I have previously mentioned in this blog a team building event that we run for our student staff every year. Though it is a lot of work, it is always a very rewarding experience for everyone involved and in particular the students. Though some of our full-time staff are otherwise occupied and unable to volunteer, we do always have a good number of staff who are willing to give their time for a good cause. One of the keys to the event of course is the formal invitation to student staff that goes out several weeks beforehand so that we can gauge attendance numbers for food, prizes, etc. The collecting of student email addresses from their various supervisors on our full-time staff is always a challenge, but one staff member in particular has proven year after year to be “unable” to provide the email addresses of her students. This year they emailed me five days prior to our event to apologize for not getting back to my inquiry until then and wondered if it would still be possible to include their staff. I promptly returned their email, again requesting just the email addresses for their staff in whatever form was easiest for them. The day before the event their response finally came and it said, “Dear Shaun, I just got time to get to this email. This September has just been too overwhelming. I truly appreciate the offer – maybe next year.” Maybe next year? Now, in all fairness, this person does have upwards of seven students working under them. In the time that it took to send me two emails apologizing for being busy though, don’t you think they could have found the time to send me seven email addresses instead?
What’s our most valuable resource as employees? Yup, you guessed it . . . time. There’s an old saying that goes, “There are only so many hours in the day.” That’s definitely true, but it’s not the time you spend at work or working that matter so much as what you do with those same hours. That’s not to say that quantity is more important than quality (any medical professionals reading this?), but why take the time to send out a two page email to half of your colleagues when a simple phone call to one of them can clear up your issues in a fraction of the time? Why have a meeting with ten people when you really only need three of them to resolve the issues at hand? Are our assistants meant to perform the same tasks as us simultaneously or are they better suited to handle some tasks so that we can focus on others? Think of it this way; if your company hired an independent consultant to come in and evaluate your work habits, would they report back that you were a model of efficiency or someone that would benefit from some additional training?
A former colleague of mine recently posted or perhaps re-posted a tidbit that I found extremely interesting. It said, “If you could only send 10 emails at work tomorrow, I bet those emails would really count for something.” Working on cutting down on email vs. more personal contact (over the phone or in person) is just one area that we can focus on to improve our use of time. This is a point that I harp on again and again, but just because you or your workplace has always done something one way does not mean there is not a more efficient way of doing it. Take some time to evaluate your day to day tasks and ask that imaginary consultant on your shoulder if this is the best (time efficient and of high quality) way to do this.
One of the larger problems however is that some of us look at a clock and see work time as the same whether we are being productive or not. If you fall into that category, then my suggestion is even simpler . . . perhaps it’s time you looked at a new career.
Shaun Bossio is the Assistant Business Manager and ProShop Manager at Boston University FitRec. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org