, or the result of a choice you made at some point in your life and are executing on now.
"Realizing this is the most important time management tip there is: minutes and hours are choices.”
This month’s career links are all about the ways we choose to spend our time. Read on, and learn how to spend your limited supply of minutes and hours wisely!
If it seems like projects take an inordinately long time to get done in your office, take heart — you’re not alone. This fascinating infographic, developed by the data-management company Scoro, breaks down the specific causes of non-productive time at work (the list of culprits will look familiar: email, badly planned meetings, Internet/social media browsing, and plain-old procrastination) and offers some helpful tips for overcoming time drains.
One of the most interesting statistics the infographic shares is that the average worker receives at least 34 business emails each week that require his or her attention, and that 16 minutes is spent refocusing on work tasks after handling each incoming email, resulting in 4864 potentially wasted minutes! (Scoro’s suggested solution? Only check email in batches, no more than three times per day.)
Before any of you managers out there start grumbling about how it’s hard enough to get work out of your staff in eight hours, consider that the United States has changed labor laws over the years, and that it once was legal to have children working in factories from dawn to dusk. That said, this Bloomberg News story describes a study in Sweden that looked at a cohort of nurses working in a retirement home and how they performed when they worked a 30-hour-a-week schedule but were paid a full-time salary (meaning that their 6-hour workday WAS full time). One of the biggest surprises was that despite working fewer hours, the nurses took half as much sick time and were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a given two-week pay period. The nurses also reported feeling more energetic, and that allowed them to do 64 percent more activities with residents, one of the key measures of their productivity.
The rest of the article provides some helpful links relating to the topic of just how long a work week should be to maximize productivity. Whether your employer is a leader or a laggard in the flexible work department, this link will provide fodder for some interesting conversations and fact-based debates, should you want to lead the charge on this.
While there are many CEOs and other leaders who judge their effectiveness by how many hours a week they put in on the road or in their offices, Brian Scudamore, founder/CEO of O2E Brands, argues in this provocative Inc. article that professionals with the power to do so should act more like Warren Buffett, who spends 80 percent of his time reading and thinking instead of milling about in the corporate suite.
Scudamore cites several top executives who make “thinking time” a priority in their schedule, including himself (he sets aside every Monday to do big-picture thinking). Even better, he offers a set of tips for making thinking days (or hours, if you’re unable to carve out an entire day) happen.
Several of his tips would be very difficult for the average line worker to achieve (especially the one that requires them to stay out of the office). However, at least two of his nine suggestions for what to do on Thinking Day (reschedule or cancel unnecessary meetings and prune one’s to-do list for later in the week) are things that almost anyone can do, even if their thinking time is 10 minutes or less.
Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Scudamore’s article is a powerful aid in finding the time to think through what those “right things are” and figure out a way to accomplish them successfully.
~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association