Research Articles

Stop, Make Time, and Schedule

Stop, Make Time, and Schedule, the ‘oh so convenient’ responses that portrays a commonly used avoidance technique to avoid the discipline we need daily. Time is squandered, it is not given the importance it deserves, it is not applied clinically or diagnostically and the impact on our work is clear to see because it acts as an obstacle to our success, unless we manage it.

Do I value my time or am I guilty of spending my time poorly, do I make time to save time?

Scheduling your time sounds awfully complicated, just another task in a list of things to do. I just get on with it, that seems to work for me, well, in part, but actually very rarely in full. If I am honest about it, my own time sometimes disappears before my eyes over the working week, and for that matter, at weekends without me taking action to use it wisely. I believe I am a member of the comfortable majority; we are all talking about using our time wisely, but it appears that we are all falling short.

Time is our enemy and we are helping it to fire the bullets.

We are however equipped with the solution, we have the professional training, the tools, the kit bag in the form of all those workshops we have attended and the books that we have read. All we need to do is act upon what we have learned by using some key thoughts or frameworks to first acknowledge our challenge, and then to act upon it.

Whether you are a Program Manager, Project Manager, Team Leader, or Boss you could employ the following tips and techniques to help you spend time to save time and become more effective.

STOP – Literally stop, give yourself time to think about what you are trying to achieve, what are your key priorities for today, tomorrow, this month? Can you select your key objectives and then schedule your activity to address them? Do you have a plan of attack for each time period that you are working within (Day, Week or Month)?

  • STOP (Stop, Think, Outputs and Plan) provides a simple and effective framework, but are you willing to engage in the process. We often choose to spend time elsewhere, sometimes doing stuff rather than thinking and planning and this may not be wise. So, why not simplify your approach, hit the pause button, engage STOP and you will find that you will enhance your progress, it works.

MAKE TIME – Hit that pause button. At the end of each Day (Week and Month) schedule some time to reflect on your achievements, what went well, what went wrong, and what needs to be done. This will help you to identify your successes and failures which should help you to select your TOP 3 priorities for tomorrow:

  • During the first hour of each day I work on my Top 3 priorities, I have a clear plan of attack and move each of them forward where possible, this is completed before I open my e-mail application or account, then, and only then, do I reward myself with that welcome cup of coffee or tea. I still have plenty to do but I am off to that first meeting of the day in control of my work and importantly my schedule.

SCHEDULE – This is simple, it is not about being perfect, just set out your plan of attack for the day or the week in advance and get into the good habit of doing so, the schedule will be your GPS, guiding your progress during the next work period:

  • My schedule reflects priority management aligned to key objectives (My Top 3) for the first hour, then coffee, then an hour on mail (respond/delete). Then as an example, on Monday, Project 1 progress review and outreach to related stakeholders, then my first collaboration clinic of the week for Projects 2-7 where I am available for questions related to barriers, obstacles, and solutions before meetings and other leadership and management activities that exist in my schedule as placeholders for specifically directed activity.
  • Project 2 is scheduled for review on Tuesday with the other 5 projects scheduled in order of importance during the week, but all of them, including the many other major BAU (Business As Usual) tasks, are given the oversight in the relevant collective work period (week, month or quarter) depending upon complexity and enterprise alignment.
  • Yes, my schedule does change, because life is just like that, but it allows me to protect my priorities, it allows me to draw upon the resource of time in a qualitative and quantitative fashion, one where I decide how to spend it against the backdrop of constant demands and changing requirements, however I am in control and therefore it is my choice.
  • By bringing the process of scheduling to the front of your mind, by taking time to organize your time for today, tomorrow, next month, you are accepting that you need to elevate your approach to the challenge of managing time. You can read up about it, attend workshops, ask for guidance, but in the end the answer is simple… if time is important to you then it is up to you to manage it.

Stop, Make Time, and Schedule, it is so simple, it works for me, when I remember to use it and it will work for you, when like me you choose to use it!

Written by Dave Wallis