"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.

Self Management

Learning to Let Go

You started the business or department, nursed it over humps and bumps, watched it grow and finally thrive. That success was founded on your willingness to do anything and everything. You are comfortable with having your hands in all aspects of the endeavor. Now, however, it is becoming harder and harder to keep it all together. Long hours have become the norm. It is ever more difficult to remain caught up. And worse yet, you are beginning to make mistakes. Some of your time crunch is certainly driven by external factors—your clients, the phone, staff with questions and government regulations, etc. However, there are often subtle, unconscious needs that sabotage your best efforts to better manage time.

Need for Perfection

One common trap is an excessive need for perfection. You can fall prey to believing you are the only person who can handle a given situation, work with a special client, or design a new program. We all have parts of our work that we find fun and for which we have the most experience. It is natural to want to handle these yourself. However, after enough time passes, you may become habituated to keeping all these jobs. Then, even when other options are open, i.e. delegating, outsourcing, technological methods, you may be blinded by habit. As long as you keep "special," "difficult" or "unusual" accounts on your plate, how can you continue to grow and accept new challenges? Change is the only constant and rarely do we have the luxury to achieve perfection (were that to exist).

Crisis Management

Increasing the volume of accounts, customers or clients is only one half of the battle. Servicing and maintaining them as satisfied customers is equally important. Customers are much more sophisticated than in the past. Lead times are shrinking and demands are increasing. The cyclical nature of work is a thing of the past; the predictable slow and fast times are disappearing. That means it is even more important to manage the urgent items so they do not eat up all of your time. If you spend the bulk of your days responding to immediate demands, you necessarily spend less time doing tasks that produce long-term value. Once trapped in the cycle of crisis management it becomes difficult to see beyond the immediate. Always keep in mind the high priority activities you should be engaged in such as selling and servicing accounts, product development, strategic planning, or outreach.

Failure to Delegate

Whether in a hierarchical setting or a team environment, you can be the driving force but you cannot do it all alone. What happens when you keep it all on your plate? Your workload rapidly becomes impossible. When you are the contact person, the problem solver, the planner, the delivery person—the only one who understands the clients' special needs, the institutional memory, in addition to carrying the responsibilities inherent in managing, it becomes impossible to keep all the balls in the air. Not letting go and trusting others ultimately limits your accomplishments, effectiveness and growth.

Poor Training

It is imperative that you transfer your skills at working special accounts to others whether you are a broker, consultant, owner or entrepreneur. If you do not train and allow others to manage those accounts, how will you ever feel comfortable that all is being handled well while you are on vacation? Allowing staff to grow, learn and become more sophisticated will do more than simply free up your time. Most people enjoy new opportunities. Accepting new responsibilities is a way for staff to thrive. They will be more motivated because their jobs will be more exciting. Although you will still have certain peculiar accounts that require your attention, at least you will not have them all.

Learning to Let Go

To do more in a day, you must do less, not do everything faster. Ask yourself, on average, do you spend enough time, energy and resources on those things only you can do? If not, look for tasks that others can and should handle and engineer opportunities for them to take over. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember, if you learned how to handle angry clients, negotiate, be friendly, fill out forms, compile reports and manage multiple tasks, there is a good likelihood that your staff can learn as well. Give them the opportunity and free yourself to grow and to take advantage of the opportunities that helped make this field interesting, attractive and fun in the first place.

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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