A neat way to manage your time is to use your diary to make appointments with yourself. Clearly you would not allow anyone to disturb you if you were dealing with external customers. Why then do we not introduce the same principle in the office? What we need is a system which will allow you to build in timed sections. These are for dealing with calls, replying to emails, writing reports, making visits, handling follow up calls and managing staff. However handling crises are impossible in this environment so thirty minute buffer areas with NOTHING planned need to be built-in to the diary as well.
In the latter part of last year I ran a personal organisation programme for a Charity whose staff had to deal with crises all the time. It is very difficult for a group like that to even begin to use their diary to plan. They did at least agree they had a number of important tasks such as writing monthly reports which needed thinking and research time as well as actual writing time. They had two opposing groups of customers. On one hand they had employers who offered work experience for disabled people. On the other hand people with severe learning and disability needs who expected to have help immediately. During the programme the group analysed first what they had to do during the day. Then they just planned for half the day leaving the rest of the diary with buffer zones strategically littered throughout.
Paul, a manager from the Charity in Manchester, called me recently to tell me that his half day planning had revolutionised his life. He had time to work because he wasn’t trying to jam everything into one day and time to deal with people’s problems as they arose. He said the approach really came home to him this week when another department manager rang and said”: This stuff Head Office wants us to do urgently I don’t know how I can do it unless I take it home”. Paul was able to respond:”I’ve done mine in the spare hour I had built in to my day, yesterday”!