Time is on Your Side: Community Managers Managing Time

Aug 18, 2015

Time is on Your Side: 
Community Managers Managing Time
A Guide to Good Time Management

Shirley Elmore, CMCA, AMS | Treasure Lake Property Owners Association


Recent studies conclude that happiness directly relates to productivity; yet, the average work week is now approximately 54 hours and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of our medical expenditures are stress related. The job expectancy of a community manager is approximately five years on average. Considering that most Americans will be part of the workforce for forty years or more, five years certainly does not seem very long. The role of a community manager encompasses so much: including homeowner and board interaction, property inspections, property maintenance, property repairs, emergencies, and a positive outlook and attitude. There are endless meetings, phone calls, contractor appointments, evaluations, and work supervision involved. The key to managing this chaos? Good time management.

Time is valuable, limited, and must be protected and used wisely. Benefits of proper time management are increased productivity; less stress and, in turn, more energy; the ability to get more things accomplished; being able to be more positive in dealing with others; and, feeling better about yourself.  Time management is not about speed, it is about priorities. “Time management is about taking charge, carefully, consciously, purposefully – not shrinking from difficulties, but engaging them” (Kristan, 2010).

The first step in achieving good time management is eliminating as many distractions as possible. Studies show that, on average, you are interrupted six to seven times an hour and it takes four to five minutes to refocus on your task after each interruption. Allow for interruptions in your time management plan, of course. As a community manager, you can expect that your carefully planned schedule will be disrupted. The key is to get back on task as soon as possible. There will always be emergencies or unexpected issues to be dealt with in community management that cannot be avoided but there are many distractions that you can control and eliminate. Open screens on desktops, email notifications, files scattered on your desk, and coworker interruptions can be controlled to a large degree. Don’t allow these distractions to dictate your work environment and productivity.

Planning takes time in the beginning but studies show that spending fifteen minutes each morning or evening planning will free up approximately one hour of time each day. You can begin your day with your plan or you can make your plan for the next day as a final part of your day, along with reorganizing your desk and files. This will allow for a fresh start at the beginning of a new day, allowing you to jump right in and begin on your daily tasks when you are fresh.

Leave a small amount of time throughout your day for adjustments that may need to be made to your plan. Plan loosely to allow for the unexpected. List everything that needs to be accomplished for a quick glance, adding to it as needed. Then, prioritize and separate items by urgency; taking care not to fill each day with unrealistic daily goals. The “everything” list will help to remind you of all things to be considered, prioritized, and accomplished daily.

Reevaluate your list each day, removing items when completed.  You can simply remove completed items or move them to a list of completed items to help you with reporting accomplishments for the month, quarter, or year. This accomplishment list can be used to assist with newsletter articles, management reports, and general tracking records.

There are many planning tools to assist you in time management, including electronic planners, pocket diaries, calendars, computer programs, wall charts, index cards, cell phones, and notebooks. Some people prefer to write down tasks on paper, some prefer to dictate their thoughts, ideas, and tasks to some form of electronic device. There’s no one right answer for everyone. Find what works best for you and use it to its fullest, don’t jot down notes that will have to later be moved to another list. Statistics show that 15% of all paper generated in the workplace will be lost. Keep all of your notes in an organized area and always keep them close so that they are readily available to update, change, delete, or add to as the need arises. Keeping your notes at hand will also allow you to work on short tasks during times of waiting, such as in between meetings.

Most forms of electronic planners and calendars allow for color coding, grouping tasks under separate headings, and prioritizing tasks. Use the repeat function for scheduling reoccurring items and dates such as meetings.

There are steps to follow to begin the task of mastering your time management. First, make a list, either on paper or using electronic tools, as previously mentioned. This process does not have to be fancy, it can be as simple as jotting down notes on a notepad. Experiment with different tools and options to see what works best for you. It is very important not to make your list too long or it will be overwhelming and discouraging. Next, organize the list in order of priority, if the high priority jobs are too large, break them down into smaller jobs.

While every task is important, realize they usually cannot all be completed in one day. So, prioritize your tasks – do not overload your list, be realistic. Rank tasks in order of importance. First on the list would be all items that are urgent and important such as property damage or scheduled job inspections or meetings. Next would be tasks that are important but not urgent, such as action items from a meeting with a specific deadline. The next items would be items that are not as urgent but still important such as action items that do not have a specific deadline. Lastly, you would list items that are neither important nor urgent such as updating policies or rules for board consideration or preliminary budget notes being prepared well in advance of required deadlines. These are items that will gain in urgency and importance if they remain unresolved for a lengthy period of time but do not have the same time restrictions or demands as items higher on your list. Your list should also schedule time for breaks and mistakes. Schedule both long-term tasks and short-term jobs. Note that I said, “specific” deadlines above. Goals without a deadline are eliminated, put off, or never started at all. Having some type of deadline, even extended deadlines, will get you focused, help organize your thoughts and ideas, and stimulate action. If you missed a personal deadline, no big deal, you are further along than you were before you started, you learn from it and adjust the timing for next time.

Get the job done right the first time. 30% of a community manager’s job is fire-fighting or fixing problems that do not have to be problems. The key to avoiding mistakes is acknowledging the problems that caused the mistakes and then correcting the problems and determining what to do to keep them from recurring. Question associates and co-workers about what you are doing as a manager that is adding complexity to their tasks. Correcting those issues will gain respect from associates/co-workers and assist with solving day to day problems. See if you can find a pattern of mistakes and then find a solution. For instance, if codes or procedures can’t be remembered by staff members, post notes or instructions in an appropriate location for a quick reference.

Do not waste time. Make sure that associates totally understand their jobs and specific assigned tasks and procedures. Initial time in training will save many hours of mistakes and repeating and/or correcting jobs. 

Be prepared for meetings. Announce to everyone included in the meeting the purpose of the meeting giving them time to review and be prepared for the items to be discussed. This will allow for action to be discussed and taken, eliminating covering the same information at a later date. Always set a time limit for your meeting and stick to it.

Delegate tasks. Time management is the goal, delegation is a tool. You probably secretly believe you are the only person that can get a job done right. And, you probably hate asking people for help. Get over it!  It is important to recognize and accept your limits and your limited amount of time. A very important step in delegating tasks is that you must let the person assigned the task complete the task in their own way, after you have made sure they understand the task given to them. Try to assign tasks according to the interests and ability of staff whenever feasible. Workers happy in their positions and with their job assignments are more productive and will be more secure in completing tasks more efficiently and accurately.

Avoid procrastination. Reasons for procrastination could be as simple as you just don’t like that specific task, fear of failure, lack of adequate information, or bad habits. Focus on the positive result of completing the task. Make sure you have the preparatory work completed so you can get through a task that you may not enjoy without interruption. Stay focused on the task at hand through completion.

One of the biggest hurdles we face in this age of technology is avoiding time wasters. Telephone calls are numerous throughout your busy day. Utilize voice mail and set aside time to return calls when possible. Avoid small talk when you are on the telephone, focus on the reason for the call. Stand up while you are on the telephone, you are more likely to keep the call brief, take actions necessary immediately following the call even it if involves prioritizing them on your list, and keep phone numbers readily available.

Board members, owners, and contractors should make appointments when possible; tell the person that appointments are made because you value their time and want to be able to give them the uninterrupted time and attention that they deserve. Set a time limit when scheduling appointments and stick to this time limit. Stay on target with the purpose of the appointment.

Community mangers have meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Know the reason prior to the meeting, arrive on time, start and end on time, prepare an agenda when appropriate, even for the smallest of meetings. These small tools will allow for more productive meetings.

While email and texting are wonderful tools, they can be a huge time taker. Set aside a specific time each day to read and respond to email, but don’t let it accumulate to the point that it becomes overwhelming. Delete junk email and advertising first to get them out of the way then handle each message only once if possible. Address the issue or prioritize it on your task list.

Know when to say no. Saying yes and putting unrealistic time lines on items puts others in charge of your priorities. It can also set you up for failure and more stress than you deserve, or need, to be effective. Be realistic with your work load when agreeing to have a new task completed in a set amount of time. Say yes with a realistic time frame attached.

Lastly, but just as important as the rest, take breaks. When you are tired, you are less productive.  During this time, do lower energy jobs that do not require as much concentration or that can be completed in short periods of time and take a break to reenergize and gain better concentration. Note the times of day when your energy levels are highest and take advantage of that time processing the more difficult tasks.

This all sounds simple doesn’t it? Trust me, it will not be simple to put into place and being a part of community management, with all the daily surprises and issues that need your immediate attention, will make this process even more difficult. It will take a great deal of practice, dedication, and trial and error to accomplish good time management. The key is to begin the process, determine what works best for you, and stick with it. Most importantly, do not allow a small set back or task on your list not being completed when expected be taken as failure. Be proud of your accomplishments and move on to a new day and of course, an updated list.

 


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