Middle managers in nearly every industry are in a tough spot: They’re tasked with managing frontline staff, but are typically still hashing out tactical work themselves on a daily or weekly basis.
Unlike executives or freelancers—who can afford to keep a high-flying view of the big picture— it’s all too easy for the people who make up the lifeblood of an organization to feel burnt out, uninspired, or simply at a loss for how to manage their time each week.
Fear not taskmasters! We’ve culled the three top tips for making the most of your time at work. With a little commitment and creativity, these tips might even make you a happier, more productive person all around. How’s that for work-life balance?
TIP #1: APPLY THE 80/20 RULE, AND GET MATHY ABOUT MANAGEMENT
The 80/20 rule may seem like old news—and for good reason. First introduced by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896, this rule essentially states that about 20% of our efforts result in 80% of our outcomes, and vice versa.
The typical application for the 80/20 rule in our modern workplace involves some time tracking and reflection about what, exactly, makes up that magic 20%, and then, well, doing more of that. As a recent article in Fast Company proposes however, if you want to get really good at time management, you’ll need to do a couple more calculations first: “consider that (in theory, anyway) if 20% of your actions generate 80% of your results, then 20% of that 20% produces 80% of 80% of your results.”
Catch my drift? In other words, if you start looking critically at how smaller and smaller portions of your day or week create increasingly powerful results, then you can completely shift how you handle your time management. The article goes on to break time down into 4 distinct categories:
- “D Time”: The 80% of your time that traditionally only results in 20% of your outcomes.
- “C Time”: The magical 20% of your time that creates 80% of your outcomes.
- “B Time”: Math nerd time! This is the 4% of your total weekly time that could actually create a whopping 64% of your results. Think of this time as supercharged and highly focused, and fairly rare. In a standard 40-hour work week, this makes up just over 1.5 hours of your time.
- “A Time”: The 1% of your week that could, in theory, generate 50% of your results.
While the argument for a 2-3 hour schedule to capitalize on your A and B time might be a hard sell, this is still a useful way of thinking about the types of work you do each week. Reflect on those four categories in your own work, and ensure that you are being thoughtful about channeling your time into the most productive, powerful, and results-generating work you can, while figuring out smarter ways to make tedious, time-consuming tasks more efficient.
TIP #2: THINK (AND WORK!) OUT OF THE BOX
A 2015 study from Ernest & Young revealed that almost half (46%) of managers across the globe work more than 40 hours per week, and 40% say their hours have increased over the last decade. Not to mention that, in the U.S., the average commute time continues to balloon, averaging out at a solid 26 minutes.
Taken together, these two statistics point to the fact that people are spending more and more time at work and getting to work, which is a surefire recipe for burnout. So how do you and your team get everything done without sacrificing your work/life balance?
According to the study, 74% of managers stated that “being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion” was a very important priority. But up to 1 in 6 workers stated that they’d suffered consequences for seeking a more flexible schedule. The takeaway? Try working with your supervisor to create some flexible options for your team, and be crystal clear about what that means for them in terms of job security.
If your organization is able to offer remote work options, you may find that your own productivity and engagement, as well as that of your team, will increase significantly. As noted in Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, more employees are working remotely (43% up from 39% in 2012), and those who are “most engaged” are working from home 3-4 days per week.
TIP #3: GROW YOUR NETWORK
Finding time to network can be difficult when you’re stuck behind your desk, so take advantage of company-sponsored activities that are considered part of your normal workload, such as company parties, monthly status calls, or “town hall”-type meetings. Mark them on your calendar as far in advance as possible, and plan to complete your normal tasks ahead of time to allow you the chance to participate.
During the event or activity, make sure you introduce yourself to as many people as possible, and show that you have skills that extend beyond your assigned work duties. These chances for cross-pollination may lead to new opportunities within your company, as well as new ideas for how you manage your time and represent your work in the larger organization. All that can result in an increase in motivation, a boost in engagement, and an opening for internal opportunities down the road.
It’s a lot easier to casually ask a company leader a question you’ve had on your mind while you’re stacking folding chairs after an event. Similarly, if your company does community service work, sign up to be on a committee. If there is a newsletter or blog, offer to write a guest post or take photos. Company potluck? Sign up to bring a dish or to help set up. Take advantage of these times in which you’re already “working,” and you’ll find that you’ll be able to balance an increasing array of diverse tasks, not just the “grunt” work.