One of the biggest problems for young programmers is getting everything done. Time Management becomes very important and sadly enough it is one of the things that they don’t teach in school. Additionally, we want to begin a dialogue with each of our client station programmers as to particular problems with managing their time. Hopefully, 2009 will be a year where we can learn to get more done in less time. With that in mind, here is round one:
1. Learning to say NO! The single biggest management tool I know is the ability to say NO. When we are programming a successful radio station everyone wants our time. We must take control of our time and not let others do it because we can’t say the word NO. Many young people find it difficult to do so when they give answers like “I’ll try” or “I don’t know”, “Can I get back to you?” or “I think I can” Believe me, people take these answers as a “YES”. Here is a four step approach to saying “No” without hurting feelings:
A. Listen to the request.
B. Say “NO” immediately.
C. Give specific reasons for saying “NO”.
D. Offer an alternative.
I have found over the years that this worked for me. It allows you to say “NO” and at the same time offer the requester a solution to their dilemma.
2. Lean to manage your paper work. It is easy to spot an unorganized program director by one look at his desk. Piles of paperwork, magazines, memos, remote requests, etc. Here’s a way to get organized.
a. Take a Saturday and clean off your work space. Reorganize it so that it is functional. Check to see that the environment is comfortable and the work flow is organized.
b. Handle each piece of paper only once. This tip has really helped me to get the clutter off my desk. By handling each piece of paper only once, you won’t have it moving from one pile to another for the next several months. I try to dispose of each letter, memo, etc. when I first read it. “Get it done now” is the attitude to take. Act on it, file it, pass it along, read it or throw it away, but do it now. Also try asking yourself this question, “what’s the worst possible thing that can happen if I throw this paper away?” If you can’t give yourself a good reason to keep it, toss it!
3. Invest in a good calendar and always carry a note pad. I am a believer that you need to have ONE calendar and carry it with you. I have been using the American Express Appointment Book for the past ten years. I keep it current at all times with all appointments, times, trips, etc. Once you get into the habit of keeping an appointment book, Don’t OVERBOOK yourself. Back when I was a young programmer, I used a doctors office appointment book with 15 minute intervals. I loaded myself with appointments every fifteen minutes. If I was late for an appointment or an appointment ran over, I was behind the rest of the day. Allow yourself plenty of time for each appointment and learn to say “NO” when your calendar is too tight. Also, have a note pad handy at all times. I keep one by the telephone, bed, in the car, and one with me so that I can jot down notes as they occur. Once each day I go over these notes and act on them.
4. Make a “To Do” list each morning or the night before. I have always worked from a “To Do” list. I have mine devided into four sections. They are: 1 Scheduled appointments; 2. Tasks to do; 3. Calls to make or return; and 4. projects that are ongoing. Once you have made your list, prioritize the list by placing a number one (1) next to those things that “have to be done”. A number two (2) by those items that should be done. and a number three (3) on those items that can wait if time is tight. Then go to work crossing items off your list, working on one at a time starting with the most important and working your way down the list.
5. Find your best reading time and place all reading into a reading file for that time. I receive tons of faxes, magazines, trades, newsletters, memos, etc. each week. I put these into a reading file. I like to read at night after dinner, at airports, and on planes. I never read when I am at my peak of energy. I use that time for projects.
Part Two: The Telephone
The telephone can be the biggest time waster. For some reason whenever we get going on a project, the telephone will ring, and before you realize it several hours have passed and you are no further ahead on the project. If we let it, the telephone will control our jobs! Here’s a few ideas on how to stop the problem.
1. Group Calls that you need to make and do them all at once. If you place all the calls you need to make on your “To Do” list, you can make them in a bunch. I am a very productive between 9AM and 11AM, so I try to make all my morning calls between 11AM and 12:00 Noon. In the afternoon, I try to return all calls between 4PM and 5PM so that I never leave work without returning all calls. Grouping them really makes this task easier.
2. Plan your calls. Have a pen, paper, and a clock near the phone. Quickly, before you make the call, outline the points that you need to make during the call. And with pen and paper handy, you’re ready to make any necessary notes.
3. Avoid “Telephonitis.” When you make a call, GET TO THE POINT. Avoid too excessive an exchange of pleasantries. Keep your voice inflection one of immediacy. End the conversation in a timely manner. If the other party is a talker, arrange an interruption, tell them you have another commitment and if neces_sary “hang up on yourself.”
4. Leave specific messages. In radio, people like record reps and program sales people will call many times a week. I always try to give specific messages when I talk to them, and when I return their calls. A simple, “I will NOT add your record”, or “I am NOT interested in your countdown show” will stop the calls. The worst mistake a young programmer can make is to say “maybe”, that will only insure call after call until you finally say “NO”. My advise, tell them “NO” the first call! When you initiate a call always leave a message with the receptionist. Tell her not only the message, but when you will be available for a return call.
5. Avoid telephone tag. One of the problems of our business is telephone tag, returning call after call to another person and never connecting. I always leave a time when I will make myself available and leave that time with the message.
Part III: Successful Meetings
Week three in our series on time management. This week some tips for successful meetings.
1. Ask the question “Is this meeting really necessary?” By the way MOST aren’t!
2. Choose a good time for the meeting Pick odd times that will not interfere with the regular flow of business. Early morning, late afternoon, and during the lunch hour are good times.
3. Start and stop the meeting on time. All meetings should have a set time and all participants should be told the length in advance. If the meeting is scheduled for one hour from 8AM to 9AM then start the meeting at 8:00 AM SHARP and keep track of time so that the meeting ends at exactly 9AM or before.
4. Have a three dimensional agenda. The agenda should include topics, the person responsible, and a time limit. Agenda’s should be passed out in advance.
6. NO interruptions, NO food or beverage, NO telephone. The meeting should be important enough that no interruptions will be allowed.
7. Hold STAND-UP Meetings. It really works to keep meetings short and to the point.
8. For meetings outside the station, try to send a representative in your place. Another thing you can do is attend only the portion of the meeting that relates to YOU. And finally, use more conference calls when possible. They’re quicker and often times more effective.