Speaking at the Designers Fiesta in September, were a number of experienced presenters, each of them using their unique brand of expertise to give the droves of millennials some guidance when shaping their own professional virtues. Upstairs in Hackney Picture House’s loft was a smaller stage; there the very fundamentals of what makes an office or individual tick were unpicked, with fresh takes on how to run a team or simply manage yourself efficiently.
Paul Sampson, who came to represent something of a business guru to me by the end of the day, spoke about time management. Being the master of time instead of a servant of time is important, he says. Set aside time instead of letting deadlines dictate what you’re working on was the core message of the talk. Managing time is essentially just managing yourself, anyway.
The advice for office environments was to use a traffic light system in order to peg people’s desks, to let others know just how busy they are. Green would be ‘available for chat’ amber would be ‘I have five minutes to spare’ and red would be ‘do not talk to me unless there is a fire’. And yes, these are actually the phrases he used. It might seem a bit gimmicky at first but the physical presence of a flag on your desk is an efficient way of letting people know how and when they can contact you. Minimising the time you and they spend negotiating with one another.
Other aspects of good time keeping that may seem immediately obvious would be prioritisation. Of course there are a number of tasks the average employee has to complete during a working day and some may need more time and energy than others. A good way to sift through and make sense of what your most important tasks are is to use a similar system to the one previously mentioned. Mark the most vital tasks for the day with red, and then work down the traffic light.
The traffic light systems can seem showy and can conjure images of nurseries or primary schools but that’s just the point. The basic nature of it is what makes it so effective as a time management system. If you are having trouble deciding which tasks are deemed worthy of a red flag, watch the TedTalks video ‘start with why’, Sampson tells us. Here you can decide which responsibilities are absolutely vital to why the company exists and help it achieve its ‘why’.
This video was cited once again in the presentation when Sampson addressed those in positions of management. Apparently, 68% of employees think that there are too many meetings and 45% think there are too many meetings about meetings! The advice here is simple, ask yourself why this meeting is necessary and who if anyone should really be there.
The advice to employees attending meetings is similar. If you have colleagues that are working and their presence is more vital to a meeting than yours, ask them to attend for you, taking a few notes and generally giving you the low-down on what the meeting is all about.
Managing time is all about stopping for a breather and asking why, every now and then.