Be aware of your blind spots; consider your volunteer work and community life too!
We think we have become very efficient in how we manage our time, but then there are our blind spots.
I am a pragmatic and efficient individual, someone with extensive experience in time management who teaches others how to streamline processes to save time at work and improve the bottom line. I thought I followed the fundamental rules of time management very well. My blind spot; however, was that I neglected to include these guidelines in my volunteer/community work life.
The two time management rules I overlooked were:
- Meetings must have an agenda
- Operations need easily accessible written procedures.
I belong to a networking group that I co-founded a decade ago, but over the years my role has evolved to mentoring on an as-needed basis to a much younger executive board. Specifically, an enthusiastic manager has been developing her leadership skills ever since.
This year, circumstances changed and the manager of the group, took a job out of town. Without any leadership, and an all new board looking for guidance and direction, the responsibility was mine once again.
For the last few years, meetings were kept light and fun with the board of volunteers. This was a nice way to be; however, keeping things too casual sometimes meant that some important tasks would slip through the cracks. People would either forget their responsibilities or couldn't find the paperwork which outlined the process. Tasks were left undone, and our level of service fell.
A common but important mistake of new managers is that, "people will remember what you tell them." People won't remember much after your conversation, so you always need to write it down. Make it easy on them and you; discuss it first, then outline the process for easy reference in a shared file or drive. All things evolve, and paper gets outdated quickly and/or lost. As an operation grows, amend/adjust any improvements accordingly.
The Current Situation:
We have a wonderful new board of directors, and because I appreciate their gift of time, I needed to ensure that every person knows what is expected of them in their roles, and provide a convenient reference tool to ensure that all jobs get done on time and professionally.
Our first meeting was going to be heavy, so I had sent out an agenda days ahead of our meeting to allow an opportunity for others to review and add to the list. I estimated that it would take 90 minutes to get through the agenda and allow for open discussion. Surprisingly, because we had an agenda, it took half the time!
It had been years since we got through a meeting so efficiently before. This was an eye-opener for me. I thought I was as a very organized and astute person, but through "an epiphany" I realized that I have been attending these volunteer meetings for years without having a written agenda, and wasting precious time.
The manager may have had an agenda, but the rest of us didn't know what to expect. It's no wonder, people dropped the ball regularly and lost interest in what we were trying to do. I allowed this to happen, to rob me of my time, when I knew better. Talk about a blind spot!
After the success of the meeting, I immediately created an agenda template for future meetings. I'll send it out ahead of time, and give everyone a chance to review and add to it as needed. The agenda will be ready for our meeting, and as a result, so will each one of us.
Regardless of paid work or volunteer work; time is precious. It's high time you and I stop wasting our precious time, now and forever more!
"What gets written down gets done." Julie Morgenstern
Although this was a humbling experience, I'm grateful to have discovered this blind spot. It's opened my eyes to other things in my personal and social life that I've ignored or left unattended. It showcased my need to spend more time in reflection and in living mindfully.
My to-do list now includes tasks from my personal and community life. Never again, will I keep these worlds separate from work, just as my physical and mental health are equally important in living a balanced life.
Learn and Move On:
Lastly, I remembered a story a retired friend of mine told me, how a friend talked him into joining a business venture with him. The owner of the company wanted to arrange a meeting with the new recruits at a faraway city. My friend, an experienced senior manager, kept asking (later insisting) on having an agenda to understand what they were going to talk about before he agreed to meet. Against his better judgement, his friend talked him into going, saying that the owner doesn't really do agendas. Can you guess what happened? They got nothing accomplished and it was a waste of time and money.
In conclusion, there are many ways to improve one's time management. This article highlights two basic time management rules to live by, that if followed in all areas of your life, will save you much time (and pain).
2 Basic Rules to Live-by:
- Never attend a Meeting of any sort, paid work or volunteer work, without a Written Agenda.
- Operations must have Written Processes and Procedures. Keep it handy (in a shared drive/file) for easy reference. As operations evolve and procedures change, communicate the changes (and why), and amend the document accordingly.
The moral of the story is that all of us, even experienced business people make errors in judgement or have blind spots. When this happens, don't punish yourself too much. Accept the lesson learned, and make a commitment to always listen to your inner guide.