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Time management important component of property management plan

This is an excerpt from Outdoor Site and Facility Management by Wynne Whyman.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe." A well-honed tool gets the job done quickly. You need a well-honed, system-based plan for getting the work done. Without such a plan, time can get away from you until what should take minutes takes hours if not days.

Smart time management is key to implementing your property management plan. Managing your time well delivers a range of benefits, some of them obvious, some less so. It improves your overall efficiency; it provides valuable strategic advantages; and it makes space for logical, creative thinking.

This chapter provides tips and tricks for effective time management. You will learn to do more in less time, be an efficient planner, and capitalize on each person's unique skills.

Learning to Be Proactive

You know the feeling. You're sitting at your desk, and you look at the clock. "Three o'clock already?! Where does the time go?" Another day spent working hard, but the tasks are not all done.

In the midst of all the activities, you may find yourself falling into task-focused thinking. Your list of repairs and maintenance keeps growing, so you focus more and more on running around trying to get each thing done. Or, you get bogged down in either-or scenarios, saying, for example, "I have time to do only the repairs. The more time I spend doing the repairs, the less time I have for preventive maintenance. But the more I do repairs, the more I need to do preventive maintenance."

If the majority of your time is spent doing and not planning, your work life might have a chaotic feel to it. It doesn't have to. If you feel as though you're just moving from one crisis to another-don't worry. You can change that by learning to deal with the tasks at hand in a systematic way. To have enough time on a regular basis to reflect, regroup, and plan, you need to be proactive rather than reactive.

Planning the use of your time is important because your time is valuable. Your skills should not be wasted on tasks done inefficiently or tasks that others could do. This is where planning comes in. Can you combine tasks to do them more efficiently? Can you delegate certain tasks to others? Can you devise a system to find staff or participants to help with some aspects of maintenance?

Using creative strategies to free yourself from the hands-on work will buy you time to spend on proactive work. With planning, you can identify, schedule, and perform preventive maintenance rather than being forced to react to the latest breakdown. Your focus can switch from doing specific tasks to keeping everything flowing smoothly, which is a better use of your specialized skills.

You will, of course, need to spend some extra time setting up the procedures, priorities, and work flow and discussing options with your team. As you will soon find out, however, planning time is time well spent.

Changing How You Spend Your Time

The next time you ask, "Where does the time go?" try answering the question for yourself. Keep a diary of how you spent your time for a whole week, or use your personal business organizer, such as a PDA or day planner, to refresh your memory, and compile your hours using the list provided in tool 8.1.

Because each person's job is unique and each organization does things differently, there are no rules for determining how much time spent in each category is enough. However, it is important to look at the bigger picture and review the list of hours spent at various categories of tasks. Are you doing work that matches your skills? Are you doing the work you were hired to do? Do the hours reflect the priorities of the job and the organization? Have you spent time doing proactive work?

Now look at your list at a finer level of detail: Which category of tasks takes up the most time? Do your hours for that category reflect reactions to complaints or last-minute requests? Which category seems to be the most frustrating? You need to take care of the reactive types of tasks, especially when there are health and safety concerns, but make a point of addressing the reasons you end up in reactive mode, and look for alternative strategies to use in the future.

If there is an area in which you would like to spend less time, choose a priority task from the list and set a goal for completion. List three specific actions that will help you accomplish this goal. For example, under "Maintenance and repairing-Facilities and Equipment," you might set as a goal, "Find ways to do things differently to save me time." Here are three specific actions you could take to move you toward that goal:

• I will find one volunteer to help five hours a month.

• With one staff person, I will discuss a task and ask for his or her suggestions for a different approach.

• I will read a book or listen to an electronic book on how to delegate tasks effectively.

When you take actions or make intentional changes in how you use your precious time, you become more proactive and less reactive. You become more effective in the work you do, and more significantly, you find the time to accomplish the important work. The important work cannot wait until tomorrow; the future of your organization's site and facilities depends on your ability to consistently find the time to address the important items.

Saving Time by Planning Ahead

Considering the range of management tasks and responsibilities you must master to be successful, you may frequently feel like the circus juggler trying to keep six assorted implements flying through the air. Even an excellent time manager may have to do some fancy juggling to keep everything airborne.

You can buy a lot of time by combining similar everyday tasks. If a project must be done on the third floor, the person can also bring tools for a project on the second floor so he won't have to return to gather more tools. Making a shopping list rather than going to the store separately for every item also saves time.

Clearly, saving time starts with planning. Another trick is to think ahead and let others help with the work at hand. For example, although the property manager may be convenient to lead a tour, a knowledgeable board member could lead the tour instead. If new lightbulbs and stepping stools are available in the main office, staff can replace the lightbulbs themselves without having to call maintenance workers. This saves time for maintenance workers to focus on projects that require more specialized skills -which is what they were hired to do.

A third way to plan ahead is to have an inventory on hand of commonly needed parts and supplies. However, this will only work if you install uniform fixtures, appliances, and equipment. Things like standard filter sizes and identical door handles allow you to have a smaller inventory on hand. With standard fixtures, maintenance workers can quickly ascertain what they need to do a job, and staff need only learn a few procedures rather than many.

The few seconds you save today can add up to minutes that add up to hours that add up to days of time saved over the course of a year. Come up with creative shortcuts and see how much time you can save.

This is an excerpt from Outdoor Site and Facility Management: Tools for Creating Memorable Places.

More Excerpts From Outdoor Site and Facility Management