Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are you spending your time the right way (Prudence!!!)?

I read this article this morning and thinking since then, how can I do it better. Figured, I will share it with you guys as well, it looks like a great conversation starter. We all go through this problem sometime or the other, any and all suggestions & comments are welcome.

Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?

Posted by Melissa Raffoni on April 23, 2008 12:38 PM

Here's a three-step plan for allocating your time wisely—and strategically.

by Melissa Raffoni

Though most managers understand intellectually that time is their scarcest resource, few make the effort to gain a strategic perspective on how they spend their hours each week. Still fewer make a regular practice of keeping track of how the priorities they say are most important jibe with the way they actually spend their time. "Those we label natural born leaders know how to leverage their time," writes Warren Blank in The 108 Skills of Natural Born Leaders (Amacom, 2001). For those in whom this talent is not innate, here's how to do it.

1. Break your responsibilities into categories

The categories will vary depending on your job function, but they must be both strategic and tactical—identify not more than six. Consider, for example, the following:

• Growth and improvement. This category focuses on opportunities, not on crises, and it's often the one in which the added value you bring to your company is the greatest. The challenge is to keep the time allotted to these high-leverage activities sacrosanct—don't let pressing but less important needs crowd them out.

• Managing people. You may want to break this category into managing up, managing across, and managing down. Managers are well aware that coaching and mentoring enable them to maximize their leverage, but especially in times of belt tightening, it helps to be reminded that you can't create efficiencies without upward and lateral alignment. Moreover, everyone agrees that communication is critical, but how many people actually plan time for it? In your haste to make your numbers, don't let your communication—in any of these three directions—falter.

• Primary day-to-day responsibilities. Depending on your role, this area could also be subdivided—say, into selling and delivering services.

• Administration. This includes necessary chores ranging from assessing resource needs to interviewing job candidates to responding to e-mail. Get ready for a shock when you add the numbers.

2. Ask yourself what percentage of your time you should be spending in each category

Before you assign percentages, Blank advises that you ask yourself this question: "Given what I truly want to accomplish today as a leader, what will be the best use of my time?" To answer, factor in the competing claims on your time: the activities that enable you to generate the most leverage, the company's strategic priorities, and the short-term needs of your supervisors, direct reports, and customers. Once you've assigned percentages, translate them into hourly figures for each category. Is the total number of hours realistic and sustainable for the time frame you're considering? To be useful, your time allocations may need to change quarterly, monthly, or even weekly.

3. Check for alignment with your superiors and colleagues

Run your time allocations by your manager and key colleagues; ask them to share theirs, if possible. Sharing time allocations with a team gives a group focus and cohesion.

Managing your time

Now that you have a plan for leveraging your time, all you need to do is be ruthless in your execution of it.

Audit your time.

Take out last week's calendar, and evaluate it using your newly established time allocations for each category. This will give you a sense of how much adjustment will be necessary going forward. Record how you spend your time in a time-management log—for many, this very discipline is half the battle. Here's a sample time-management log from a consultant:

"The last time I kept a time log, I was surprised to learn that, when I am in the office, I spend almost half of my time on the telephone, either taking calls or leaving messages for people who aren't available," writes Elaine Biech in The Consultant's Quick Start Guide: An Action Plan for Your First Year in Business (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2001).

Time audits, says Blank, can also "reveal when and how you get distracted from things that matter." For instance, is multitasking really helping you? This skill is regularly held up as the sine qua non of modern-day managerial aptitudes, but a 2001 study by Joshua Rubinstein, David Meyer, and Jeffrey Evans indicates that people experience something akin to writer's block whenever they have to switch tasks. The more complicated the task you're switching from or to, the greater the time cost, that is, the longer it takes you to shift over to the new task, adopt its mindset, and then get warmed up again once you return to the original task. All told, the study estimates, these switching costs could reduce a company's efficiency by 20% to 40%.

Practice time-boxing.

To-do lists will be only marginally useful if you don't set parameters for how much time to devote to each task. When you make your list, carefully estimate the time each task will take, and box it into your calendar. This discipline not only will help you finish your list, but it also will improve your ability to estimate time and manage expectations of those around you. Particularly if you are in a new position or are confronting new tasks, ask for help estimating the time for each task—otherwise, you run the risk of missing deadlines and mismanaging expectations.

Pay attention to the areas where you're weakest.

If you always delegate the tasks you don't do well, your weak points will haunt you. Acknowledge your weaknesses, but use structure to shore them up. For example, many managers have difficulty saying no to colleagues who make impromptu requests for their time. Let these people know your priorities for leveraging your time and encourage them to schedule meetings with you.

"Most people manage their lives by crises," writes Stephen Covey in Principle-Centered Leadership(Summit Books, 1991). "The only priority setting they do is between one problem and another." But effective managers focus on opportunities, he adds, and they structure their schedules accordingly. "Unless something more important—not something more urgent—comes along, we must discipline ourselves to do as we planned."

Melissa Raffoni is president of Raffoni CEO Consulting. She specializes in helping CEOs and senior executives improve their effectiveness and the performance of their companies.

This article appeared in the July 2006 issue of Harvard Management Update.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Twitter in Plain English

This is Twitter in plain english by the guys at Common Craft. The presentation is definately neet, but the important thing is that it shows us a new way to Micro Blog or INTERACTING. This is just a followup to the previous post that i added yesterday. The more i use these channels, the more fascinated i get, and come to realize that where have i been for so so long. I should have made the effort to understand this revolution many years ago. In any case, social graphing or social networking is growing and evolving at a much faster rate today than it was just a couple of years ago. So Better late than never.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blogging vs. Facebook

I read a post today by Fred Wilson which talked about the topic at hand Wordpress VS. FACEBOOK. If he replaces wordpress by blogging, then I agree with a lot of observations that he makes about the platform and how instrumental Blogging in revolutionizing the web and forming WEB 2.0. I am not an authority on valuations or can claim that Microsoft (MSFT) has over-valued Facebook (which btw I do believe), but claiming that wordpress is more valuable than facebook is not digestible.

Fred bluntly puts that Blogging is for a mature audience and FB is for young folks, however, by its very nature, the blog posts & blogging sites are content storing houses, maybe in form content managers along with the blogger, but rarely act as a medium of conversation. Whereas, facebook is an evolution of blogging itself, just like tublr, youtube, podcasting etc., only FB has been able to make it so easy while making it cool and in the process assimilated a lot of services, from photo sharing (which it is the largest depository) to various platforms for sharing thoughts & everyday life's most simple things like what music 'iLike', Videos (like from YouTube or any other network), Wall posts 'Super Wall or Fun Wall'. Hence, FB gives the opportunity to have conversations in the simplest forms like we experience them in real life, rather than the involvement of writing blog posts to engage the readers. Blogging as I see it, an expression of any kind, be it in writing as citizen journalists on wordpress, or creating an edited video which is put on youtube, or maybe podcasting via itunes itself. FB has designed the medium to combine these and given the opportunity to developers to create many other small applications to personalize the conversations & make them true INTERACTIONS.

My position here is not act as a FB evangelist, but give it an equal ground. I thought that his post was one sided and wanted to see if other people agreed with him or not (like me). Also, in this process, read a book that I recommend, recently published by Haward Business Press, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by Social Media (the link for getting it from Amazon is below).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ENOUGH about saving money!!! It is true, I can't seem to save money, then why bother writing about it. I thought I if I wrote about it would help me get things in perspective, even though it didn't help me get my expenses in perspective, I understood one thing. EARN MORE MONEY!!!

I am really not prudent – hence the title PRUDENT V R NOT…..

I, however, do have burning desire to earn money and not think about cutting my expenses, but so does the rest of the world. What am I doing to achieve this goal? How will I achieve this goal? More importantly, will I achieve this goal? I can tell you not that answer to the last one is a resounding YES. For the rest of the questions, it is work in progress.

I am watching Donny Deutsch's BIG IDEA, reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, trying to understand WEB 2.0 (which btw people call an oxymoron), and trying to figure out that next small thing which can propel me into the big league. However, answer everyday is the same, that there is no answer. There are some extremely good ideas, but someone is either doing it, or has done it and failed miserably on it. Hence, one solution could be do it better, or create something that will change the structure of the marketplace itself. In doing so, I need to identify the problem that I am solving – CLEARLY. This is WHY the customer will come to me and only me no one else. The problem should be simple and clear, for me to understand so that a solution can be prepared, yet of some substance to the final user for them to push for it.

Where should I look for substance?

Should it be in the industry that I am in already? It makes sense as I would seem to know most about this industry and then have colleagues who critic something if I brought out a new idea.

Should it be in a new industry? I believe that entrepreneurs have no boundaries, they seem to understand business and as long as one has the common sense and some aptitude of learning, one can succeed in any field.

If New Industry, which one? Internet is the easiest choice, with the wave of new applications coming into the market with WEB 2.0 it seems that the market is insatiable. The valuations that you see of some of these companies seem unprecedented. I don't discount the fact that GOOGLE has done well for itself, but not all going to be google. There are marketplaces like adonomics providing valuations to applications which in the real world would never ever have a chance to find a seller. Although, it is a great way to promote entrepreneurship, because these numbers are the ones that entice people like me to think more and more to get into this industry. Venture funds especially formed for Web 2.0.

If Internet is the obvious choice (so I think, and I might just be wrong) then what do I got to offer. I being an entrepreneur not a technocrat, I deal in finance, apparel & fashion industry, what can I do on the internet that would inherently change the structure of the markets there. Maybe using the internet in its new form, there is a way to change the nature / structure of the markets in the real world in industries like finance or fashion or any other industry that we are part of.