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Organizational Time

Building A Deadline Culture

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from business owners is that their employees are holding them back. They say that their people have no common sense - but they keep them because good employees are so hard to find and hiring is such a lottery. What they fail to realize that their expectations are out of line...if their employees were better they wouldn't be working there in the first place and the problem lies with the owner, not the workers.

The problem is that common sense isn’t so common and you have to make the most out of what you have. The fish stinks from the head down and many employee issues can be tracked back directly to the owner and the lack of accountability in the organization.

You get the behaviors you inspect….not the ones you simply expect.

Success starts by setting expectations in a clear manner and relies on calling people on them when they fail to measure up. This is nowhere clearer than in employees meeting deadlines, but it is relatively easy to fix. All you have to do is follow a simple system that removes the need for common sense and holds people accountable for what they have been told to do.

When you set a deadline: 

  1. Communicate your expectations clearly.
  2. Explain why the deadline is important. If your deadlines are to be taken seriously you need to explain their significance.
  3. Set dates for progress reports if appropriate.
  4. Get agreement to your timetable.
  5. Set a date when you expect to be told in advance if the deadline cannot be met. If you do it in writing it is much more powerful

This last point is critical. By not telling you ahead of time if the deadline cannot be met your employee is removing your ability to manage and they must be made aware of this.

You may be able to allow some slippage, but if you absolutely must meet the deadline then this gives you the chance to take alternative action.  Finally, follow up if the deadline is missed.

How often have you set a deadline and never followed up with the employee? What kind of message do you think that conveys about you and how seriously you expect to be taken? So fix yourself first and you are on your way to building a deadline culture.



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Time Management Tips

  • When somebody interrupts you when you are busy, don't let them interrupt your train of thought. Ask them to come back and see you at a specific time – you may be surprised that they actually figure out the answer and don't come back to ask you.

  • Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.

  • It is all too easy to waste time on phone calls. Keep an egg timer next to the phone to keep track of exactly how long you are talking. It will keep the time you are spending in the forefront of your mind and will help you handle the call more efficiently.

  • Never go to the bank to deposit checks, it is a Time Bandit way below your pay grade, and claiming it is therapeutic and gets you out of the office is deluding yourself. Send somebody else!  Better still, get a check scanning machine...and make sure the bank pays!

  • Organize your office so the door isn't in your immediate line of vision. The big payoff is that people can't appear at your door, hover, catch your eye and distract you. If you make it harder to interrupt you, people may figure out answers themselves rather than asking you.

  • When you have to give out an e-mail address to somebody who's going to send you things you don't want in your inbox, give them a special "junk" e-mail address. Then set up a rule so that everything to that address goes to a folder you review on your timetable.

  • When somebody interrupts you to ask you a question always reply with a question back. Ask them how they would deal with it, and make them think proactively rather than just relying on you. A good technique is to ask: "If I wasn't available today, what would you do?"

  • If your key customers expect you to answer the phone at all times, get an Internet phone line and give them a "VIP" phone number to call. Set it up with a unique ring on your system and you'll know that calls on that line are from your most important customers.

  • Most people have a “To Do” list to record the tasks they need to "Get Done", but it doesn't help identify what you shouldn't do yourself. For that you need a “To Don’t” list. Identify the culprits, put them on the list and defend your time by assigning them elsewhere. 

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone now as the most dangerously effective of all Time Bandits. Turn off your e mail alert and check your e-mail only four times a it on your schedule not the schedule of the people who are interrupting your more productive work.

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone as the most dangerously effective of all time wasters. The worst thing is the e mail alert that pops up on your computer screen. Don't let other people interrupt you in this way and take back control of your time by turning the alert off

  • When somebody interrupts you while sitting at your desk, stand up. It changes the pace of the interaction and sends a message to the interrupter that they have invaded your time. The more you can send this message, the more effective you will become at protecting your time.

  • When somebody comes to you with an issue they should figure out themselves, don't allow yourself to relieve them of the burden and take it on yourself. Instead of saying "leave it with me" when this happens, say "never delegate upwards" and ask them for their solution.

  • Entrepreneurs wear so many of the hats in their business that many of the tasks they carry out are at a level way below the real value of their time. Are you working below your pay grade by not handing off menial tasks that should be done by others?

  • When you are hiring new employees, ask candidates about their time management abilities. The best employees are those that can prioritize their work and handle interruptions, so be sure to ask relevant questions to probe in those areas so that you hire somebody who has those skills.

  • Email has become a huge time-waster and taking control of your Inbox is becoming more critical than ever. The ideal state is only to have things in your Inbox that are important, urgent or time sensitive, and to put everything else automatically into folders using Rules governing what happens when they come in. I’ve been using Outlook Rules for a number of years to sort specific topics, but I recently came across a new rule that makes a dramatic difference.

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Did you know ?

Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.