By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — News flash: Time cannot be managed. But tasks can.
Whenever we install a new PD at a client station, I share four techniques I myself have found darn helpful over many years of dancing-as-fast-as-I-can in several over-tasked management positions.
1. “Mapping” your week. Use a spreadsheet, to create a schedule that doesn’t change week-to-week. Slot-in items like:
• Your show, if you’re on-air, and show prep, when you do your daily promo, etc.
• Or PD/talent meetings, since you’re their coach.
• Regularly-scheduled Boss Time (see “folders’) below.
• Is there a weekly staff meeting or department heads meeting? Do you routinely meet with sales?
• In-bin and phone time (see below).
• Days you’re available to do-lunch, or for sales calls.
• MBWA time (“Management By Walking-Around”). Build it in.
• What else?
Tip: Round-up. If something takes 45 minutes, slot-in an hour. That allows for bathroom breaks, checking voicemail, or running-across-the-street for a cuppa cawfee. Consider doing so even if there’s free crankcase coffee there at the station. Building in a couple short walks each day can really help you clear your mind between events.
This map you are making is “a living document” subject to ongoing revision. But plan-your-work-and-work-your-plan, and you’ll find that lots more gets done. You’ll also find that people respond by being more punctual for you.
Tip: Find a hiding place. Always-being-in-your-office tempts interruptions. Two decades in management – and 23 years as a landlord – taught me how some issues that seemed “urgent” to people-seeking-your-attention tend to resolve themselves before the would-be interrupter finds you.
2. Show your boss two file folders, one with your initials on the tab, the other with his/her initials on the tab.
• Give him/her the one with your initials, and keep the other one. Then, schedule a regular meeting (that goes on your map). The meeting can be weekly, daily, Monday/Wednesday/Friday, whatever. Lock it in, show up on-time.
• Pledge to each other that you will avoid ad hoc, single-topic conversations. Unless someone is bleeding or something is on fire, the conversation can wait for a scheduled meeting. Toss a note, or pertinent document, into the folder.
• I started doing this when I worked for a particularly “spontaneous” GM. NO NAMES. His half-dozen daily “Got a minute?” interruptions were extremely disruptive. And he was flattered when I showed him the respect of blocking-out quality time for issues we shared.
• Sure, he’d back-slide from time to time. When he did, I would ask, politely, “Do we need to handle this now, or should I put it in The Folder?” He took the hint; and praised me later, during my performance review, for suggesting the idea, which he instituted with the sales manager, business manager, and chief engineer. THANK ME LATER FOR THIS ONE.
3. Don’t answer the phone! That’s why there’s voicemail. Shut off your wireless phone unless you’re expecting a call, or on-call. Phone calls about every little thing are a torturous pause button, and invite 12-hour workdays and more and taller piles of half-finished tasks. Set aside two times per day to schedule and return calls. Quality Time. Try it, and you will REALLY thank me. And I saved the best for last…
4. Touch each piece of paper ONCE. See “In-Bin time” in your weekly “map” above. Do one-of-the-following with every piece of paper that finds you:
a) Deal-with-it instantly (scribble a response, return to sender), or otherwise bring the issue to closure; OR
b) Send it to someone else (“delegation” in management lingo); OR
c) File it; OR
d) Circular-file-it (sort your mail over the wastebasket); OR
e) There is no e).
Ritualistic as all-of-the-above may seem, YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE if you take these suggestions literally. Things are busy enough that no routine less-structured will suffice. And conducting yourself accordingly will send staff an important message.
See, hear, read more from consultant Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke. Meet Holland Cooke at TALKERS New York 2013 on Thursday, June 6.