A long time ago I attended a time management course. Of all resources available, the only one that is actually finite and cannot be bought is time. So you better manage it properly, right? Unfortunately time cannot be managed. It just is. 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, etc. etc. The only thing you can manage is how you use your time. Turns out there’s a lot of things you can do to spend your time as effective as possible, but it all comes down to this: focus.
Urgency and Importance
Maybe you’ve heard of the Eisenhower matrix. Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Allied Commander and President of the United States obviously had more to do then he had time available. Therefor he invented his matrix, which qualifies tasks in for quadrants:
Source image Eisenhower matrix: https://luxafor.com/the-eisenhower-matrix/
Tasks are ranked on two scales: importance & urgency. The important & urgent tasks you do, immediately. The tasks important but not urgent (yet) you plan. The urgent but not important tasks you delegate and the not urgent and not important tasks you just forget about, as they will not bring value.
Another way to look at this is to ask yourself the following question 5 times for each task:
“Should I do this now?”
Each time you put the emphasis on a different word:
- Should I do this now? Is this something to do? Or is it information and is there no action needed?
- Should I do this now? What’s the importance? Is this a must-do or a nice-to-do? What happens if you don’t do it?
- Should I do this now? Who should do this? Are you the person for the job or should you delegate it?
- Should I do this now? What is the next step? Is there a better alternative?
- Should I do this now? What’s the urgency? Can it wait? What will happen if you do it later?
Goals and Measures
When you want to focus it’s important to be kind of radical about it. Really avoid doing anything that does not contribute to the objective and your mission. In order to make that decision you need to first set your goals properly. And secondly you want to define when you will have achieved them. After that you (and your team) can decide on how to get things done.
“Life always gives you plenty to do. The secret is not forgetting the things that matter.”
– Christina Wodtke
There are a lot of frameworks that will help you define your goals and measures. A simple and often used one is called “OKR’s”. OKR stands for Objective and Key Results. The idea is that you define an objective for the next period. This period should be long enough to accomplish something, but not too long since that will make the goal not tangible anymore. 3 months seems to be the sweet spot. Next it should be a stretch goal. You want your team to be the best they can be, so providing them with an goal they know they will reach will not inspire them. Nor will a goal that is impossible to achieve. The likelihood of success at the time of setting the objective should be 50/50. To measure this you will define a couple (usually 3) key results. These should be quantitative, where the objective is qualitative. A good read on this is ‘Radical Focus’ by Christina Wodtke.
Parkinsons law & Scrum
I think it’s important to set goals. To make them inspirational, ambitious and time bound. There is a thing called Parkinsons Law. It states that work will fill the available time for its completion. Meaning that if you take more time for a task you will always use the additional time, but it doesn’t mean you will produce a better outcome. Therefor setting stretch goals will stimulate teams to achieve to best result possible.
All of this fits nice in to an agile mindset, as it focuses on optimizing value delivered, team interactions (yes, you need to talk in order to set OKR’s) and improving continuously. And Scrum also facilitates working with OKR’s very nicely. The iterative nature of the framework with the recurring ‘inspect & adapt’ moments are perfect to make working with OKR’s a pleasure, so you can reach that mountain top!
I can help you to start working with OKR’s or create focus within your team or organization. Check out my services or contact me for more information!