The biggest personal struggle that I face as a manager is my personal time management. I have no difficulties with planning meeting agendas, coordinating schedules, or addressing interpersonal or cross-departmental communication hurdles. What falls by the wayside more often than not is finding enough time to devote to contributing to projects.
Improving my time management skills and simplifying my workflow is an ongoing effort. However, there are three main things I’ve done to combat this issue.
Adjusting My Schedule
The first thing (which happened naturally) was that I started working on my tasks outside of the working day. Of course, this is not a recommendation for everyone… But I’ve found that since I truly enjoy the work that I’m doing, I want to devote additional time to it. Some days this might mean coming into work early; other days it means staying an hour or two late. Even spending 1-2 lunches a week completing mundane tasks like scheduling meetings or replying to emails can really clear up my schedule for more important things.
Our team is comprised of four members, not including myself. Two of the four are brand new to the company (both hired within the last 90 days) and one is back after having worked a year elsewhere.
Managing new team members comes with a different set of challenges. – They deserve the best possible training on the tools to complete their work, there are stages of building trust and setting expectations, there are always hiccups with the HR system or payroll/paperwork-related questions, and of course, you are building a relationship with another human being, which takes time.
All of those responsibilities must take priority when you transition into a management position. As a manager, your success lies in the success of the team, rather than your individual contributions.
However, without having established boundaries, you force the team to make assumptions about your preferences, availability, and even your willingness to help. If every time a team member stops by your desk, you appear agitated, they may take it personally and believe that you don’t want to answer their questions. Simple reminders like, “sorry if I seem bothered, I’m just having a hard time with __________,” can help prevent tension from forming in the first place. What’s even better is if you take time to discuss communication preferences as a team. Specify the type of requests/situations you would categorize as urgent and how you would prefer to be notified, then welcome them to share their preferences. Once boundaries and preferences have been established, you can feel more comfortable expressing your workload with the team.
As an employee, there is nothing more frustrating/defeating than waiting on an approval or feeling bored while waiting for information about a new project. The decreased morale and slow workflow are also damaging to business. The way to build a healthy and productive team isn’t getting approvals/information to the team members more quickly, it’s guiding and trusting them enough to make sound decisions. Be as transparent as possible. Tell the team if there’s a project that you don’t want to lose ownership of. Recognize when you are struggling with letting go of a project and express it openly with the team. It will help show your humanity as well as provide context if the project has felt strained or taxing.
Using these basic techniques to manage your personal time at work will help reduce your stress as well as alleviate tensions in the team.
Note: This post is written with the assumption that a management position encompasses both managing a team and contributing to projects.