The 5 Skills You Need to Get Ahead: Time-Management (3 of 6)

May 3, 2006

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To be efficient and well-organized, it’s best to answer your e-mail:

ANSWER: (C) At a set time each day.

Doing more with less today also involves doing more with less time. Everyone’s pressed for time in the FM world - and success often comes down to how well you maximize your time to get the most out of each workday.

Planning is Step No. 1 in achieving victory over this never-ending dilemma. “Most facilities professionals think planning is a luxury, but it’s a necessity. I also hear facilities professionals say, ‘What I do is so unique that I can’t plan.’ That’s a misnomer,” says Stormy Friday, founder and president, The Friday Group, Annapolis, MD. Finding the right place to plan makes a big difference in time management, whether it means going to the library, closing the door to your office, or driving in the car on your way to work.

Another problem with time management is the fact that many building owners/managers don’t know how to prioritize. “That’s one of the most important things to do,” says Friday. There are a variety of techniques to help you decide which tasks are most important, but one of the most common (and effective) is the “ABCs” of priorities: “A” tasks are urgent and must be done; “B” tasks are important and should be done; and “C” tasks are relatively minor and could be done. During this prioritization process, make sure your targets and projected finish dates are realistic. Many professionals have a tendency to be overly ambitious and end up overestimating what they can reasonably accomplish. Once you have prioritized the list, begin to tackle the tasks in order of importance. (Don’t jump down to finish No. 3 on the list until tasks No. 1 and No. 2 are crossed off.) At the end of each day, take the unfinished items and decide whether to put them on the list again for tomorrow, hand them over to someone else, or remove them altogether.

“People also don’t realize that they need to have a ‘fudge factor’ built into their time-management strategy. All the best planning in the world is great, but if you haven’t allowed opportunity for crises and emergencies to impede - because that’s the nature of the beast in our business - then you’re making a huge mistake,” says Friday. When a crisis or an emergency does take place and facilities professionals aren’t prepared or haven’t allowed time for those unexpected occurrences, it upsets the balance of time so severely that individuals and organizations may not recover very well. “Many property managers handle their jobs in crisis mode,” Kathleen McKenna-Harmon, an Institute of Real Estate Management instructor based in Minnetonka, MN, points out. “This pace creates significant burn-out.”

She goes by the philosophy that getting to work a few minutes early (or staying a few minutes late) can make all the difference in terms of how the day progresses - if you use that time to make a priority list for the day’s activities. If distractions are a problem, don’t be afraid to take some time to focus. A big time-management blunder is the lack of planning for quiet time. “I think part of that is because we’ve had open-door policies, but that doesn’t mean you have to be accessible 5 days a week, 8 hours a day,” says Friday. Many professionals in this industry have a tendency to allow people to interrupt. When someone approaches you saying ‘‘I need just a minute of your time’’ and you’re in the middle of something, “keep in mind that your time is just as valuable as the person’s who’s trying to interrupt it,” says Friday.

Another key to time management: Remember that you have colleagues to assist you. Many facilities professionals feel the need to view, handle, or be involved in almost everything. In addition to freeing up your time, delegation can also help you concentrate on long-range objectives. “Daily planning gives us a chance to see how we’re progressing on short-term goals, but what are you doing in your daily tasks to help with your long-term objectives?” asks Friday.

“When we go in and work with facilities professionals,” says Friday, “we see things like old expense reports ... we’re all so worried that we’re not going to have the right information when the time comes, so we keep it all.” She emphasizes that part of time management is managing paper and information (e-mail and other electronic or online information). “You need to strike a balance. I’ve seen facilities professionals with information that they don’t need to keep, and a lot of property managers and facilities managers who don’t even organize their e-mail.” Make sure you plan time for filing papers, arranging electronic information, etc.; you’ll benefit in the long run.

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