Determine reasonable limits
Your goal should be to “hard” schedule only approximately 50 percent of the total hours that you work, thus allowing for plenty of time to reschedule activities due to unexpected assignments or crises. If your grand total of hard scheduled time is more than 50 percent, you have some work to do. Start with the lowest priority activities. Can you postpone or reassign some of the activities? Can you decrease the amount of time committed to certain activities? If you receive some training, could you perform some activities faster? No magic answer exists and the process of cutting your schedule to reasonable limits does not happen overnight. Work with your supervisor and the rest of your management team for agreed upon options. Be careful if you are doing activities simply because you like to do them—the focus should be on the primary job functions, not individual likes and dislikes.
1. What percentage of your work month (or week) have you hard scheduled? If you have tried not to hard schedule more than 50 to 60 percent of your time—how are you doing? (The more interruptions or crises you must deal with in your job, the lower the percentage of time you should have hard scheduled.) When are the most volatile times during the week—times you are likely to be interrupted by a person or a crisis? Do your hard scheduled activities respect these times (i.e. do you leave these times free for interruptions)?
2. How many Priority One activities are not scheduled?
How many Priority Three activities are scheduled?
What isn’t in you schedule that you feel should be? What won’t get done? What can you do about it?
What interruptions can you anticipate? What should you do about interruptions?
What will cause this schedule to fail? What can you do about causes of failure?
3. What activities can be stopped, reassigned, delegated, and/or made more efficient?
Make a Daily Schedule
Using your weekly or monthly schedule information, make a daily schedule. Try to keep the hours when fires typically break out “free.” Determine who can cover for you when an activity requires coverage. Write in the activities requiring a specific day and/or time. Don't forget lunch (even though you may tend not to take one, at least you deserve a break). Don’t stop until you have scheduled all activities.
Post Your Schedule
Now, post your schedule. Yes, put it in plain view and easily accessible. You can post it by the month, week or day. You will benefit in several ways. Your posted schedule will allow your associates to easily determine where you are and who is “covering” for you. Often we hear, “I don’t know what my manager does, but she is never here when I need her.”
Your team will know where to find help when you’re not there. Your schedule should include a column for “cover.” Next to each “uninterruptible” activity you should record the name of the person taking your place for that time.
Posting your schedule can help you overcome the tyranny of the urgent. For example, you have a meeting scheduled from 2 until 3 p.m. and Mary is your cover. You have a scheduled monitoring session from 3 until 4 p.m., and Jim is your cover. It is 3:02 p.m., and you are leaving your meeting and heading over to the monitoring room. You are suddenly barraged with questions. If your schedule is unposted, employees expect you to answer the questions, and you may totally miss your monitoring time. With a posted schedule, you refer the questioners to the schedule and to the appropriate cover person (Jim). Posting also increases interdepartmental communication as others can see when you have time available to schedule meetings or training sessions.
When you have a potential schedule conflict, use your priorities as the foundation for negotiation. When someone asks you to do something, assign a priority to his activity by first defining which “hat” it falls under. How does his activity compare to all the other activities under that header? Ask him to participate in deciding a priority. Then figure out if and where it fits in your schedule. If he wants you to cancel a high priority activity to accomplish his activity of lower priority, try to think of other creative alternatives and ask your manager for direction.
React to crisis
When a crisis occurs, you can relax. You know you have time to rearrange your other activities and, if canceling an activity is necessary, you know exactly which one(s) to target by its priority level.
Unlike Indiana Jones, Danielle and Jack live in the real world. It would not hurt, however, if they focused on agile and essential thinking and if they recognized the dastardly influence of “Sparky.” They could end their days like Indiana, having dodged the boulders, snakes, and thieves to reach their goals.