I have real difficulty managing my time. I have already been on number of time management programmes but I don’t seem to improve. Could you recommend something that perhaps I haven’t already thought of to help solve this problem?

Many people struggle with time management. It is such perennial concern that the subject is usually included in the core learning programme framework of just about every organisation offering management training. The underlying reason is that, unfortunately, our lives continue to become more complex.
However, one thing in our lives hasn’t changed. There are still 24 hours in the day, eight of which are usually spent sleeping, about another eight are spent working, one to two hours can be spent just travelling to and from work, around two hours day are spent eating and doing general things around the home, leaving about four hours spare for personal and family time (if you are lucky).
So while the opportunities for taking up our time have increased exponentially in the past 20 years, the time we actually have to spend hasn’t. That means we need to be discerning about how we spend our time.
Courses do help but they will fail if the person doesn’t see that they only have finite period of time available to them and that they can choose to use it effectively or ineffectively. Choice is the key word here as the secret to managing your time effectively is to realise you do have options.
Here are some ideas to consider. First, make list of what needs to be done. Use your computer so that you can easily rearrange the list as your situation changes. Start by brainstorming ideas. Let them come out of thin air and add them as they arise. Keep sequencing the list under key headings and priorities of your choice. Allocate the actions on the list to planned periods of time but also choose to reallocate the actions as your situation and needs change. Do this planning over different and expanding time horizons starting with the biggest first: year, month, week and finally day.
Then knock off one of the hardest or least pleasant items on the list. This will clear the way for the rest and you will feel less blocked. You will have more control over how you use your time and how you meet both your own needs and those of the external world. You will get more things done, be less stressed and come up with more innovative ideas as you see the bigger picture. You will have list of “want to do’s” instead of list of “must do’s”. Finally, you will be more motivated and have more energy – and time.

We have bonus system that is paid out at the end of the year. I am not sure that our system is adding the value it should. There seems to be wide range of views on the value of bonus systems with some researchers arguing they don’t add value and others arguing the opposite. What is the story?

It’s very important to define what you are trying to achieve. Once you’ve introduced bonus scheme it will be quite challenge to remove it, so you need to be sure it is going to add value. Many organisations introduce bonus systems to try to motivate people to deliver increased performance and to “pay for performance”. They will introduce performance management system that has annual objectives and will measure to what extent those objectives have been achieved at the end of the year. bonus will be paid out on the percentage of their objectives that person has achieved.
Such systems raise tricky issues. They can become quite complex, difficult to relate to and potentially open to manipulation. Managers are making judgements on the percentage of objectives that have been achieved and different managers are likely to have different standards of judgement. Further, because people are naturally motivated to receive their bonus they will try to pressure their manager for higher rating and this tends to lead to creep upwards in the overall performance ratings across the organisation over the years. Organisations in this situation often pay out bonuses even if they haven’t delivered the additional revenue to fund the bonus pool.
As you say, there has been much research worldwide on bonus systems and there is no conclusive end result. However, there is self-policing approach that works well. Such scheme aims to reward people for their share in helping with the organisation’s overall performance. In this situation the organisation will have clear strategic and business plans. People in the organisation will still have personal objectives linked to these plans. The organisation will budget for bonus pool to come from the organisation’s annual surplus which is shared out to all employees on pre-defined basis.
For example, an organisation might put 25 percent of its annual surplus aside as bonus pool. Employees will receive certain percentage of that pool depending on the size of their own job. If they are clearly not performing well they will not receive the bonus or may receive smaller share. Those who perform well receive their full bonus as their share of their contribution to the wealth of the overall organisation.
This approach is self-controlling: if the organisation doesn’t achieve surplus there is no bonus pool. It also carries the huge benefit that employees become more interested in how the organisation is performing and what they can do to help it grow and develop. As long as employees have access to relevant information on how the organisation is doing and are given the freedom to innovate and apply their own ideas, this approach can and does revolutionise the workplace and creates very effective and engaged organisation.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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