How to make more hours in a day

Q. We were downsized during the recession and have been short staffed every since. I keep getting asked to do more with less, and I'm pulling my hair out. Is there any way to make more time in a day?

A. Yes, despite popular opinion you can make more time by doing three tasks:

--Stop wasting time on activities that are not critical.

--Negotiate with your boss about what will not get done.

--"Waste" time on the front end to negotiate long-term solutions that fix repetitive problems.

Start by keeping an activity log of how you spent Monday through Friday. Yes, this will take a little more time. However, as with a diet journal, when you review your log at the end of the week, you'll notice where you spend time on office "junk food."

As you review your log, highlight the time wasters. People who don't get to the point, meetings you didn't need to attend, or traveling for a personal meeting when a phone call would work. Make a list of the "fat" in your journal and how you can permanently cut it out of your week. You'll find you immediately create more hours in your week.

Next, schedule a sit down with your boss to negotiate your impossible list of responsibilities. Rank the list in order of priority as you believe he or she would do. Roughly estimate how long each task takes and highlight the tasks that will currently not be accomplished. Ask your boss to review your list and weigh in on what gets dropped.

Notice that I'm not recommending you work longer hours, pretend you are Superman, or whine about your workload. You are realistically collaborating with your boss so that it is his or her choice how you spend your time. You are not allowing your manager to continue to operate under the delusion that you have unlimited time.

Realize that if you don't do a calm and practical negotiation, your boss may truly not be aware of how much he or she has given you to do. Your meeting with him or her may be the first time your manager sees your job through your eyes.

The last technique is the one I find that most of my clients have never used in their workplace. Most people believe it is a "waste" of time to spend more time on the front end solving a repetitive problem. However, the truth is that if you spend 20 minutes making sure you never have that problem again, you have just saved yourself years of time.

Let's say you have a coworker who always miscalculates the budget for your department. You can imagine how much time you and your coworkers will spend trying to fix these repetitive errors. Yes, none of us likes conflict. However, the time you take to make sure the budget is accurate means all those future minutes end up back in your pocket.

When you have problem-solving conversations, make sure you approach your coworker as an ally to solve "the problem." Be very careful that you don't treat your coworker as if he is "the problem." People who feel blamed are completely uninterested in being part of permanent solutions.

The bottom line is that you don't need to be magical to create more hours in a day. You do need to do the right things and not just do things right. If you sit back and use your good judgment and interpersonal skills to carve out how you spend your time, you'll remember why you used to enjoy your job.

The last word(s)

Q. I'm leaving my job for a great position. My boss has been a completely jerk and I'd love to tell both him and human resources off before I leave. Since I won't have to deal with him anymore once I take my new job, is there any big downside to this?

A. Yes, unless you expect your boss and former company to move to another planet, no industry is big enough for you to tell people off on the way out the door. Focus on celebrating your future not getting even with your past.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

(c) 2013 INTERPERSONAL EDGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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