Often times we look back at our careers and we start seeing things we could have done better, habits that we could have developed that would have given us a better output and winning outcomes. One of the things I have learned over the years is that time management on its own is a myth. What works is life management and when that is in place you will develop principles that will determine what you do; when you do it: and how well you will do it. One of these principles I now embrace as a result of this insight is that making appointments and demanding that others do the same when dealing with you will make you more productive. I did not arrive at this place in one day. It was a gradual journey.
One of the disadvantages I had early in my career was having an office in the Harare Central Business District in Zimbabwe where I come from. While it was a convenient location for business, it was also tempting and convenient for anyone who wanted to drop in and say “hi” during business hours. I soon realized that I was also guilty of dropping in on friends for social visits at their workplace too because, at the time, I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with it. This practice was disruptive to work as there are only eight hours to work in a day. Equally, I used to receive personal phone calls and also make personal calls on the work landline speaking endlessly to friends about anything and everything. This was before the wide usage of cellphones came into being. The alternative was the now antiquated phone booth. Blame it on youth, ignorance, whatever, it was just unacceptable to entertain social in-person calls or phone calls at work. Something had to give as I was falling behind on important deadlines and work tasks. It was at that point that I decided to keep socializing outside working hours.
Lessons learned from this experience:
1. Developing life principles will determine your time management principles. It helps you with what you should prioritize at any given time.
2. There must be a clear separation between home and work. Keep your social life separate from your work life especially during your work shift.
3. Even now with cellphones in widespread use, discipline yourself to make private calls during scheduled breaks only.
4. Treat others the way you expect to be treated. If you find it inconvenient to have friends visiting you at work, chances are they also find it distracting when you do it but they may not have the guts to tell you.
The other challenging experience finding myself in many meetings at work and I was lagging behind on my high-payoff activities which my actual performance was measured on. You may agree with me that sometimes the meetings at work do not end. One must decide which meetings to prioritize. The performance review at the end of the year does not focus on all these things but the “key deliverables”. I am sure many of us identify with this. I attended a personal development seminar where we were taught that we should spend at least 80% of our working time focussing on high pay-off activities, that is, those activities that bring the results that we are aiming for in the place of employment. The other 20% would account for menial, less important but necessary activities. disciplined time
Lessons learned from this experience:
1. There are meetings at work that add value to what you do and there are others that would be nice to attend but don’t contribute much to your output. Discern which ones are absolutely necessary to attend.
2. Always keep a diary. This helps you prioritize. You cannot rely on your memory and it is true that what gets written down gets done.
3. Do an audit of how much time you are spending in meetings and ask yourself how many of these are contributing directly to your “key deliverables”.
4. I learned to say “no” to meetings I had not agreed to in advance. This helped free up a lot of time.
5. How we handle and plan for meetings affects productivity whether one realizes it or not.
What does this have to do with the importance of making appointments and keeping them? I would say everything. Making and keeping appointments is an important factor in any business, career, or even personal things we need to do. We spend more time in meetings than we realize. It is even more important in times like these when we work from home and we have to self-supervise and self-manage. These skills do not come naturally but can be learned. I hope I have helped in some way to put you on a path that will make you more organized and effective.