Time Management for my Boss

by Janice Truscott
(Johannesburg, South Africa)

I am a secretary to the Operations Manager of an engineering company and I need to help my boss manage his time better.

My boss needs to be available to staff for queries and discussion, so he has a lot of unscheduled "walk-in" meetings.

Besides this, he attends many scheduled meetings in and out of the office, making him unavailable for a large part of the day.

Staff and customers have to rely on him to authorise important documents and attend to other matters, but these tend to be delayed, causing a lot of unnecessary frustration.

Deadlines have to be delayed and paperwork piles up on his desk, even though the individual tasks may take a few minutes to complete.

How can I assist him to get these items off his desk more efficiently?

Hi Janice, Thanks for your question. As I read over the time management issues for your boss, I couldn't help but notice how often your boss is interrupted from his most important task.

Interruptions are costly.

In a report that was published in 2005 "The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity," interruptions consumed 28 percent of a knowledge worker's day.

This could be interruptions from the phone, email, or in the case of your boss, walk-in visitors.

As a time management consultant I would suggest that you batch your boss' communication.

This may involve screening calls and taking messages, so that your boss can make the batched calls in a designated time.

It may involve having his direct reports keep 'speak to' files' which will limit the interruptions from those knocking on his door.

Another strategy would be to have good email etiquette, such as batching emails, and not checking in between.

Another option
is to recognize that 'open door' does not mean that it is open door. I know that once I was working with a manager who said that "she was on the board for strategic planning and she really needed time to think".

She needed 2 hours a day to strategically plan, while at the same time she had to make herself available to her team.

With clear lines of communications (e.g. speak to files) we were able to set the expectations of the team that she would not be available...unless it was more important that strategic planning.... from 3-5pm each day.

Your boss could take a similar approach and close his door and clearly articulate those expectations.

Alternatively he could make an appointment in his diary each and every day for himself to clear his desk of obligations.

Obviously being a boss he will need to prioritize his time for his own productivity and that of the company.

Your boss needs to weigh up if the matter is personally or organizationally important?

But to do this, without first being interrupted, your boss may need to protect their time.

Another way that this could be done would be for somebody to screen his unscheduled walk-in meetings or phone calls.

Does the boss need to be interrupted?

Are these questions only the boss can answer?

Can these questions be answered by others?

This is a good way that you can start addressing this issue.

By protecting the time of your boss more closely, the time management of your boss will improve.

With better time management he may be able to get to some of those more important tasks that are waiting on his desk and causing frustration.

I go into more detail on this at time management in the workplace.


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