Originally Published on December 19, 2016 on LinkedIn
With the holidays upon us, I was pondering on the concepts of time and giving. As we all know, we only have a certain amount of time each day. No matter what we do, there is no way to stretch the time and obtain more hours. It is simply not possible. As the holidays approach us, time becomes even scarcer and we run out of it. We rush to buy gifts for all our loved ones and we forget that most often, what people want of us most is the gift of our time, our undivided attention, our presence.
But the people around us don’t necessarily want our time only during the holidays. They want more of our time always. So what are we to do with all the other responsibilities we carry on our daily lives? How are we going to carve out time, out of our overwhelmingly busy schedules, to spend it with our loved ones? How can we dedicate more quality time to our employees when the business calls for our attention with never ending urgent matters? Here are some tips I would like to share with you that will help you manage your time so you can invest it more wisely and where it matters most—in people. I have done these things during the course of my life and they have helped me be more successful in my distribution of time.
Change your perspective on how you view time. Instead of thinking you are using your time for activities, people, business, work, volunteering, etc., think of the concept of investing your time. I learned this concept in The Master’s Program for Women that I teach (visit www.themastersprogramforwomen.org to learn more about TMPW). The analogy is to think of time as money and your investment portfolio. Just as you invest your money in various types of investments, you can invest your time in various types of activities. You need to diversify your money portfolio and you also need to diversify your time portfolio. The same way you need to choose the best investment vehicles for your money to grow and not waste it, you need to also choose the best ways to spend, or invest, your time in so you produce the most you can and don’t waste any of it.
Therefore, choose the right investment vehicles for your time. Always start with people. Invest your time in relationships and prioritize your days based on the circumstances and what you have going on at the time (with your boss, your coworkers, vendors, customers, and all stakeholders). Next, choose the activities that will produce most fruit in your life. Most of us who work (weather in a company or on our own business), need to invest our time in our work but that needs to be done wisely. Then, choose the volunteer activities where you are most fulfilled and, again, where your time investment will produce the most return.
Be present at home. When you set aside time to be with your children, be present. Give them your quality time, your undivided attention, and you will see how they will be satisfied and will go on to do other activities once their time with you is done. I did this when my children were growing up (pre-teen years). I gave them an hour each afternoon to do whatever they wanted to do with me. Somedays they chose to play a game, other days they wanted to play outside or go to the park, and yet other times, they decided to watch a movie or read books. I started noticing that after the one hour quality/dedicated time I gave them, they actually left me. They went off to do their homework, or play on their own. You see, many times, we are “with them physically” but not present at all. And kids know it. They sense when your mind is somewhere else and when you’re not interested in the game or whatever activity you’re doing with them. In the summers, for many years while my kids were growing up, I took an entire week to do whatever they wanted to do (usually, we visited swimming pools around the city). Those are the memories they still have of “kids and mama.” My husband, unfortunately during those years, had less vacation than me so this was my luxury time with the kids. As a full-time working mom, this decision to spend that dedicated time with my children helped me deal with the guilt of working outside of the home and being away from them. For those of you who are married, do the same with your spouse. Your spouse also needs dedicated time when he is the center of your universe at that moment. Choose to do activities that you both enjoy and be present for him.
Be present at work. When you schedule time to be with your employees, if you’re in management, be present. Make sure they know this is their special time with you. This can be weekly or bi-weekly meetings where they have your undivided attention. I used to prepare an agenda and also asked my employees to do the same. We were both to write down all the things we needed to talk about that were not urgent. We also met more often if we were working on special projects with upcoming due dates. What I discovered was that since my employees knew that that one hour a week was only theirs and that I protected that time to be with them, they rarely interrupted me during the week for small things. Of course, I was always available for the important, urgent, or unexpected issues that came up that were not part of our meetings. But as time went by, those urgent matters didn’t come up as often at all because we planned everything together during our meetings. Consistency is key to having successful relationships with your employees. You can apply this same concept when you are meeting with your boss, clients, directors, or vendors.
Enhance your time management skills. Be strategic on how you respond to emails. Don’t let them invade and take over your day. If you respond to each email as it comes in, you’ll never get anything else done. Instead, set aside time once a day to only respond to emails. Be strategic on how you plan group meetings. Invite the right people, use and follow an agenda, start and end on time—consistently. Plan projects ahead of time to avoid last minute crisis. Do not procrastinate as this will only create chaos and your employees will lose respect for you. Nobody likes to put out fires all the time. Let the fires be the real, unexpected situations. Let them be the exception. Be strategic on how you handle phone calls. Put your phone on busy when you need to work on a project and cannot have interruptions. Put the phone on available when you can be interrupted while you do small tasks. Plan a time each day to only answer phone calls. I have noticed that I need to be “in the mood” for phone calls—both initiating a call as well as calling people back.
I hope I encouraged you to view the concept of time differently so you can start implementing these tips. My goal is to help you maximize your time and invest it wisely where your investment will product the maximum return. You will then feel satisfied and accomplished.
Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.