Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Situational Time Management

Long ago, but not long enough, I worked for a management consulting/personnel management group that conducted training programs and consulting projects for municipal and state governments and agencies. Wait! Wait! Don't nod off. One of the people I worked for did programs on situational leadership. Situational leadership, as she described it, involved managers changing their leadership style depending upon whom they were dealing with. There was a chart. She used to use the movie Twelve O'Clock High as a case study. Evidently, she was not alone in doing this. This was back before video. I cannot tell you what a pain in the butt renting this movie was, which, no doubt, is why I remember situational leadership.

A couple of months ago, I was listening to a call-in show on friendship on my local NPR station. (My excuse? It was a weekend, and I was working in the kitchen.) So, this woman called in and started talking about what she called situational friendship. By this she meant friendships made while in particular situations. Thus, you have your PTO mom friends, your church friends, your writers' group friends, your walking group friends, your Boy Scout parent friends, etc. These are all friends unique to the situations in which you find yourself. When the situations no longer exist, neither do the friendships.

Last week, these different experiences from my distant and very recent past came together while I was thinking about the beginnings and endings of units of time--the different impacts those situations have upon us and how we use the time available during them. In terms of the ends of units of time, for instance, I've noticed that those hours, even days if the unit of time is a month, say, are often wasted if I've become discouraged with how I've managed my time up to that point. Just as a dieter will figure he might as well eat whatever for the rest of the day because he was unable to stick with the program around 3:30, I would believe a day was ruined because I didn't stay on task in the morning. I might as well blow off the rest of the day, too. To deal with that situation, I decided to have work tasks lined up that I could switch to if I found myself giving up on the planned/scheduled work. Doing anything, even if it's not the planned task, is better than wandering off to look for LOL cats.

This led me to think that what we sometimes do with time is create a management plan/schedule for ourselves and expect to adhere to it no matter what our situation is. When we don't, we're...out of luck, shall we say? How about instead applying a variation of the situational leadership/friendships model to time? With that model, we would expect to change the plan depending on our situation instead of believing the plan had broken down because our situation couldn't adhere to it.

I'm talking about more than a time plan for a big chunk of life, as in a plan for the years I'm in law school, a plan for the years when I am raising children, a plan for the years when I'm running a legal practice and raising children. I'm talking about constantly switching time management plans as situations change because situations change constantly.

For instance, this month I was able to commit to revising a book length manuscript. (May Days helped me think in terms of a month-long unit of time committed to one thing.) I should be done with it tomorrow, even though I've been down to working only three days a week again because of family commitments. (No crisis. The family member who was helping with elder care visits hasn't been able to get away from work.)

Now, next month I may be down to working only two days a week because of another family commitment. However, I've been able to plan for that situation. So next month whatever work time I have will go toward researching and planning marketing for the Saving the Planet & Stuff e-book I expect to publish later this year. Those kinds of work tasks shouldn't require the kind of continuity that writing a draft or revising a lengthy manuscript do, so they are better suited for working only two days a week. Thus, I have planned my time around my situation.

By September my situation should have changed again, maybe sooner. I will switch my time management plan again then.

Can someone do this kind of situational time management during, say, a lengthy family crisis? It depends, of course, on how soul-sucking the situation is. But maybe recognizing that you can plan your time around your situation could keep a management plan from breaking down altogether because the situation you find yourself in won't work with it.

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