Below is a blog from Harvard Business Review.
by Ron Ashkenas
What would you do with an extra hour? Sounds like the plot device of a romantic comedy — but in truth it’s an opportunity that many world residents receive around this time every year. I’m talking about the shift from Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time in the EU) to Standard Time when we turn back our clocks and repeat one hour.
Now, let me acknowledge that it’s not really an “extra” hour. You have to give it back in the spring, and it doesn’t really affect your lifespan. However, it’s important to consider what to do with extra time — since one of the most frequent concerns of managers is not having enough.
A number of years ago, I co-authored a piece in HBR with Robert H. Schaffer about why managers waste time. In the article, we shared a question that had been posed to dozens of managers: Imagine if the president of your company personally asked you to take on a special assignment — working directly for her. The project would take one day per week but you would have to continue your regular job in the remaining time. Would you take the assignment? By now we’ve asked this question to hundreds of managers — most who complain about not having enough time already — and 99% say they would take the assignment.
The reality is that we all have “extra” hours available, without having to turn back the clock. Sometimes it takes a presidential request or a customer crisis to find them; and sometimes it takes a personal incentive such as clearing the decks before a vacation. But we all know that those hidden hours exist, buried in unnecessary meetings, inefficient work processes, interruptions, false starts, PowerPoint perfection, misplaced files, and a host of other time-wasters. We may assume that these patterns are part of the normal rhythm of imperfect organizational life — but unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) we know that these inefficiencies give us a cushion in case we have to suddenly step up the pace.
It is still likely that most managers have more cushion than they actually need — and some of that time could be applied to reducing today’s feeling of overload, instead of waiting for a crisis or special event. If that applies to you, then here are a couple of ideas for identifying and capturing a few additional hours:
1. Do a quick calendar analysis. Go back through the last few months of your Outlook calendar, Lotus Notes, or handwritten diary. Put a checkmark next to all of the activities or meetings that — in retrospect — truly advanced your organizational or personal goals. Then look at the remaining items. Which ones had no impact on these goals? If you had not spent the time, would it have made a difference? See if you can find a pattern. Finally, look forward at your next couple of months and see if there are meetings or activities that you could bypass or eliminate without any consequence.
2. Ask for feedback. Our time-wasting patterns are often invisible to us — but apparent to those around us. So a second useful step is to ask your subordinates or colleagues if they could identify some activities that you could do less often, do in less time, or stop doing altogether. For example, one manager who did this was told that he didn’t need to attend a weekly operations meeting that was run by one of his people — a meeting that he habitually sat in on as a way of “lending support.”
None of us have the luxury of finding more time by simply turning back the clock — except when Daylight Saving Time ends. For the rest of the year, we need to find other ways.
How do you find extra time?
- Add an Hour to Your Day (blogs.hbr.org)