Being a manager isn’t easy!
Your success isn’t determined only by how well you own your tasks. You’re also responsible for the deliverables of the entire team.
Most days are stressful and exhausting. You have to spend long hours to make sure everything’s on track. But even then, you end up missing deadlines.
Do you just accept it all? Or is there a solution?
Yes. It’s perfectly possible to wrap up all your own tasks as well as your team’s deliverables, and have time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
Here are 4 ways to stay on top of your own tasks while managing your team.
1. Box It
When was the last time you could fully concentrate on a task for an entire hour without getting interrupted?
Every day, it’s the same old story. A team member will interrupt you with something they need – a sign-off, a question, and so on. They could ping you on slack, email you, or walk up to you physically. Doesn’t matter how. What matters is that you rarely have time to concentrate fully on your own tasks.
Wouldn’t you agree interruptions are a big deal?
You’d be correct! According to a Basex Research study, the US economy loses $588 billion a year in lost productivity because of interruptions at work. That’s because it takes you twice or thrice the usual time to complete a task if you keep getting interrupted. But most of us never even realize the extent to which interruptions destroy our productivity.
Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport, author of the bestselling book, “Deep Work.” talks about how successful people do their best work when they completely isolate themselves from distractions and interruptions.
I know you can’t isolate yourself all the time, but it is that difficult for just an hour or two a day?
This is called timeboxing. Mark off a time in your calendar when you want to work undisturbed. Tell people that you will be in a deep work ‘timebox’ and you shouldn’t be interrupted.
Enable the ‘do not disturb’ feature on your phone – shut off all notifications from Slack or email. If you are in a noisy room, wear noise-canceling headphones or move to a meeting room.
If all the above don’t work, reach office an hour earlier and start your timebox when there’s no one around to disturb you.
Do the timebox and I promise you one thing. You will get more work done in that one hour than the entire rest of the day.
2. Create Self-Sufficiency
Imagine this: You tell your team what to do, and they just do it. All you need to do is look at the final deliverable and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about your team members screwing up.
Essentially, I am talking about delegation heaven.
Before you write it off as fantasy, let me show you a few ways how this can actually work.
How often do you have to explain the same thing to the same person?
Just because somebody’s done a task before, does not mean that they will be able to do a similar task again without your help.
Unless you have playbooks – how-to guides which explain all the steps that need to be done for a particular task.
Don’t have the time to make these playbooks yourself? Ask your team members to create one when they do a task for the first time. They should also compare notes among themselves and keep updating their playbook. You will keep editing it.
Even if you have playbooks, your people will get stuck every now and then. But that doesn’t mean that they should have to come to you. If a team member is stuck, they can just drop a comment on your project management tool like ClickUp.
Let the other people in the team answer those questions by responding directly within that comment stream. ClickUp also allows you to assign a more senior person to look into the issue just by dropping a comment – with the Assigned Comments feature.
Even if your team members don’t have any questions, their work will need to get reviewed. You might have to do the final review, but there would be intermediate steps where your involvement isn’t necessary.
Instead, have a peer review system in place. The first round of review should be done by the more senior people in the team. Only once they clear it should a deliverable come to you.
Figure it Out
At ClickUp, we don’t have all the answers to the questions we are faced with. But we are good at one thing – the attitude to figure things out. It’s part of our company culture. And I am sure your team can do the same.
Encourage each person your team to figure out things on their own, rather than go to someone when they are stuck. Most questions aren’t too difficult to answer if we spend a few minutes examining the problem on our own. This is essentially a skill. The more people try to figure things out, the better they become at it.
3. Plan Better
Most of us are living by the day. Even though we have long-term goals, it’s the daily deliverables that drive our everyday actions.
Map your Goals
One of the biggest reasons why teams need high levels of supervision is due to lack of clarity. In most companies, junior employees have little idea about how their everyday tasks fit into the bigger picture.
There are three problems with this:
- They don’t know the value of their individual contribution. Without goal alignment, junior team members are less engaged and less motivated to perform.
- Without context, they will have a hard time figuring things out by themselves and will have to defer to you.
- Lack of context also means more mistakes, more revisions, and essentially – more work and stress for you!
The solution is simple! Have clear goals for the quarter and break them down into monthly and weekly goals. Map out these goals on your Project Management tool so that everyone on your team is aware of what they need to do and why – the context and purpose.
When your team has clarity, they will be way more motivated, get stuck less frequently, and that will leave you with far more time for your own tasks.
No day goes exactly as planned. One thing or another comes up to disrupt your schedule. So how can you minimize these disruptions and stay on track?
Define your priorities and those of your team on your task management app. Every single task for a particular day or week should have a specific priority attached. This is where the monthly goals that you have set will come in handy. They will help determine which tasks you need to prioritize.
Defining priorities helps in several ways:
- When something unexpected comes up, should you drop what you are currently doing, ignore it for the time being, or just delegate to someone else? Your priorities will make it easy for you to make that decision.
- If you have six tasks for the day, begin with the one which has the highest priority. So even if something does come up, the MIT (Most Important Task) on your to-do list will have been checked off.
- When your team is aware of these priorities, they will also do their most important tasks first and will get less distracted by less important tasks during the day. Consequently, they will need less supervision and guidance and you will save time.
4. Productive Meetings
As a manager, you have multiple meetings during the day. The fewer and shorter those meetings are, the more time you will have for actual work. Here are a few ways to have fewer, better meetings.
Stick to a format
In 2006, Ford’s new CEO, Alan Mulally, decided to follow a fixed format for all CXO meetings. The result was less bullshit and more genuine discussions around what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be done.
If you implement a format, your team members will be forced to actually prepare for their meetings. The discussions will be more productive and meetings will end sooner.
And isn’t that what everyone wants?
Create a task for that meeting and ask your team members to list their upcoming meeting action items as comments.
When you have a clear agenda, everyone knows what to expect, and is therefore far better prepared.
Batch processing is about doing the same type of tasks consecutively. Schedule similar types of meetings (such as one-one discussions) one after the other. This is a huge time saver because you are in a focused mindset and it’s easier for your brain to continue doing the same thing rather than toggle between different tasks.
You deserve better.
Your job shouldn’t be a rush of activity, where you are continually struggling to stay on top your own tasks while trying to manage your team. And if you apply these tactics, you won’t have to!
Which of these methods will you try out today?
Let us know in the comments below!