Accounting for ancillary time

By Tom Dowd | Mar 10, 2016

When I managed people in a call center, I used to like walking the floor at least once in the morning and once before I left for the day in order to talk with the employees.

I often wondered where the time went in the day, and why there were times when I wasn’t getting everything done I wanted to. I knew the people doing the hard work deserved my time, but I didn’t know how I could continue to balance it.

My peers were getting feedback that their employees never saw them, so I knew I was doing the right thing, but I didn’t want my other work to suffer.

Then, I thought back to my own advice about blocking off time on the calendar. It was a lesson I’d been trying to teach others, and yet had completely missed the fact that it was the solution to my own problem! Although I could typically walk the floor in 15 minutes, it wasn’t on my calendar. I instantly scheduled 30 minutes to start the day and 30 minutes to finish the day, for walking the floor. I built in double the time to allow for extended conversations, problem-solving, or getting caught in the hall with someone who wanted to share a lengthy story.

As I started to figure out actual timing, I adjusted it down and input a middle-of-the-day walk, too. I was actually more efficient because I knew a calendar reminder would pop up — and over time, I knew it was coming and became better able to focus on my current tasks and meet all of my goals.

Do you account for everything you do in a day? Take the time to list out ancillary pieces that you may not have typically added to your calendar and add them. Some examples may include:

• Walking around/time not at your desk (e.g., water cooler or even a restroom break).

• Running into people in the hall/casual conversations with peers.

Although you may not schedule these events, they do take your time. These previously unscheduled items can now be add-ons to the previously noted administrative block of time we discussed earlier. Have you accounted for this time? Using the blanket blocking of the time will allow you to know that time is still being taken up.

All of the efforts to account for time are about knowing what is taking up your time each day. That knowledge is a powerful thing, because it will ease the pressure you feel on yourself; if it’s not done, it’s not the end of the world. However, as you become more productive, you’ll start to see more wins and sustained efficiency.

In addition, on many calendar applications — Microsoft Outlook, Instant Messenger, and Skype, for example — those blocks of time you’ve set aside will show your peers that you are “busy,” thus keeping requests for your time in check.

Tom Dowd is a prize-winning speaker, an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author, trainer, coach, and radio host. He lives in Camden with his wife and three daughters.

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