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Stop wasting everybody’s time

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I used to take a very “que sera sera” approach to time, which by all accounts worked well for me. However, in my current job, a lot of my work – and the ability to do my job – relies on people sticking to deadlines. These people include those I work with, executives I interview, and most importantly, myself.

But even as I’ve learnt to adapt to the editorial way of life, I realised my pace of work often reflects that of whichever editor I’m working under.

If I’m working with someone who is highly strung and follows schedules religiously, I become highly strung and follow my calendar religiously. If my editor happens to be someone who is still strict but a little more flexible with time, my own time management goes a notch down.

As one of my favourite business idioms goes, “The fish stinks from the head down”.

I believe no matter how open and flat an organisation becomes, its employees will always turn to the ones at the helm for direction and advice.

That being said, leaders have and will always be held to a higher standard of personal and professional conduct. Leaders, regardless of whether they have one or 100 people reporting to them, need to be on the ball and running like a well-oiled machine.

I realise we’re all humans and will err from time to time, but I think leaders, above everyone else, need to set a good example when it comes to work ethics, particularly around time management.

So I’ve decided to share a few nuggets of advice gleamed from over the years of watching high-level executives work:

Always be early to work. Not on time – early.

Getting a head start in the morning allows you a few quiet moments before the rest of the team descends upon the office. That’s never a bad idea in my book.

Always honour deadlines and appointments

Be it sticking to deadlines, arriving punctually at a meeting or just being in the office when you said you will, respecting your agreement to be somewhere or submit something on time displays responsibility on your end.

Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you’ve been awarded a free pass when it comes to time. Your time is never more valuable than someone elses, and causing a rift in another person’s schedule will inevitably come back around to affecting yours.

On that note…

Always be considerate of other people’s time

Chances are that if you’re a leader, you’re often needed to be present at meetings or catch ups. While we all have a never-ending to-do list and a finite amount of time to complete them in, try not to cancel meetings at the last minute or post-pone things unnecessarily. You doing so might set off a chain reaction affecting other people’s schedules, which will impact productivity in the long run.

Always apologise if you do have to reschedule

Again, it comes down to showing consideration for other people’s time. In the event you do have to move a meeting or cancel it, get in touch with the affected team members as early as possible, be apologetic, and reschedule a new time as soon as possible.

Those you work with will likely be reasonable (unless this is something you do too often) and will understand there are times where deadlines are impossible to meet or something urgent has to take precedence. But showing you’re aware of the inconvenience will make the bitter pill easier to swallow, and help those involved plan their time to better suit everyone.

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Sabrina Zolkifi
Deputy editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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