In my last column, I addressed problems that can sabotage managers, and listed 10 ways to control interruptions. This month, I'll look at ways to help you become more productive.
Those of us in the kitchen and bath industry tend to spend a lot of time in meetings, and often, people we meet for very legitimate purposes don't know when it's time to leave. Here are a few ways you can edge people toward the door when they've overstayed their welcome:
1. Once you understand the essence of what someone is talking
about, start to summarize and then make a statement designed to end
2. When people don't take the hint that the meeting is over, stand up and shake their hand to plainly signify that the meeting is at an end.'
3. When someone still won't budge, even with hints, get up and excuse yourself and leave the office yourself.
4. When the discussion no longer serves a valid purpose, there's nothing wrong with saying, "You'll have to excuse me now. I have to get back to work."
5. Some people just naturally ramble and can't stop talking. When this happens, you have to be prepared to interrupt and bring the discussion to an end.
6. Keep your responses as brief as possible.
7. Suggest taking a break. This will get people out of your office.
8. Practice prevention by establishing a time limit at the start of the meeting, such as, "Tom, I can only give you five minutes."
9. For formal, pre-planned meetings, have an agenda and time frame. When the time is up, summarize and conclude the meeting.
10. Stage a "mini-crisis." Everyone relates to these in a small business. Example: "You'll have to excuse me now because I promised Mrs. Smith I'd call her at 10:00."
In addition to meetings, daily work routines are usually overlooked as potential sources for saving time. Step back and look at basic tasks, and try to simplify, combine or eliminate them to give you more time for higher priority projects. Here are some tips for streamlining daily routines:
1. Discipline yourself to stay on top of routine matters.
2. Relay general information by memo or in group meetings rather than repeating the same thing several times over.
3. Delegate routine tasks to subordinates.
4. Don't fill in for absent team members. Instead, cross train others to handle another person's job.
5. Assign periodic responsibilities, such as training new employees, to someone else.
6. Clean up your desk and office so time isn't wasted looking for things.
7. Shorten, eliminate or combine meetings.
8. Learn to recognize what never has to be done, and forget about it.
9. Have people come see you rather than you go see them.
Almost everyone complains about the volume of paperwork they must handle. Your challenge is to control the amount of paperwork you have to deal with. Consider some of these ideas to help you:
1. Write only when you have to. Written response are time
consuming, so always consider other alternatives before replying in
2. Save time by replying to requests directly on the memo or letter rather than preparing a separate reply.
3. Use your subordinates to lighten your load.
4. Eliminate distractions when you're doing the bulk of your paperwork, since they disturb your concentration.
5. Be careful with the filing process. One of the biggest time wasters associated with paperwork is having to look for something that was misfiled.
6. Purge your files on a regular basis. It saves time and space.
7. Avoid procrastination in replying to written material. Too often, we'll read the letter, memo or other correspondence and then put it aside for later reply. Don't wait. Handle papers once.
8. Remember, when you do have to write, keep it short. It will save you time, and will hopefully encourage others to do the same.
In our kitchen and bath firms, the owners, managers and supervisors wear a lot of different hats. It's been proven that one of the best ways to increase personal efficiency, as well as the team's productivity, is to delegate duties more effectively. If done correctly, it should also reduce your personal job stress, since you won't be struggling to do everything yourself.'
Many people are reluctant to delegate out of fear that the work won't be done correctly. This is a hurdle that can be overcome by carefully planning how, what, when and to whom you will delegate tasks.
Use the following procedures to help in this regard:
1. Establish specific goals to be accomplished. Decide exactly
what you want done, the time frame for completion and the priority
of the task in relation to other work.
2. Select the right co-workers for the job. Although routine tasks can be pretty much farmed out at random, more difficult assignments should be delegated based on employees' talent and workload.
3. Discuss the details of what you want accomplished with the person selected for the task. Try to make assignments that will challenge workers without overwhelming them. Encourage workers to contribute their ideas concerning how the job should be done.
4. Be clear about priorities. Let the workers know how the assigned task fits in with other work assigned to the individual.
5. Establish controls in the form of periodic checkpoints, where the worker should brief you on the progress of the work. This will allow you to monitor how well the employee is moving ahead toward the completion of the task.
6. Determine limits on what the employee can and can't do in completing the assignment.
7. Support the results, even if the project doesn't turn out as well as you might have hoped. Refrain from criticizing employees if they made a good faith effort to succeed. Show them how they might have done better. By not being critical, you will motivate them to be more willing to accept the challenge of new assignments.
As business continues to be good, our plates continue to be full sometimes too full. The challenge, then, is to learn how to manage your time and your work more efficiently.