Rockin’ Good Time
There's this oft-repeated story on time management: A professor stands in front of a class with a large glass container, and started to put big pieces of rocks, gravel, sand and water into the container as a way to illustrate the importance of prioritising and time management
(full story here).
Having been through several time management training and working in fast-paced operational work myself, watching out for good time management lessons is almost second-nature in my life. About a year ago, I joined an Insight tour group during a trip to Europe and was fortunate enough to be led by one of the most professional tour leader I’ve ever met. Here are some of her time management highlights:
Plan for it
Without fail, she will start our day by itemising our “To-Do” list for the day and will end the evening with a preparation of our “To-Do” list for the next day. Referencing to the tour itinerary regularly, she will point out the travel pattern (e.g. duration of coach travel, washroom break, lunch breaks etc) along the way so that we are able to manage our activities accordingly.
Sticking to the rules
Tourists are bombarded with distractions and sights to view every minute, much like how we can be distracted by tasks that come our way as the day goes by, and it’s very easy to miss deadlines if we are not careful. However, latecomers (whether for meeting or for tour) delay everyone and is one of the biggest timewaster and demoralizer.
Latecomers are usually given a rather “special” treatment by her. If she discovered that some members were habitual latecomers, she spoke with them privately to highlight her concerns and the implications. If that didn’t work, she announced their names over the microphone when time was up and there were missing passengers. Usually this worked, as to be eyeballed and “cheered” by a whole coach of fellow passengers was quite an embarrassing affair.
Sometimes, we need to be able to set the ground rules and stick by it. Slacking rules for offenders tend to end up demoralizing those who stuck by the rules
. Manage expectation from the start
She had this uncanny ability to read and understand our travel expectations. For example, we were in this lovely little town for a 2 hour lunch break. From the onset, she told us that this town is both historical and beautiful but unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to finish viewing all the sights AND finish lunch in 2 hours. Armed with knowledge, she was able to point out the key features of the place and gave good directions to those who singled out certain spots, so that we could catch something that mattered to us during the short time.
This is a clear example of managing expectation and resources during task management. Sometimes, there is a tendency to commit to more than what we know we can achieve, especially with the highly dynamic work environment today where our tasks could come from people halfway across the world with different culture, only to end up with disappointments and re-aligning timelines again for the whole group.
Thread it all with good communication
This is probably one of her most important skills which I noticed during the trip. As we travelled during winter, traffic and road conditions were uncontrollable show-stopper. She took the initiative to check with fellow colleagues who had travelled on the road the day before to gather information and to decide if there is a need to take another route, or to perhaps skip a stop. No matter what it was, she communicated these to us real time and if we really needed to re-route, we were “compensated” with another similar stop or place to visit so that negative feeling about the change were kept as low as possible. Her constant communication and her ability to manage the “give-and-take” aspect of the tour kept us informed and engaged with the changes, much like how we can help to alleviate some time management changes in a constantly-changing work environment.
Last but not least, click here for some noteworthy “Time-Wasters” and “Time-Gainers”.