As a product or project manager you are often juggling many different things and people. It is very hard to keep them all straight and ensure you are completing the work that needs to be done to actually move forward. So many of us spend the majority of our day in meetings, so how might we better manager your time? We don’t want to be in meetings 8+ hours a day and then have to do our deliverables on nights and weekends. What can we do to better manage our time and resources while having an impact?
Here are my top five tips for better time management.
We all have tons of meetings. Sometimes we even have to block time to just use the restroom or eat lunch because we get scheduled so back-to-back on meetings and honestly it’s overwhelming. Then, many of us come out of meetings with action items we have to accomplish, but what if you accomplished them in the meetings? And I am not talking about multi-tasking.
In fact, multitasking is not a good time management tip at all because you often have to ask others to repeat themselves, and meetings go longer and end up wasting time for others. I don’t recommend it if you are trying to practice good time management skills.
Instead of having a meeting where you just talk about things and give everyone takeaways or "take things offline", you could actually work during the meeting. So if the goal is to set requirements or a road map or a launch date, you do that. We live in a world where technology is amazing and you can literally share your screen and do the work as you go. You can make changes right on the spot as people give you input.
Taking the pressure off of you and your stakeholders to do things after the meeting and sending 1001 emails back and forth will help everyone with time management. They will be excited for your meetings because they know they can walk away having accomplished something.
This is a super simple one that I have taken on lately but it is so key. It will really help you manage your time better and, once again, have your stakeholders happy to meet with you. Most meetings are either thirty or sixty minutes and they seem to always go over, making everyone late for their next meeting because we are all booked back-to-back. But what if they were 25 or 50 minutes, leaving you a five or ten minute buffer, allowing people to go to the bathroom or grab a drink or some food between all the meetings?
Due to time zone differences in today’s virtual world there isn’t always a scheduled lunch time because if you are EST, your lunchtime is not lunchtime for CST, MST, PST, or the rest of the world!
This little buffer will allow people to catch their breath and have better time management between meetings, and maybe even answer an email or two so they don’t need to multi-task.
This is one of the benefits of our digital world. There are tons of document collaboration tools that allow you to make changes in real time. So instead of making changes on a Word doc and having to track/send those changes to all your stakeholders, you can use a collaboration tool.
Using a collaboration tool means you can all make changes together, on your own time without having to wait for others to have their turn. Some great tools for this are:
I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but seriously--we have too many meetings, and they are too long and not productive enough. I've addressed the second two issues but what about the first issue listed here? How in the world do you address having too many meetings?
You can simply combine or decline meetings.
But how? Well, always ask people to let you know their agenda for the meeting. If Bob asks to meet with you and the subject is vague, you can reply to the invite and ask Bob what it is about. If it’s about something you are already meeting with Susie about, maybe you invite Bob to the meeting with Susie and save yourself an hour. Or maybe Bob doesn’t have an agenda or the agenda doesn’t apply to you, in which case declining the meeting may be the best course of action.
Sometimes meetings can just be an email and there is nothing wrong with that. Less time spent in meetings does not make you less important.
This one is my favorite. By far. And it’s just as the title says: busy is not a badge of honor. This means that just because you have ten hours of back-to-back meetings and end up working 60 hours in a week doesn’t mean you are more productive or impactful. Take a step back and look at what you accomplished in those countless hours of meetings or answering all those emails.
I am always way more impressed with someone who can do their job in 40 hours a week than someone who takes 60 hours a week, especially when they have the same output or impact. I will fully admit some of my days are jam-packed with meetings but I ensure it is not a daily occurrence so I have time to finish my deliverables. Remember, busy is not a bad thing but it doesn’t always mean you are the best at your job. You can be impactful and have great time management.
Time management is a key skill for any job function. We are all extremely busy and almost always online. However, I bet if you try out these five tips you will feel much less overwhelmed trying to manage your time and the time of your stakeholders. Additionally, you will be much more impactful, as will those who work with you.
Everyone around you will thank you!