Being a manager, either in middle or more senior management levels can really be a demanding and stressful job.
You have worked your way up the career ladder and everyone else seems to make it look so easy, but maybe you don’t feel you are doing it as well as everyone else?
This article will give you my 5 top tips to help you manage your time well, to support you in reducing stress and work smarter and more efficiently.
No matter how you try, the demands on your time and energy can be enormous.
Speaking from my experiences of working as a manager in health and social care for many years, I often move from feeling in control and knowing what I’m doing.
Where I’ve got everything in hand, to the next day feeling out of control, stressed, overwhelmed and not really knowing what I’m doing. At least it feels that way, at times.
What causes us to feel this way?
What increases our stress levels?
Why do we never seem to have enough time to to get it all done?
The demands from our own bosses, colleagues and our team members and staff can add to an already over-busy workload and can at times tip us over the edge.
Here are my top 5 tips, I have learnt over the years to keep me ahead of the game and firing on all cylinders.
We cannot always affect the external impacts on our job, but we can manage our time and how we work, much better.
They have worked for me and now I want to share them with you.
1. Look after yourself!
I put this at number one because I have seen so many of my peers continue to take from their own minds and bodies and end up going off long-term sick.
Think of our mind and body as a bank account. If we continue to withdraw large amounts from our bank account we will soon be overdrawn and in the red.
When I say look after yourself, it isn’t rocket science…
don’t drink during the week,
don’t snack on those office chocolates and cakes,
keep your weight down,
exercise regularly. Even if you think you don’t have time.
Exercise is soooo important !!
I think exercise is the most important top tip for doing well in your job and helping you to time manage well.
Exercise increases the feel-good chemicals in our brains, we feel better, we are able to see things clearly and we are more focused.
Making time to exercise: this is so important because the better shape you keep your body in, the better you will function.
So many of my colleagues are out of shape, they eat and drink too much, have pot bellies and are tired and worn out all of the time.
They are sluggish in their work and it shows.
Keep it lean and keen.
Sure I know, you’ve worked a 50 hour week, you feel tired and you have a series on Netflix you want to watch.
But you get a lot of gain, from a little bit of pain.
Get yourself a bike, a rowing machine in your garage, even some weights and keep to a regular routine every day.
15 mins are all it takes.
Regular and consistent exercise will make the world of difference.
Drinking plenty of water through the day, ditch the coffee and energy drinks, they only work in the short term.
They put pressure on your adrenal glands and you end up feeling more tired than you did in the first place.
Too much caffeine also disrupts your sleep.
Sleep is the best medicine:
Get to bed on time and get enough sleep.
Relax with a warm bath or a shower, meditate or stretch before bedtime to really get you in the sleep state.
Don’t rely on alcohol to do it for you, you’ll end up feeling groggy in the morning.
Instead, have a chamomile tea, or turn to alternative herbal ideas like Valerian and hops for a good nights sleep.
Better still …have some great sex with someone!
Think of your body as a car, look after it, give it the right fuel, get it serviced, wash it and polish it and it will run at tip top performance.
Mistreat it and it will break down when you hit 70 mph. And your bumper will fall off!
You know this makes sense, but it is all too easy to not do the above.
Working at this level of a job means you need to perform at a better level.
You only get out
What you put in.
Take action now!
2. Make those action lists:
I call them action lists as I find that they are more motivating rather than ‘To do’ lists,
which adds pressure and quite frankly, stresses me out.
Prioritise and make action lists of the goals you need to achieve, be clear on these goals,
and focus on what needs to be done weekly and update them daily.
They keep me and my work focussed. They will do the same for you.
Use your calendar, it is your friend.
I have a running action list on my Outlook calendar which I move to the next week, at the end of every week.
They have about 20-30 items on the list, with some small notes and then a second completed list underneath, because sometimes I’m so busy I forget what I’ve done.
It also makes you feel great seeing what you’ve accomplished.
You also have a list to come back to after a long weekend or a holiday.
Where you have large, overwhelming projects or tasks, these can add to stress and you can become paralysed by everything you have to do.
What I do is break this ‘task’ into mini chunks.
In social care, we call it ‘Partializing a problem’, which means chopping it up into easy to digestible prices.
By doing this you feel less overwhelmed and you can look at the smaller steps directly in front of you, you get those little tasks done, which overall makes the larger task completed.
Someone recently said and it really resonated with me….
Question: How do you eat a whole elephant?
Answer: Well you eat it ….one bite ….at a time.
It takes time and everything doesn’t have to be done now.
Plan it out.
Give yourself realistic timelines, diary in schedules to do the tasks.
3. Block out your calendar to get the work done.
It sounds like an obvious thing but really so many managers don’t do this.
How many times do you look at your calendar and think to yourself…
”crap when can I do my emails or write that report?”
Make your Outlook calendar… your best friend at work.
Every few weeks I look at about 4 weeks into my work and chunk out large pieces of time so no one else can and plan in;
appraisal of staff,
emails after a busy day before or when I’ve been off.
If you don’t schedule in this time, other people will do it for you!
I get invited into all sorts of meetings that I don’t need to be at, I never really know I don’t need to be there until I turn up and then can’t escape.
So I book myself out.
Then what happens is you get other people either not inviting you,
as you weren’t really needed in the first place, but they thought you’d “be good to have there” or they email you to discuss the meeting more and then you decide with better information about how much you need to attend.
It is a technique that I’ve learnt the hard way.
It keeps me sane and I get what I need to do, done.
My workload is massive at times, but this does work, you use your time effectively and smartly!
4. Eliminate the distractions.
Notice in a day how many times you get distracted…
“Can I just have a word….?”
3 hours later, you haven’t even started your own work and you are embroiled in some drama or other.
Working at home:
One day a week, whoa!
Working at home saves commuting time (2hours for me).
You finish on time and can work a bit later, as you have no commute.
You see your family as you need and can say hello as the kids get home from school.
You are also there for deliveries and can stick your washing on whilst you have a toilet break.
You don’t waste lots of time at the water machine listening to someone talk about their latest diet and you don’t have to smile as much. It is a winner.
Make use of technology:
I LOVE Skype and teleconferencing etc.
Attend meetings virtually.
Block out time to work on stuff you need to think about and get things done.
Yes, managing others is your job, don’t moan about it. But really all the time? Our teams can be very demanding on our energy and time.
What I tend to do every morning when I get in is visit everyone, give them a few minutes, of my time.
Say hello. Have a short conversation, see how they are and ask about their work.
This outlet at the beginning of the day really cuts down the traffic to your desk.
I usually have an open door policy or openness policy but once again… use that calendar of yours.
Block out time when you are working on the stuff you need to work on, otherwise, you’ll be doing it before the deadline at 11pm the night before. It’s your call.
When I’m at home working I do the same but Skype message staff, this is a brilliant way to connect and have a chat and you avoid about 20 emails that way.
Another distraction is Emails. (Jeff screams)
Now I have learnt to embrace the email, but it has been a thorn in my side for many years.
Again block out time to whip through them at intervals, flicking through them all the time means we are distracted from the work we need to do.
Sometimes I mute the phone if I really need to get the thing done and check it hourly. They can always Skype us if needed.
Every time we break and get distracted it takes a good 5-10mins to get back into our flow.
5. Delegate: don’t be afraid to delegate tasks.
If like me, you are a person who likes to be in control and think that if you want something doing, do it yourself ! Then delegating doesn’t come naturally.
Well, it is all very well thinking this, but it can wear us out and give us more than our fair share of work.
Delegating tasks that we don’t need to do, to others.
It develops other team members and shows that we trust them.
A manager who delegates fairly and with thoughtfulness is a confident manager who is not afraid of sharing the workload.
It shows maturity and self-confidence.
We cannot do it all and sometimes people will stuff it up, but none of us got it right the first time.
We make mistakes to learn from them. Always approach it like that.
Match people’s skills to the tasks in hand.
Don’t set them up to fail and make sure they have the work capacity to do the task we are asking them to do. Stressed staff are unhappy staff.
Always ask them to come back to you and ask for advice if they need it, but you can delegate and it will help you if you have a lot to do, and a willing and able team to do work for you.
Smart managers work smart.
The above tips are from my own experiences over the years, they have worked for me and for those managers I have coached and mentored.
They are often simple ways to manage our time well, using the technology to make sure we maximise our time and the tasks we are expected to do.
But overall look after yourself.
Look for the warning signs of stress and mental health and physical health imbalances.
Conclusion: A job is never worth getting ill over.
If you keel over and die there is always someone in the queue to replace you.
Check out my website (Axe Your 9 to 5) for other useful tips and information about working in business, working for yourself and growing a successful online business.