Nowadays, it seems that we are all expected to produce more for less, says leadership trainer and consultant Debra Allcock Tyler. And this includes less time.
In her book Managing Time, she explains how we are increasingly expected to provide better services, faster response times, increased sales, and better value for money. She also describes the need to cope with an increasing amount of employment legislation, quality practices and procedures, changing models of leadership and a workforce with higher expectations.
'On top of this, we are expected to balance work and home life, spend more time with our children, keep up with our learning, attend off-site training and have good ideas. The list is endless, ' says Allcock Tyler.
So how can we organise our time to meet the ever changing demands of the modern workplace and have a life outside work?
In her book, Allcock Tyler explains how, by using simple techniques, it is possible to plan and prioritise effectively. Neither should take much time, she insists. 'You can waste hours of precious time working out detailed plans which change the moment you attempt to implement them.'
She defines two types of workplace tasks. Proactive - those we can plan for - and reactive - those we cannot plan for.
'Some people will have jobs that are primarily proactive and others will have jobs that are more reactive, ' she writes. 'What we all have in common is a tendency to plan as if things never go wrong or interfere with our work.' This invariably results in us over estimating how much we can get done in any given time.
Allcock Tyler's advice is to have a general idea of how often you are interrupted or sidetracked, then make allowances accordingly, leaving a suitable amount of time for reactive tasks or problems.
'And do not forget, ' she urges, 'Let your motto be 'Leave until tomorrow that which does not have to be done today'!'
To help achieve this she suggests compiling a rolling list of things to do.
Instead of writing down things to do on a daily basis, write down tasks in your diary on the day you intend to do them. This means you are far less likely to over commit your time, Allcock Tyler claims. 'And if you find you cannot complete a task on a particular day, simply write it down on the next day you think you will be able to do it.' This, she adds, is planning in action, or making work management decisions on the spot. 'It also helps to reduce stress levels, since you are not carrying around a mental list of things to do.'
This is great in principle, but what if you have a deadline to meet? According to Allcock Tyler, deadlines can also be managed. The key is to ensure deadlines are realistic. It is far better to dig your heels in and not accept an unrealistic deadline, she insists, than to agree to something knowing that you cannot meet it.
Prioritise but do not make detailed plans
Do not set yourself too many targets in a day.
Expect things to go away Leave until tomorrow that which does not have to be done today