Invest your time wisely
John Kennedy addresses the crowd at The Garden Center Group's Fall Event.
Matt McClellan

Invest your time wisely

John Kennedy showed The Garden Center Group's Fall Event attendees how to improve their businesses through better time management.

September 25, 2019

John Kennedy brought his typical energy and insight to The Garden Center Group’s Fall Event crowd.

In his talk, “It’s time to manage at the speed of life,” the consultant defined several ways independent garden center owners can improve their time management skills.

He began by explaining three ways organizations change: change by crisis, change by drift and change by design. Crisis is fairly self-explanatory. A recession, an unexpected personnel change, like a key employee leaving, or a death in the company.

Change by drift takes place in a much slower way. However, there is no plan behind it.

Change by design is more proactive. It’s planning, evaluation and training. It’s identifying fire-starters before they happen instead of putting out fires once they’ve occurred.

“It’s hard to do change by design when you’re always in crisis,” Kennedy said.

He suggested taking 30 minutes out of your day to invest in yourself. Five minutes at the beginning and end of every day for planning and evaluation, plus a 20-minute “pay me first” break in the afternoon to focus on ways to improve.

It comes down to managing your day, so it doesn’t manage you. Do you or your employees spend too much time doing tasks that aren’t top priority? If you can delegate it, you should. Kennedy suggested writing “today lists” instead of “to-do lists,” because of the paralysis felt when faced with an overwhelming list of tasks.

One of the biggest time wasters is decision making, Kennedy said. Perhaps your employees spend time prioritizing their priorities. That’s on you as a manager, he said. They should know their “must-dos” for every day, as well as which jobs they can work on when those must-dos are scratched off their today list.

Kennedy also covered a list of his most common time-burners:

  1. Interruptions
  2. Telephones/email
  3. Competing priorities
  4. Paperwork/organization
  5. Procrastination
  6. Meetings

For interruptions, Kennedy has a novel solution. When someone comes to his office with a problem, he immediately stands up and walks toward them. While a tad off-putting, it sets the expectation that he can help the employee with whatever it may be, but he’s not available for small talk.

Kennedy also manages expectations for telephone calls. His voice mail message says he will return all calls within 24 hours. He usually returns calls in much less time, but because he’s set that expectation, it’s still seen as over-delivering.

“Meetings are either an investment or a waste of time,” he said.

Five-minute huddles are good and weekly group meetings are OK as long as there is an agenda, a time-keeper and a rotating scribe to ensure that 1) the meeting doesn’t go off the rails and 2) no one forgets to follow up on the tasks decided upon in the meeting.

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