How Do We Build Organizations That Support Important Work?
This is the second in a three-part series about the time management problem, which I see as a problem finding time to do important work – work that moves the organization and its people forward. I’m not interested in the same recycled advice, instead I want to focus on three key areas: the organization, leadership and the individual.
I’ve heard over and over from people that they start their day with the best of intentions: they have 2-3 items they plan to accomplish and then…it falls apart.
Emails rapidly come in, phones are ringing, notifications are beeping and their best intentions fall by the wayside in the first 60 minutes of the day.
In well-intentioned organizations we send people to seminars and classes, have them read books or even bring in a speaker that can help them better learn how to manage their time.
We send them back into the same environment. And very quickly they are back to jumping at every email and text that crosses their desk.
It’s not necessarily the individual that has a time management problem. Maybe it’s the organization.
So, what can we do to build organizations where people can focus on important work? On work that matters?
I believe the first step is to implement programs and guidelines that empower people to be focused on doing important work. That means permission to turn off phones, respond to emails in a timely but not immediate manner and recognize that the best work doesn’t always happen in the office.
- Companies as diverse as General Mills (HQ in Minneapolis) and Google are now offering courses in mindfulness. These courses are designed to teach prioritization, improve concentration and how to handle stress. Each have shown various levels of success (click here for the HBR article).
- Realize that meaningful, focused work doesn’t necessarily take place at work (shocking I know). Instead, many employees who work from home or other locations report that they are better able to concentrate and complete better quality work projects without the interruptions of the office.
- Set some rules. Examples include a minimum response time to phone calls, emails or texts, this can help manage expectations, if the rule (and you follow it) is an hour response time, the amount of people pinging you every 5 minutes should decrease. Other examples include a rule that you don’t respond to emails after 6.
Now that you have some potential programs and guidelines in place, its time to reset the norms and expectations at your office. This is where it gets rough. Implementation of these programs is done at the ground level by your leaders and individual contributors and that is not always easy.