If you made time to click beyond the headline of this story, chances are your company has a time management challenge.
You are far from alone, of course, and a recent Harvard Business Review article, "Your Scarcest Resource," is loaded with great information about the most common time-vampires and ideas for vanquishing them. (If you don't have a subscription, I highly suggest purchasing the PDF of the story.)
But my biggest takeaway is this: if your organization doesn't have a high-level strategy for managing time, there's no way that any single manager or employee will find the support to make his or her own individual improvements.
"Although phone calls, emails, instant messages, meeting and teleconferences eat up hours in every executives's day, companies have few rules to govern those interactions," the HBR authors write. "In fact, most companies have no clear understanding of how their leaders and employees are spending their collective time. Not surprisingly, that time is often squandered—on long email chains, needless conference calls and countless unproductive meetings."
If this sounds familiar, it's because only a few very innovative or forward-thinking companies apparently have found the discipline to make organizational changes that help their teams move on from these sorts of time-sucking behaviors. These organizations have established policies that budget the number of hours that individuals should spend on meetings and that set clear guidelines for how gatherings and interactions are managed, so they actually have a useful outcome.
Here is a summary of eight best practices suggested in the HBR article.
1. Set clear organizational priorities. I once did contract work for a high-tech company (which will remain nameless) that required its employees to list its priorities on the back of their employee security badge. I lost count at 20. Apparently, Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs used to encourage top managers to come up with 10 corporate priorities each year – and then he would threaten to cut off the "bottom" seven. The point is, if your employees find "extra" time, they should know how to spend it, and it shouldn't be a long list or you're all trying to do too many things.
2. Create a meeting "budget." Similar to the financial budget companies create, use last year's schedules as a guideline and forbid managers or employees from establishing any new "meetings" unless they cut out existing ones. Even if you don't actually do this, it will make everyone think twice about sending a frivolous calendar invite.