"We are actively and successfully implementing the procedures you gave us for managing our time and workloads." —Catherine A. Merschel, Executive Director, Eden Housing, Inc.


Manage as Fast as You Can

Now that most of the fat has been cut from businesses, the average manager is trying to manage faster and faster. How is it possible to accelerate a pace that already seems excessive?

To Speed Up, Slow Down

In trying to find ways to do more and manage people faster, it is easy to overlook key areas of your job, specifically planning and performance objectives. Be careful not to sacrifice quality in a desire for speed. If the continual message you send is that employees must speed up and do things quickly, carelessness is often a result. If you rarely have time for regular status meetings and there is no mechanism for catching your attention, staff may also hide problems from you which is very risky and potentially costly. To slow down in order to speed up, you must take the time to assess what you want your employees to accomplish, the time frame available, the resources to draw upon, and the outcome you desire. The clearer you can be on these and the emphasis you place on high value activities, the less chance there is of your employees loosing focus during the day-to-day routine.

Preventative Medicine

Managers often overlook or ignore overload situations, with disastrous results. Regular staff meetings are useful for discussing the status of each project. Take this opportunity to help employees set priorities and plan their activities. Be sure to follow up on interim deadlines. Inspect what you expect. If you get too busy to check, you will have no warning before disaster strikes.

Restructure Jobs

Make it a priority to streamline and simplify office procedures. Although this can seem overwhelming, it need not be. Use this easy process.

Step 1: Start with a brainstorming session and discuss time- and work-saving measures. Generate ideas for streamlining the operation throughout your entire company or immediate department.

Step 2: Compile a survey that you can distribute to employees, covering two areas. 1) Any suggestions they have for making changes. 2) Ask them to keep a log in some detail of what they do for one week.

Step 3: Analyze their responses. When you do, you may find a number of areas of duplication or overlap.

Step 4: Eliminate tasks and reassign others where appropriate.

Step 5: Revise your system and evaluate the results. You will probably find that the general routine administrative work is being completed more quickly and easily which will free time for the important work.

Empower Staff

Encourage and support staff members in making their own decisions as often as possible. Bottlenecks can be created by one individual who insists on keeping all the power or by requiring approvals every step of the way. Ask your employees to consider two questions before coming to you for assistance: 1) What is the worst thing that will happen if I am wrong? 2) What would I do if my boss were away? Encourage them to decide and offer support even if the decision does not match the one you would make. Even if the decision was wrong, explain why and express your belief in their ability.

Lean on Technology

Used well, voice mail, teleconferencing, and electronic mail can really speed the flow of communication. Voice mail can help the caller respond in a logical sequence, gather information prior to initiating a call and focus the discussion. And it is always delightful to forward a message to another person or send the same message to all the staff when necessary. Audio and video conferencing reduces the amount of time in face-to-face meetings and eliminates travel time. Schedule specific times of the day for handling e-mail. Remember the etiquette rules when using e-mail. Keep it short, minimize broadcast messages and always use the subject line. If you are buried under faxes, hand-write your reply on the original fax and return to sender. The trick to having technology truly be a time saver is having the correct program or piece of equipment and knowing how to use it competently. Take a training course on your key software programs. It can really pay off. So can learning to type well.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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