On the Job With Ken Lloyd: Managing Time is Really More than a To-do List
Q: My manager said he is concerned about the way I manage my time, and he told me to use his system, which is a to-do list for each day. I now make one every day, and at the end of day, he comes to my cubicle and asks to see it. I have been completing about 80% of the items on it, but he says this is not enough. I think that's not a bad rate. What should I do?
A: Ironically, one could argue that your manager is not making the best use of his time by checking out your to-do list every day. While a to-do list can certainly help an employee manage his or her time, the idea of daily managerial auditing smacks of micromanagement. Unless you have been falling behind on your work or missing deadlines, your manager's follow-up sounds excessive.
While hitting 80% on your to-do can be regarded as successful time management, one can also argue that missing 20% of the items is subpar.
However, there is a key component that is missing from either of these arguments. Namely, what is the weighting or priority of each item on your list? For example, if you hit 80% of the items on the list, but the remaining 20% are top-priority tasks, then missing that 20% is a huge shortfall.
With this in mind, as you set up your next to-do list, try to prioritize all of the tasks, such as by labeling them as "A," "B," or "C," and then take care of the "A" items first, followed by the "B's" and "C's." With this approach, your completion rate will be far more meaningful, and the same can be said about the tasks that you are completing.
Q: I was asked to make a presentation before several managers next month, and I'm nervous already. I don't do much public speaking, and when I've done it in the past, it has not gone very well. I get nervous, and it shows. I'm open to any suggestions.
A: The best way to deal with jitters before making a presentation is to practice what you are going to say. The idea is to move past the point where you can mechanically mouth the words and into a zone where you can make your comments easily, comfortably, and naturally. Practice the presentation from start to finish several times, and even do so in front of a friend or family member who is willing to provide honest feedback.
Also prior to the meeting, if you know who will be attending, try to tailor your presentation to meet their needs, as opposed to randomly aiming too high or too low. In addition, check out the meeting room. Look at the arrangement of the chairs, check out the lighting, test the computer system if you are making a visual presentation, and go to the place where you will be standing. Take a look around and get familiar with the setting. You might even want to practice your presentation or part of it from that spot.