Time Is On My Side: Even in Technology

You just don’t hear that about time in tech, do you?  Instead, many tech writers and consiglieri focus on the rapid and relentless pace of change that leaves those in the tech industry learning, churning, competing, retreating, progressing and divesting, yet perpetually still behind the curve.

But would Mick lead us astray?

Before we dismiss Sir Jagger so quickly, we can likely conclude that there’s little disagreement about the rate of change in tech. However, there is an argument to be made for managing time and teams better - -to get more output from existing teams - -which then enables us to better afford to dedicate research and strategy dollars to addressing the shifting demands of the market.

This ‘back to basics’ approach – manage the team to get more from them, instead of trimming, firing, laying off or downsizing them to cut costs – is more efficient, cost effective, and respectful.  It’s good for the employer, the employee and the economy-which is supported by people who have jobs, pay taxes and buy things… things that presumably employers sell… You are of course already familiar with this virtuous cycle.

Time management?  Who has time for that?

As it turns out, OfficeTime.net published a 2014 survey of 1300 workers who identified the activities they spend 1-4 hours per week on while at work.  I’ve divided their responses into four categories of my own choosing.  Here’s where they said the time goes:

A)   Doing likely accepted forms of work
          • Email: 44%
          • Meetings: 42%
          • Social networking for business: 6%

B)   Out of commission
          • Computer Problems: 6%
         • Travel & Commuting: 17%

C)    Communing & satisfying our social needs
          • Non-business conversations: 7%
          • Break time: 7%

D)   Uh-oh!
          • Procrastination: 10%
          • Watching internet videos or TV: 7%
          • Web surfing: 22%

So, based on a theoretical 40 hour work week, if employees spend up to four hours doing something, they’ve used 10% of their productivity on that task.  And if they are doing things in the latter category above, they’ve lost 10% of their productivity.  Needless to say, if employees opt to do several of those things, we’re losing a significant amount of team productivity - all of which can be recaptured if we can figure out why employees spend time this way. 

Luckily, the folks at OfficeTime.net asked the survey respondents about their rationale for “wasting time” and at least 64% of respondents attributed their lost time at work to these two factors:
          1)     Feeling stress
          2)    Lack of inspiration

I assert that these two answers are very much related, and readily addressed.
I propose that we are likely to feel stressed at work because:

          • We have too much to do with too many things having concurrent top priority
          • Some of those things on the high priority to-do list conflict with each other
          • We know we need to do something, but we don’t know what
          • We know we need to do something, but fear the consequences of doing the wrong    
             thing, or the politically suicidal thing

I maintain that we are likely to feel uninspired at work because:

          • The work does not seem meaningful
          • We feel disconnected from the team
          • We haven’t ‘bought into’ whatever it is that has to get done
          • The management team doesn’t know how to or can’t ‘fire us up’
          • It’s just a job, and we are working to live, not living to work.

Yikes!

But dear reader, would I bring you a problem without a solution?  Yes I would, because we have to be able to surface problems so that many thinkers can get to work on them, instead of one sad sack who saw a problem, couldn’t solve it, and knowing the career -deadening impact of that position, opted to say nothing.  Said problem remains unsolved until it’s too problematic to ignore or worse, too late.

So, while I don’t necessarily have a solution, I do have some ideas about how to recapture lost time –and its drag-along productivity.  Those ideas include:

More effective & frequent communication about what’s important to us –right now. And, remember the song from Midnight Cowboy, “Everybody’s talking at me…I don’t hear a word they’re saying…”?   Our communication has got to be delivered in such a way and often enough that employees hear it.  Managers have to inspire us, not retire us.’   With that, employees will know what’s most important to deliver.

As a management team, we have to remove the culture of bullying and fear.  Even in those firms thought to be ‘great places to work’, we’ve got to acknowledge the existence of pockets of toxicity and wash them out of our hair.  That way, when managers do communicate well, employees can opt to believe what they hear.  They can ‘buy in’ or ‘get on board’ and spend less energy worrying about political seppuku.

If we can make the mission specific and well-understood, if we can hire and inspire and reinforce a culture of trust and balance- not bullying- we can lose resentment, fear, and apathy and regain lost productivity. 

We can manage time, and we have to make time to manage time.
It doesn’t take money: it takes behavior change.
Read Mick’s famous lips: time is on your side. Even in tech. Maybe especially in tech.

Regina Darmoni is a co-founder of Timely Transformations, a partnership dedicated to professional and personal development training for improved team and individual productivity and profitability.  She is a former Fortune 100 tech & business executive who invites you to ‘like’ Timely Transformations on Facebook and/or visit our home page to see if we can be of service to you.  An update to Regina’s book, Real Mentors Tell You This, is being released in the fall of 2014.

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