Time management

Find Hidden Time at Work

Today’s workplace is filled with busy people. There’s too much to do. There’s too little time. And the streets are littered with people that organizations didn’t think were busy enough.

This explains why it is nearly impossible to find anyone willing to admit they aren’t working at full capacity.

This time crunch creates a problem for companies. As new opportunities arise, the organization wants to respond but can’t because everyone is already fully committed to other work.

And even if they aren’t, they want the powers-that-be to think they are. If this problem exists in your company, you need to find more time. Here are your three options.

Bring in help

The first option is to admit the organization is working beyond its capacity and hire more help. While this seems obvious, it’s not easy to do. Organizations don’t have bottomless bags of money, especially in tough economic times.

Spending it on more people usually means that some other need will go unmet. And then there’s the problem of what to do with the new employees you hired when you no longer need them.

A related strategy is to contract for more help. The contingent workforce is large and growing, skilled, and willing to help you meet capacity challenges. Call in consultants, temps, or limited status employees to help you get the job done.

And if you don’t want to bring these folks in to do the work, send the work out to firms who can do it for you. The best part of this solution is that when demand returns to normal, you can easily readjust.

Push people harder

Another possibility involves recruiting existing employees to take on the project. If they tell you they are too busy, you tell them to suck it up and make it happen.

While this is a popular solution with project sponsors, it is not popular with the people who will do the work. Burnout sets in, the quality of the project suffers, and eventually the organization is stuck with a serious morale problem.

While it’s true employees will tell you they are crazy busy even when they are not, squeezing people for all they’re worth isn’t sustainable.

Most employees expect to be pushed hard in emergency situations and will respond to meet the challenge. These same employees will not stay in an organization that uses this approach as standard business practice.

Find the hidden time

A third option is to find more time in the organization. At first this idea appears to offer little promise, but it is clearly the best option.

There is plenty of wasted time in organizations that can be captured and redeployed on critical projects. It’s not hard to find. Look where it is most likely hiding.

Think of it like looking under the sofa cushions for money. Experience tells you there is almost always a coin or two under there.

Here are five promising places to search for extra time within your organization.

1. Meetings

There isn’t an organization in the world that can’t free up tremendous amounts of time by paying better attention to meetings.

Think about how much time you spend in meetings. What percent of that time is wasted? Now figure out how much time is wasted across the organization.

There are several concrete things you can do to recapture this time. Make sure meetings have a clear and useful purpose. Meetings that don’t should not be held.

Second make sure there is an agenda and carefully follow it. This will keep the meeting on track and short as possible.

Finally, be extra careful when creating the meeting invitation list. Only invite those people who absolutely have to be there.

2. Processes

Almost all processes can be improved. Perhaps they contain steps that don’t add value. Maybe they could benefit from automation. Possibly the people working the process don’t have the proper tools or resources. In each of these cases, improving the process almost always frees up time within the organization.

3. Travel

Anyone who’s traveled for business or pleasure knows it’s a game of hurry up and wait. If there’s an airplane involved, the better part of a day will be chewed up in travel. Here are a few ideas to consider when hunting for wasted travel time.

  • Begin by asking the most obvious question, “Is this trip really necessary?”
  • Could the objectives be met by telephone, video conference, or email?
  • Maximize the amount of productive time that goes along with the travel time. Instead of traveling all day for a single, one-hour meeting, could other meetings in the destination city be scheduled for the same trip?

4. Environment

If you ever found yourself needing to work off site because you really had to focus on a piece of work, your office environment probably creates too many distractions.

Perhaps you have a culture where you pop in on each other. Maybe there’s just too much noise.

In any case, distracted employees are inefficient employees. The challenge is to identify and eliminate as many distractions as possible.

5. Routine work

Evaluate each and every piece of work you do. Is it all necessary? Chances are that most everyone has something in her routine work that she does because she thinks she is supposed to, but in reality it wouldn’t matter one bit if she simply stopped doing it.

Likely candidates for unnecessary work are regular reports and record keeping.

Time is there

There’s always more time available within the organization than it appears. The trick is finding it, capturing it, and redirecting it to the activities most likely to support the organization’s success.

We can help you look and then take the necessary steps to redeploy it. Let’s talk.

Tom LaForce, President, LaForce Teamwork Inc.