For an HR professional, being strategic at the organizational level starts with good strategy at the personal level. And nothing distinguishes a strategic professional more than their tender loving care of time. Unfortunately, like the proverbial cobbler whose kids don’t have any shoes - most HR Pro’s struggle with time management even though we have read a dozen time management books, been through several workshops and may even have taught time management skills to others. At the end of the day, in spite of the calm and friendly outward appearance, the most frazzled, frustrated, exasperated employee works in HR.
Working with people can be strange, unpredictable, and crisis driven. And out of this human chaos, HR professionals are expected to create a strategic body of HR work that will propel the organization forward. Occasionally, we pull it off.
Here are six tips for the HR Pro who already knows the clichés.
Tip #1 - Stop multi-tasking.
As much as you want to be “customer focused,” you can’t please everyone. You have several items on your plate with shifting priorities. And, when the crisis comes in you have to drop everything and take care of it. Multi-tasking makes you 40% less effective with everything. In fact, the research is pretty clear that it is not only distracting now, it can even erode your capacity in the future. Take some advice from the Marines: when you’re outmanned, out gunned, and bullets are flying everywhere, the best way to survive is to slow down and carefully pick your targets.
Tip #2 - Declutter your life.
Anticipate distractions and avoid them. Create blocks of time without email or voicemail. If your job requires a “less-than-an-hour” response time make sure you are clear on what crises belong to you and which ones don’t. Know the difference between a break that is important, and a distraction that isn’t. Batch small tasks together. Learn the shortcuts within your role and use them. Develop a DIY creative approach to working in the same way Martha Stewart takes a DIY creative approach to living; simplify, beautify.
Tip #3 - Set goals and daily tasks - monitor your progress.
These are the most basic building blocks of good time management. And yet, as fundamental as they are, it is remarkable how difficult it is to get it right. Keep trying. The research shows it is worth the struggle.
Tip #4 - Use a Notebook
Jot down what is occupying your mind. Capture key tasks as they come up. Once you have written something in your notebook, your mind can focus elsewhere and be more creative knowing that the idea, concept, or task is not lost. Notebooks are making a come-back because it is a perfect thinking tool. Use your smart phone to organize, delegate, and schedule. Use your notebook to create, think, and imagine.
Tip #5 - Let Others Do Their Job`.
In an effort to be helpful we often say ‘yes’ to tasks that should be done by someone else. You won’t get the credit for doing someone else’s job. Your time is valuable. You have a full plate. Know what your contribution is and make it. Then expect others to make theirs.
Tip #6 - Take a Break.
Taking a break can dramatically increase your productivity. Stepping out, even for a few minutes, can clear your mind and re-focus your energy. Consider taking a walk. Research shows that taking a 20 minute walk can improve your health as well as your mental stamina. You may not make it to the gym in the morning, but a short walk during the day has almost 80% of the benefits of a full morning workout.
Ultimately, the best indication of a strategic HR professional is how we manage ourselves. Working just a little bit smarter and putting our own advice into practice will make the unpredictability of dealing with people go smoother on the outside and may even bring your smile back on the inside.