One of the biggest hurdles for first-time managers can be having too much to do and too little time. Becoming a manager shouldn’t mean working harder and longer. Instead, it’s building the skills to work smarter. One key to working smarter is learning and applying time management skills, especially in three key areas.
A leader who can’t make a decision on time won’t last long in a leadership role. Use these tips:
- Determine whether the decision should be autocratic (you alone) or participative (with the team).
- Establish criteria for the decision and quickly gather data for assessment.
- Don’t hold out for perfection. Recognise when a “good-enough” solution is available.
- Don’t second-guess yourself and waffle back and forth. Stick with your decision. However, if a business-driven change is clearly needed, be prepared to implement it and move on.
There is a difference between “flying by the seat of your pants” and making “gut decisions.” With experience and business understanding, these decisions will become easier to make with less data and stress.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of checking emails first thing in the morning and getting stuck for hours. It’s also exhilarating to get engaged in the crisis of the day rather than doing the more mundane or long-term work that doesn’t have immediate rewards. You need to avoid this at all costs.
- Have a “leader standard work” schedule that partitions specific times for visiting the workplace, having one-on-ones, participating in team meetings, and encouraging “open door” visits by anyone who needs to see you. Include some “closed door” time for you to focus on work that needs your full concentration.
- Establish an end-of-day routine such as the Hobbs time management system of building your to-do list for the next day. Start the day with this list of priorities which should include must-dos and nice-to-dos, urgent and able to be delayed or done in pieces. Cross off each task as you complete it; this helps build a feeling of achievement and progress.
- Carry a daily planner, hard copy or electronic, with you for ready references, calendar info, note-taking, and your to-do list.
Remember that delegating is not just ordering someone to do a task and sending them off on their own. As a manager, you are accountable for all the work done by your team, even delegated tasks.
- Build required skills in your team members; don’t just toss them into the fray unprepared.
- Match work required to skills in place or under development.
- Agree on clear objectives, timelines and metrics.
- Set milestones and checkpoints.
- Be available to mentor or answer questions, but don’t micromanage.
- Correct anything veering off track early in the process. Reinforce progress and results.
- Give credit to those who have done the work.
Manage your time in your new role well or you will quickly burn out.
The infographic below from Acuity Training contains some more helpful tips for first-time managers.