Personally my heart always sinks when clients ask me to run a session on ‘time management.’ Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hate the topic and it’s certainly not that I can’t see the value of being good at handling your priorities. For me, it’s the idea that by exposing people to some tried and tested techniques on how to manage and prioritise their tasks; that people will make massive step changes to what they do.
When I work with middle to senior managers, and I look out at the group, I see people who are bright, capable and experienced enough to know how to manage their diaries and the myriad of tasks that drop into their inbox or ‘to do list.’ What I often sense is a feeling of tiredness, fatigue and sense of hopelessness around their ability to change anything. It seems many managers don’t feel able to control or influence what they do, how or when they do it.
Just recently, in working with such a group I thought I’d try something different. I took my inspiration from the brilliant little book “one small step can change your life” by Robert Maurer which uses the principles of Kaizen.
His description of the importance of ‘small steps’ when we want to change fits really well with my own philosophy. By taking small steps, you’re not pushing people too far and more importantly the intention is to give people a sense of empowerment and encouragement. The whole basis of Kaizen is that it is the accumulation of loads of small steps that create lasting change.
A small step needs to be one that the person can achieve easily. If there’s any resistance then the step isn’t small enough. So ,for instance, if you wanted to cut out sugar in your tea, you could go ‘cold turkey’ and stop completely one day. And for some of us that might be successful. However, by reducing the sugar by miniscule amounts each day, you wouldn’t notice any taste difference, and within a couple of weeks you’d be sugar free! And there’s heaps of research that shows, changing habits in this way is much more likely to result in lasting change.
So, with my ‘time management group’, we talked about the small, daily, modest actions that they could take to improve how they manage their time.
The key is small, modest actions that can be done daily, to build the habit. Here’s some of the small questions that people were answering;
- What is the smallest step that I could take?
- Where could I find 1 minute a day to gather my thoughts?
- What small, trivial step could I take that would improve things?
Creating change that sticks is not always about making the big, wholesale changes. Sometimes what helps drive change that sticks are the cumulative effect of a million smaller steps. I think this is especially true when we come to make personal or behavioural changes. Moreover, when people start with small changes, they start to gain a sense of control, empowerment and feel encouraged that they are able to make positive change.
Drop me a note if you’re feeling that there are changes that you’d like to make within your organisation. Helping managers to find their own small steps, is one sure fire way of getting them more engaged with the change…and I’d love to help you with that!!