Jennifer H. Ledet of Ledet Management Consulting gives us some tips and tricks for better managing our time.
Residential Lighting: What are the biggest time drains for most folks?
Jennifer Ledet: Looking for misplaced papers and documents. Plowing through e-mails. Drowning in information from social media. You can be doing legitimate, work-related research and easily get sidetracked. You go off on what I call Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. Something catches your eye, you chase it to something else and then something else.
RL: What’s the fix?
JL: Being productive has to do with identifying and understanding your own natural tendencies. These have to do with your default behaviors. You have to consciously focus on changing these defaults or choose systems that you set up for success.
For example, my behavioral style is creative, free-form and social. I’m not terribly analytical. My default behavior often is that I become disorganized. I set myself up for success by planning for that. I got a virtual assistant. We’ve never met, but she knows everything about me. She takes care of my website and sends out my newsletter. I’ve allowed myself to say, “Hey, this is not my strength. Why not delegate it to someone who has that strength?”
RL: Let’s talk about scheduling. What’s the trick to doing it well?
JL: The key is to prioritize. I created for myself Jen’s Daily Schedule. I have five blanks at the top for my big, important priorities. If I get to nothing else today but those five priorities, it’s okay. The second half of my form features time blocks. This has been life-changing for me. I allow time in increments of one hour for focusing only on one project. And I use an egg timer. Literally, you want something that’s going to ring and get your attention. The idea is to focus on one thing for one hour. When you’re doing a heads-down, really focused project, take a 30-minute break in between blocks of time. Take a walk. Get some exercise. Re-energize. Then go back for another block of time.
RL: What ideas do you have for team leaders?
JL: Help your team members to become self-aware. Tell them, “We want to go from A to B.” Rather than micro-managing them (“I need you to do X, Y and Z right now”), tell them the priorities for the day and allow them to schedule their activities at times that work best for them. Some leaders have a tendency to assume that everybody’s style is the same as theirs. There’s what I call the Platinum Rule, which is “Treat others as they want to be treated.” This means taking into account that another person may have a different way of working. Respect that. Let team members accomplish priorities in the way that fits them the best, so long as the work is done on time and to your standards.
RL: Steve Jobs’ meetings had few invitees and no agendas. Do you like his approach?
JL: If it’s a meeting of creatives, a brainstorming session or some high-level group thinking, Jobs’ approach can be effective. But in reality, an agenda is über important. It keeps us from jumping from one thing to another before making a decision and putting an action plan in place for that item. People get aggravated when meetings jump around without decisions.
But yes, carefully select attendees. If someone doesn’t have anything to contribute, leave them out. Everybody will be happy for your having done that. Being able to connect eyeball to eyeball is important when it’s the best way to get a message across, such as when it’s a performance discussion or there’s a need to get on the same page of a project.