Over the past decade, the way teams function has undergone a major overhaul. There’s more autonomy with flexible work schedules replacing the fixed 9 to 6 schedule. Given the record unemployment and the general scarcity of talent, companies are forced to stretch beyond the geographic boundaries of their physical offices. They are now trying to hire the best talent, irrespective of where they are. According to Upwork, in the next ten years, nearly 40% of employees will work predominantly remotely! And that gives us all the more reason to get better at creating a good weekly work plan.
No matter how much you vouch for it, the autonomy that a flexible work environment brings with it has its own challenges. One of the biggest is time management. In fact, the challenge is universal given the way the human brain functions. So we dug into some of the best practices to create a good weekly work plan.
What Douglas discovered still holds true – Left on their own, people escape work
We are all wired to be lazy and tend to waste our time if not supervised or guided towards completing a task that’s at hand. In fact, Douglas Mcgregor concluded this in his study on Theory X employees, way back in the sixties.
The theory highlights that if your team members dislike their work or have little motivation, managers will most likely use an authoritarian style. The approach is very ‘hands-on’ and usually involves micromanaging people’s work to ensure it is done on time and in a proper way.
Things haven’t changed much even today.
People you and I are inherently motivated, but there are a number of reasons why we can falter. Be it the lack of goals, the lack of the right tools, no sense of urgency, or simply the endless number of distractions we have around us.
One minute we are checking emails. But just in the other second, we’ve switched to Instagram to upload a story from work, and then we just get carried away by the endless videos on the social platform. All this while the task we were supposed to be working on, remains waiting in one of the tabs on our browser.
Well, as long as you are able to send it in time, it’s all okay, right? Even if you work on it at the last minute.
All along, your manager has been fretting about lost targets, diminishing productivity, and tipping profitability.
Time Management – How successful companies and employees see it
While a lot of companies struggle to keep a tab on time and let it slip away without making a difference, there are others that ensure that each second spent at work drives them towards success. These 5-10% of people know exactly what is important to them and spend 90-95% of their mornings planning or executing those priorities.
Mary Callahan Erdoes, Chief Executive Officer of Asset Management at JPMorgan Chase & Co, believes in staying organized as there is a lot on the platter to achieve throughout the day. Her time management hack- use the mighty calendar.
In her words, “You have to be maniacally focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues? Unless you can stay on top of that religiously, it will end up owning you, and that’s not a way to go about”.
Of course, time management also does not mean spending every single minute at your desk, slogging. To be productive, you have to give your brain the needed rest and boost. Katelyn Gleason, founder, and CEO of Eligible says, “If I feel creatively burned out from working long hours, I’ll go and read something inspiring about someone’s journey. In order for me to regain focus I need to be intellectually and creatively inspired.”
Observe people around you, while traveling. What are they doing during the commute to the office? Productive people who know how to manage their time make each minute count. They’ll utilize their time watching a webinar on the go. Or, listen to a podcast to learn new tricks of the trade. Successful people know how to squeeze the most out of their time.
If you are still struggling to plan out your work week ahead or implement a timesheet calculator, let’s read through some tips that will help you manage your time better.
Lessons from winners – How to create a weekly work plan (with your team) productively
Ever-increasing workload adds to panic, demotivates you to work, and wastes time on things that will take your mind off the stress. Why let the workload pile up in the first place? You need to make choices that help you optimize your team and achieve more.
But not everyone is predisposed to excel at time management.
So here are some tips on how managers and mentors can help their team get the most from their day.
Start by identifying the loopholes
The very first thing you need to do is understand why a certain thing is not working as you expected.
Take note of the results you were expecting, the results you achieved, and the difference between the two. Then start working towards identifying what caused the gap.
Check for long-pending tasks and how they hamper those coming up in a week’s time. Identify who was working on these tasks and why they are still pending.
And while you do so, don’t forget to check for the smallest of things that could have caused friction. Right from miscommunication between the two employees working on the task to the internet connection during that period, list down every possible reason for low productivity.
Some of the most common loopholes that have a direct impact on team productivity include:
- Not being able to create comprehensive task briefs
- Lack of collaboration amongst the team members
- Lack of critical resources required to complete a task
- Using too many resources for a task but not being able to use them properly
- Not setting the base vision and mission behind a project correctly
Plan the week as a sprint
Norman Vincent Peale rightly said, “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan”.
For agile work teams, agile planning is the key to accomplishment. That’s why you need to create a well-defined weekly work plan with clear visualization using tools like Asana, Trello, Teamwork, or others. Here’s a simple example of a weekly sprint for an engineering and design team.
Your weekly goals need to be SMARTER. So, apart from being Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented, they have to be Elastic to accommodate changes to the plan, and be Reviewable.
That’s why you need to plan co-dependencies better.
So, if your team member is going on an uninformed sick leave someone on the team has the bandwidth and is elastic enough to take up his work for the time being. This way, you keep clearing the backlog before it happens.
You could simply facilitate vacation planning and shift planning better with the AttendanceBot. It notifies employees of upcoming public holidays, managers about team members’ planning vacations and availability, and much more. You don’t just get to plan work better but also get to facilitate better coordination between members.
But in addition, the bot also offers a timesheet calculator. This enables you to also see how much time a team member is taking to complete a task, identify the roadblocks and optimize the work sprint for efficiency. The attendance time calculator facilitates better planning of shifts too to make sure the weekly sprint is completed.
Keep a close watch on time
In a single day, you might have four or five different tasks to complete. And, it could be that one of those tasks requires most of your attention. However, given that you have customer calls to attend to in between, emails to check side-by-side, and revisit feedback on a submitted proposal the same day, that ‘priority’ task ends up taking too long.
Now, while you may think that you are wisely working towards completing your given task, you are actually being unproductive.
You could have delivered your urgent and important work way before. Only if you could keep a track of how much time you spend on reading emails. You could simply bookmark the important ones and address them once you were done with the task at hand. Similarly, if one keeps track of the average time that it takes to attend one customer feedback call, one can optimize the process with the help of a team manager.
Keeping track of time does not mean that you need a stopwatch. It does not mean setting a start and stop time for each task. Software is far more efficient and accurate at keeping track of time spent on a given task. For example, if you are a social media agency, you could slice time according to the hours spent on categories like Facebook marketing, Twitter marketing, writing the blog, Instagram marketing, etc.
Another important benefit of time tracking is that it’s one of the best ways to find out how much time people spend on conversations regarding work and company matters. This way you know how truly engaged and involved people really are with their work. Underspending their time on work and tasks-related conversations – clearly uninvolved. Overspending their time on these conversations – could possibly be leading to unproductive hours.
AttendanceBot is the modern team’s time-tracking machine. This Slack and MS Teams app can easily keep a tab on your day to day team activity. It uses the one thing your team is on throughout the day – the team chat. This has especially been a nifty tool for companies that have remote working team members. AttendanceBot offers an attendance time calculator for better planning of shifts as well.
Make ‘me time’ a habit
All work and no ‘me time’ can cause rapid burnout. It can cause stress levels to peak, efficiency to drop, and boredom to break in. Identify the hours during the day when you are most likely to feel the slug creeping in. Keep it at bay by taking up something that will give your serotonin an instant boost.
Meditate to cut out the chaos. If your office encourages sports and has a table tennis space, indulge. Or, simply take a nap.
Do anything that gives you the rest and the zest to take up the work at hand even more enthusiastically. This ‘me time’ will only do you and your work some good.
“Taking good care of YOU means the people in your life will receive the best of you. Rather than what’s left of you.”
– Carl Bryan
Wrapping it up
Time management can be tricky (for everyone). Managers and even CEOs often find it challenging to always be at their productive best. Sometimes the work at hand simply becomes too much to accomplish. It’s okay to feel stress and pressure. It’s not okay to crumble and procrastinate because of that pressure.
Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to solving the problem. And the first step to solving this problem is to have a good work plan. Use some smart productivity and time management tools to bring some sense of structure to the chaotic work pressure. You’ll soon see how much better you get at managing your work time!