With so much to do, how do facility managers manage their time?
EVERY MANAGER AGREES: There is too much to do, and not enough time to get it done. That's why there is a seemingly endless supply of books, seminars, PDAs, day planners, software programs and coaches -- all claiming to help busy people figure out how to "manage time" and "set priorities." So why are so many managers still frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed?The simple answer is that you may be trying to manage the unmanageable.
Priorities are yours to set, but that's where so many people end up flummoxed: "I've got 14 projects that I need to complete, so what am I supposed to do first?" In his book, Getting Things Done, executive coach David Allen sets out the five stages of project planning: 1) define your purpose, 2) visualize your outcome, 3) brainstorm, 4) organize, 5) what's next?
Define your purpose
Consider what usually happens when you approach project planning, such as you and your staff thinking about some new programming for your facility. The team assembles, most of them distracted, their heads full of mental chatter about incomplete projects and nagging tasks that are still undone, thinking about what a waste of time the meeting will probably turn out to be. The project manager stands up and says, "So, who's got a good idea?" This isn't a good question, though, because, how can anyone have a good idea when they don't know what the goals are? Because of this, most meetings are a waste of time, but they don't have to be.
When embarking on a new project, here are some questions that may help you and your team focus on your purpose: Why are we starting this new program? Why do we need to hire this new employee? Why are we purchasing this new piece of equipment?
Whether it's to stay competitive with a new facility that opened in your market area or to enhance your reputation as the fitness center on the cutting edge of exercise innovation, you need to know the reason. This step will not only set many of your decision parameters by focusing attention on where to spend time and money, but it will also motivate team members who will have a clear answer to the question, "Why are we doing this?"
Visualize your outcome
This step is one of the most important. To understand why, think about a project you plan all the time -- dinner out with friends or clients. You think about the atmosphere, the type of food and the time of day, and end up with a clear vision of how the event will turn out. Brain researchers have demonstrated that the outcome vision you hold in your mind affects the reality that you create. Make yours as specific, as real and as successful as you can. Have you envisioned success and all of the wonderful byproducts that will result if you achieve it?
Brainstorming is often lots of fun, as everyone throws out ideas, and nothing -- no matter how seemingly outrageous at first -- is judged or rejected. The idea is for everyone to empty their heads and capture the ideas in written form. Have you gotten everyone's ideas on the table, and considered everything that might affect the project?
During the organizing stage, figure out what steps are essential to accomplish your outcome, and in what order they need to occur. Once you have answered the questions, "What's the plan?" "What are our key dates for completion?" and "What are the milestones that will help us measure success?" you're ready to take action.
The key to making things happen is to do the first thing, then the next and the next. How do you move this project forward? Often it will be as simple as making a phone call. Sometimes it will require input from other people. Whatever the first step is, commit to take it as soon as possible. In addition to "What's next?" ask "Who is responsible for what?" and "What should we do first?" Here's a reality check: If you are hesitating to pull the trigger on that first action, maybe you don't really want to do the project in the first place.
Allen, D. Getting Things Done. Viking: New York, N.Y., 2001.