In our ongoing summer series on how to best support the first time mangers, we now need to look at one of the big challenges – lack of time.
Landing that first managerial job is, for most new mangers, exciting and challenging: so much to do!
…and then the realisation: so little time to do it in.
The natural reaction is to just put in more hours. Crank up the work volume. And often it works for a while but then we run out of steam. Then in our pursuit to squeeze more productivity out of the hours available, we start researching time management tricks and tips – maybe we invest in a super To-do app for our phone or a fancy leather bound paper organisers.
But regardless, chasing more time quickly becomes exhausting.
There has got to be a better way.
But it is not about managing your time, but about managing your energy instead. When we are energised, we fly through the day – stuff seems to get done almost by itself – on the other hand, on the days when we are drained, even the simplest task seems to occupy the whole morning for us.
Where does our energy come from?
To some, it’s just a question of getting enough sleep and the right amount of caffeine in the morning – but it is actually more complex than that.
In the book “The Power of full engagement”, Tony Swartz explains that we draw our energy from four sources:
Body, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual.
Ideally, we need to manage them all to ‘Full’ in order to function at our best.
Body: physical energy
The basics are well known to most. You need your sleep and you need to eat in a sensible way. If you do not know what that means, there are lots of resources on the web to guide you – Google is a good place to start.
So assuming that you have the basics under control, you also need to manage your body energy over the day. This is less well known. You body is not a machine – if you don’t give it time to replenish and recover over the day, you wear it down in such a way that your productivity drops of dramatically as you move through the day. Ever notice a different in energy levels during the first hours of the morning and your 3pm drowsiness?
Every 90 min or so we need a break – a 15 min switch of, close your eyes, daydream or even better, take a brisk walk, whatever you can do to give your system a break from what you are doing.
If you apply these breaks every 90 min or so, you will experience that you can sustain the same high levels of physical energy throughout the day – afternoons become just as productive as mornings and thus make up for the time you ‘wasted’ taking these 15 min breaks.
Emotions: the quality of our energy
Maintaining a positive state of mind requires a conscious effort. The more pressure we face and the more fight-flight reactions we have during a day, the more we tend to slip into negative emotions. Being in a negative frame of mind reduces our effectiveness quite dramatically; we see problems where we need to see solutions and possibilities. And the negative impact is not limited to ourselves – negative emotions are contagious – they spread to our surroundings and make everyone else less effective as well. Apart from the fact that it ruins their day….
The two fastest ways to make a quick emotional reset when we sense that we are slipping into a negative state is to take a deep breath and exhale slowly – when we exhale slowly, we provide instant stress relief.
Secondly, we can shift our focus. Next time you are in a negative mood, notice where your focus is. You will be focusing on something that you don’t like or don’t want. When we do that, we trigger a negative emotional response. If we shift our focus to what we do want, what we could create, what would be a possibility then we also trigger a more positive emotional response – try it – it works wonders.
Negative emotions are like Tamagotchis, they need to be fed in order to persist. We can all experience burst of anger or frustration during a hectic day – that is unavoidable. Emotional bursts last on an average 90 sec if you just leave them to lose their steam. Only if you feed them with more negative thoughts do they survive for longer – Don’t feed them, shift your focus.
The Mind: Focus Energy
The fastest way to dilute your mental resources and energy is to shift tasks rapidly. In your brain, there is no such thing as multitasking, what we sometimes refer to as multitasking is just that we are asking our brains to perform several tasks at the same time by rapidly switching from one to the other – when we do that the loss in productivity is dramatic. Typically, you add an extra 25% time to tasks when you switch attention. So answering phone calls, replying to email, etc. while trying to finish that monthly report is a very bad idea.
Chunk and batch process your tasks in categories. Emails in one time slot, phone calls in another.
Big Rocks First
The number one productivity enhancer that everyone who implements it says changes their life dramatically is what Steven Covey called Big Rocks First: Start your day by tackling one big important project that you need to get done. (Decide the night before what it is going to be) Do it first, before the emails, and the 15 yellow post-it notes with things to do and people to call on them. Practice every day for a week and notice how much more you get done. It is amazing!
The Human Spirit: Energy of Meaning and Purpose.
How does it feel energy wise to work on something that in your view is meaningless? It’s a drag – yes?
On the other hand, how does it feel to work on something that you personally feel is ultra important and very meaningful? Now you are maybe thinking, but hey that’s not work, that’s called a hobby… Exactly. When something is meaningful to us – when we can see the purpose, it is so much more fun to do that we would even consider doing to for free.
So how do we tap into that energy?
We do so by becoming more aware about what is important to us. What we value in life. Becoming more aware of in what situation we have had this ‘flow’ experience and then asking ourselves so how can I organise myself in such a way that I get to do more of that.
Sometimes we are just in a situation that we will need to create our own meaning in order to survive. At the age of 21, I landed a job as a lift operator in a very posh Parisian hotel. Now that is not the most inspiring of jobs. So in order to preserve my sanity, I started to think what would it take to become the best lift operator in Paris? How do you run your lift in such a way that people (i.e my superiors) notice? That became my meaningful project every day and three months later, I was promoted to a new position in the hotel.
So in conclusion – and I do realise it is a bit of a cliché – but it really does apply here -Don’t try to work harder – you will just kill yourself – work smarter.
Take charge of your energy levels!
This is the ninth article in a series on how to lead as a first time manger. If you would like to know more, check out other articles of the first time manager series:
- How are you supporting your first time managers?
- The big leap… from team member to team leader
- First time manager – The challenges
- Direction, Alignment & Commitment in 4 easy steps
- Powerful or powerless, what do you prefer?
- Conversations, not small talk
- Take charge of your energy levels!
- You won’t get results by pussyfooting around the issues!
- What drives a fabulous employee experience?
I have a new online training out on this: The Team Leaders Toolbox – check it out