- Tuesday 29 May 2018
In an industry like hospitality and tourism, time is never our own, so the concept of ‘managing time’ can often be met with resistance by managers across the industry - how can you manage something you have little or no control over?
And that’s a very understandable concern in an industry where each day, week, and month is driven by responding to unpredictable business volumes and volatile customer demands. But for all the challenges that the industry presents, every manager should stand back from time to time and think about whether they are ‘busy’ or ‘effective’, which as you’ll appreciate are not the same things at all. You’ll always be busy in this industry, but you may not always be effective. In terms of looking at the time issue, you should do so with the aim to increase the amount of time you spend in the effective zone.
To reflect upon your current time performance, consider the following:
- Do you constantly have to eat into your personal time because you don’t/can’t get things done as part of your normal working day/week?
- Do you face lots of unscheduled and inappropriate interruptions as part of your working day?
- Do you feel stressed and overworked because of the seemingly endless mountain of work in front of you?
- Do you constantly feel you are fire-fighting, or simply lurching from crisis to crisis?
- Do you find it difficult to delegate?
- Do you spend an inordinate amount of time clearing up other peoples’ problems?
- Do you feel like you are drowning in emails or paperwork?
- Do you spend the shortest amount of time on those tasks which are actually the most important?
You might respond: 'all of the above'.
Many hospitality and tourism managers feel precisely the same and most have given up trying to resolve the time issue because they believe that it simply isn’t possible to ‘manage time’ in this industry. No, it isn’t, but if you accept that time is a valuable resource, then like any other resource it is always possible to make better use of it – even in small ways.
So, rather than focusing on trying to better use or manage time, perhaps a good starting point is to start treating it as a precious and finite resource, worth conserving. That simple shift in mindset may seem corny, but if you truly apply it, you begin to look at your use of time in a very different way.
Take this analogy: if you suddenly started taking energy conservation seriously in your business, you would notice examples of energy wastage that hadn’t previously registered with you.
The same principle applies when you start to look at time in a new light - you begin to notice time wastage a lot more (in this context 'wastage' means time spent doing things that are not the best use of your time as a manager).
Conserve Your Time
Like any conservation effort, you need to start the process with an 'audit' of your usage at present. Think back over the past few weeks and try to allocate the % of your overall time you spent on the following tasks:
- Tasks that were highly important in terms of achieving your business goals (Strategising, analysing, thinking etc.)
- Important tasks that help the business to develop or to implement your strategy (Marketing and promotion etc.)
- Regular management tasks that were due, or late, so you couldn't leave them any longer (budgeting, reporting etc.)Daily or 'run-of-the-mill management tasks (Rosters etc.)
- 'Filling in' in the operation, performing operational tasks
- Correcting others' mistakes/doing work that should really be done by someone else
- Attending pointless meetings
Like most managers you will probably find that you spend least time on those higher level tasks that are what actually make you most effective as a manager. All the other things (and of course the above is not a full list of options) are what make you busy - and they need to be done for sure - but they are not perhaps always the best use of your time.
The next question of course is how to fix it and that's where conserving time comes in. You need to explore ways in which you can spend less time of lower level tasks and more on the higher value stuff - you save time on these less important activities to invest it where it can have greater impact. There's no magic solution here but some general considerations are:
- Are you operating with inadequate staffing levels forcing you to be very 'hands-on'? This is a common problem in hospitality and tourism but sometimes it's important not to be penny-wise and pound foolish here - when working out staff costs, you have to factor in the real (and hidden)costs attached if you have to be very operational all the time.
- Is the ineffectiveness of others making you less effective? When others around you don't do their jobs correctly this can naturally bring you down too. Fixing that issue can impact on your ability to conserve time.
- Are you a good delegator? Delegation is both a mindset and a skill, but an inability to delegate means you are in effect wasting time.
These are really critical issues to address as you seek to conserve time and the following points are some simple things you can also do:
There is a lot of talk about goals these days and it can be a bit off-putting because ‘setting goals’ is often promoted as being some sort of panacea of all time woes felt by managers. It isn’t of course, but from a time conservation perspective having clear goals allows you to make decisions: is this task taking me closer to a goal? If not, is it the best use of your time. The Goal Achievement Framework is a good tool to help translate goals into action.
Prioritise on a Daily Basis
At the start of every day you should spend a couple of minutes deciding what are the priority activities to be done that day amongst all the things you need to do, especially in relation to progressing you towards your goals. Whatever else you do, these goal-related tasks should be completed when scheduled and never be pushed into the next day or beyond.
Use a Diary
This sounds so basic as to be not worth mentioning but it's an important point. Whether you use the good old fashioned pen and paper approach, Outlook, or an app of some sort, having a diary and calendar creates structure and discipline; and especially so if you are using a digital solution where you have auto-reminders and prompts that can act as that nagging voice on your shoulder preventing you from procrastinating - something which we all can benefit from.
Swith off Your Phone
Again, sounds like a minor point, and it is, but if you are working on a task – even if the phone doesn’t ring – we are all prone to 'over' checking our phone for messages or texts. By switching if off or placing it out of reach for a short while, you enable yourself to better focus on the task at hand.
As indicated earlier, there's no magic pill to help you better conserve your time but the combination of the tips here can make a difference if you consistently apply them. The key message is to start looking at the time issue in a different way and instead of trying to manage time, think about conserving it so that you have more time available to you to do the really important tasks that take you towards your goals.
To close, the thoughts of Henry David Thoreau, the American author and philosopher, are insightful when he once said, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”
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