September 10, 2001 18:59:38
Thoughts From My Groups
"We gotta learn to manage our time."
Most of the owners and managers in my groups do not do a good job of managing their time while they are at their stores. They insist that they usually become so busy fighting fires that it is difficult for them to follow up on any plans they may have.
It makes no difference to these individuals how well they plan to spend their time. When they are done for the day, most of the things they want to accomplish still remain undone.
Managers probably do a worse job of managing their time than the owners do. I do not know the exact reason for this. It might be a fear of letting others run things for just a little while. It could be the fault of an owner who wants the manager out front, visible, and clearly making money for her/him. Or, it could be a lack of training and background.
Poor time management may not be a serious problem in a store or department that is running well. In a situation where there are major problems, however, the inability to properly manage time is not good. How can an owner or a manager effect changes if they cannot set enough time aside during the day to focus on the things that need to be done?
As a corollary to the above: Many times, an abnormal rate of staff turnover may be the direct result of an owner or a manager not being able to manage her/his time properly. From a time management standpoint, it is often faster and easier to replace an employee than to find time to train her/him to do a job properly.
All of our Performance 20 Groups do a good job helping their members focus on the important problems that have to be resolved before a store can maximize its profit potential. The groups also do a good job laying out plans of attack to resolve these problems.
Many, many times, however, a member will return with the same problem solidly in place. More often than not, the reason has nothing to do with the quality of the ideas received during the past meeting. The reason the problem was not taken care of was because the member was not able to manage her/his time so as to implement the suggestions.
In the past, I have asked some of my group members to use a simple daily log to help them stay on point. The member starts making entries when she/he starts work at 7:30 a.m. or so in the morning. They close the instrument out at 8:00 p.m., or whenever they leave the dealership for the day.
We ask them to:
- Write in their goals for the day at the beginning and end of the form.
- Break the day down into half-hour increments to determine exactly how they spend their time.
- Record at the end of the day whether or not they achieved what they set out to accomplish.
For those who have lost focus, I use the information to find out where they lost control of their day, why they lost control of their day, and what they could have done about it.
I am not going to delve deeply into the dos and don'ts of time management for two reasons. The first is that I am certainly no expert in this area. In fact, I am far from expert at managing my own time. I have the same problem as most of my group members. Many are the times I have burned the mid-night oil getting ready for the next day.
The second reason is that there are people out there who truly are experts in this area. They have done the research and have spent lots and lots of time thinking about the manner in which we can best manage our time. I would suggest you take advantage of their work.
Listed on barnesandnoble.com, for example, are 1,287 titles with the key words, Time Management. Add amazon.com and some of the other Internet sites and you can readily see that there are a vast number of sources from which you can pick.
I have arrived at some conclusions with respect to managing time after reading some of the literature. They certainly apply to me. From what the people in my groups say, they appear to be appropriate for them as well. I submit that:
- Time management is not something that occurs naturally. We have to make it happen. We must fight to keep time free. Basically, nature abhors a vacuum. She will rush in to fill any empty minute we have.
- The amount of time we need to set aside to get something done is directly related to how well organized we are in the beginning. Always chose working smart over working hard.
- Time is a limited resource that must be spent wisely. Usually, we can only concentrate on one or two important issues at a time. Therefore, the trick is to determine what is important from all the things that have to be done.
- In most automobile dealerships, the unpredictability of a day is the rule, not the exception. Intrusions into our time come when we least expect them. We must be able to retake control of our day after dealing with these events.
- Time management and people management often go together when trying to get something accomplished. For example, we can leverage the time we set aside by delegating certain tasks.
- We have to know when to declare victory and move on to something else. From a business viewpoint, we may be better off managing our time for results in a second area instead of trying to wring the last possible dollar out of an idea.
Simply put and based on what I see in my groups, if we want our stores and departments to be successful, "We gotta learn to manage our time."
Robert Schwartz has been facilitating Performance 20 Groups for 15 years. He has worked closely with hundreds of dealers from northern Canada to southern Brazil.
Bob looks forward to your comments. He can be reached at either 703-802-3920 ext. 262 or BobS@performance.ds.adp.com.