Tag: time management tools

The Time Management Tool That Puts You in Control

Hans Selye, the Austrian endocrinologist is credited with introducing the word stress into our modern lexicon. Selye once said ‘it’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.’ For busy managers, the key to reducing stress levels lies in their ability to manage their time better, or as Tricia Cunningham puts it, ‘to think differently about their workloads.’ Here Tricia discusses the link between time management and stress management, and the time management tool that puts you in control.

Tricia, how can managers organise their workloads more effectively?
Workloads are always a challenge for people to manage so that they can be effective in their roles. We seem to be doing more and more each year, and the expectation is that we will continue to deliver more and more. When it reaches a certain level, the obvious reaction is to think “I can’t do this, I can’t do that”. Rather than thinking I can’t, it can be helpful to step back and consider what is being required of you and what changes could you make to deliver on that requirement.

We have to recognise that we only change when we identify a compelling reason to do so. This means that managers need to understand what’s required of them and why or how this will benefit them. Most of the time when we are given those additional requirements, or when things seem to be pushed on us, there’s a sense of things going out of control. We regain that control when we go back and consider if it’s feasible to change our behaviour and how we can do that.

Author-Stephen-Covey-001What management tools can help us regain control?
An effective framework to help you prioritise and organise tasks more effectively is Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants. These 4 quadrants are based on the notion that tasks have 2 levels; a level of importance and a level of urgency. We tend to believe that everything we are doing is both urgent and important and that’s a fallacy. We cannot operate when everything we are doing is both urgent and important or our levels of stress will become unmanageable and unbearable for any individual. So in looking at the tasks that are required of us, we place all the tasks in one of the 4 quadrants. We determine which tasks are:

1. important and urgent (priority)
2. important but not urgent (part of long-term strategy)
3. urgent but not important (not important to us, but may be to others)
4. not urgent not important (activities that yield little or no value)

Steven Covey 4 Quadrants Matrix-1

When I list the tasks I do and I place them in one of those first three categories, I can start to identify what tasks I’m doing on a repeated basis – be it daily, weekly or monthly. If I move some tasks over to somebody else it would free up time. I could then create the scope to take on additional responsibility. So I identify the value of delegating tasks to somebody else, and the additional time it will provide, but I need to delegate those tasks in a structured way, not just dump workloads onto other people. By doing this I have a better understanding of items that are urgent and need to be dealt with immediately, and items that are important and need to be planned for but aren’t urgent. They can be slotted into your monthly calendar.

Then there are the tasks that may be important to someone else but not to you; try to work on reducing the number of activities in this quadrant. You don’t want to end up being seen as the person to whom everyone goes to if they have any requirement because you’re the person who has difficulty saying no. Remember when you say yes to one thing, you have to say no to something else.


3 Steps for Stress Management in the Workplace

Benjamin Franklin once said ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ That would appear to be the case when it comes to stress management, especially for those of you in management positions. Controlling stress levels will largely depend on your ability to prioritise tasks in a systematic way which prevents stress from building up in the first place. Whether you’re a new recruit or a seasoned manager, Tricia Cunningham recommends these 3 steps for stress management in the workplace.

Tricia, how can managers learn to reduce stress in the workplace?
In recent times with the downturn in the economy and the increasing need for people to be more productive at work, there has been a noticeable increase in the level of stress people are experiencing. Managers in both small and large organisations often feel pressure as a result of needing to get better business results with fewer resources, be they financial, human or material resources. Working with high levels of stress over an extended period of time can be very damaging to an individual. There are certain things outside a person’s control, about which they can do nothing, but there are many things they can control. The starting point for managing stress is with the individual refocusing and understanding what elements of their job they can control.

Step 1 re-focus
What are your core responsibilities? How will you be measured? What is it that you have to deliver on? And if that is in any way vague then a conversation needs to be had with your manager to make sure you are clear about your responsibilities, and what needs to be delivered on. It needs to be a joint agreement; it’s not about forcing something on somebody but rather having a discussion around it to ensure clarity and agreement on your ability to deliver what is needed.

Step 2 apply management tools
Use management tools to help you manage time and workloads more effectively. One such tool is Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants. This allows you to prioritise tasks based on 2 criteria – urgency and importance. Determine what is urgent and important, and what is important but not necessarily urgent, and therefore can be planned giving you more control.

The problem people often face is that they identify tasks that are important and not urgent, but do nothing to plan how they will be implemented. After a period of time passes they suddenly become both urgent and important which raises stress levels. We have a tendency to get addicted to the sense of urgency and we have to eliminate that addiction. We do so by ensuring that items that are not urgent but important are planned for well in advance and we work on executing that plan.

Covey's 4 Quadrants - 3 Steps for Stress Management in the Workplace

Step 3 remain aware of your own responsibilities
When people push you to do something, if your response is always to say ‘yes I’ll do that’ you need to remember that in saying yes you are saying no to something else. In saying yes to one thing, something else has to give. What are you saying no to? If something else gives way that is directly related to your responsibilities and the results you need to achieve, that will create stress for you.