Making time for what is important. That is the trick we all struggle with in our professional schedules. Many find that the demands on their time outpace the time available on the calendar. There are so many professionals out there that truly have a scheduling problem. If you look at their calendars, you will find, more often than not, double and triple bookings of their time. The premise being that when that block of time comes up, they will just have to make a choice on what meeting is the most important at the time. Now, that may be the best solution, but what happens to the other meetings scheduled during that time? How do you get the monster under control and make ‘white space’ for what is important? There are some straightforward strategies to get your time under control and make a priority for important tasks. The first thing is to understand how things get messy.
Making White Space for What’s Important
Operating under the premise is that you have a 40-hour work week and meetings take up a large portion or percentage of that week. Now the question is, is your job to attend those meetings and provide valued input? If you’re a consultant or advisor, then it seems you are on track. However, if your job is to produce things or supervise the production of things, you are not spending time on what is important, which is, to produce things. There is where the rub occurs.
The biggest problem starts with scheduling your work time. Get your schedule consistently lined out with the tasks you are required to do for work, which is, producing things. Block that time out and fiercely protect it. As you schedule the time to do work, then you also must add white space to address problems and issue. As a supervisor, manager, or executive, you will encounter problems or issues that require your attention. These events are either dealt with quickly or they go on a follow-up list and put on the back burner. If they go on the back burner, your business and customers can suffer when those problems are not addressed. When you have saved some white space, you will have time to deal with problems and issues in a timely manner. Problems and issues get fixed, and employees or customers feel their problems are heard and being dealt with.
The best approach you can take is to stop being the only decision maker. You have made yourself into the constraint, since there is only so many hours in a day. One of the key concepts of Lean is to empower employees to make their own decisions, so you don’t have to be involved in every meeting and decision. With proper coaching and mentoring on problem solving, you can raise the skill level of your employees to handle the day-to-day “fires,” so you can spend more time thinking strategically and long-term, which will free up your schedule. This also leads to better decisions by your employees, as they are closer to the problem than you.
Changing the Culture of Scheduling
So, first thing, take control of your schedule. Do not allow others to make your schedule. Block out your work time and put in enough white space to resolve the challenges of business. Protect those blocks of time with a passion, and delegate attendance to your staff who can better make the decisions. If they make the wrong decision (in your mind), then coach them for next time.
When you are aligning your work process with company goals, things will become easier and more efficient. Remember, a goal-oriented calendar with white space for problem resolution (that only you can decide upon) is the most effective tool you have available, and aligns perfectly with Lean quality management processes.
Learn more about the Management for Daily Improvement program, a curriculum that will show you exactly how Toyota practices Lean (Toyota Production System).