Filtered Media’s very own journalist and lover of all things organised, Megan Wright, recently sat down with world-renowned personal productivity & work habits expert and author of Work Smarter: Live Better, Cyril Peupion. Here’s what he had to say…
Megan Wright (MW): You travel the world helping executives learn effective approaches to time management – is this challenge the same all over the world?
Cyril Peupion (CP): Although I started out in the Australian market, I have found that my work resonates around the world because most people, even at a very senior level, have never been taught how to work.
Despite being in different countries there are certain things we all do everyday. The question is: how do you manage these things? Take emails, for instance – most people at an executive level have to deal with this everyday but few of them do so in a time effective manner.
MW: Are there certain types of people who simply intuitively manage their time better than others, or is it always something that needs to be learned?
CP: There’s no doubt that some people manage their time better than others, but there’s also two sides to this: efficiency and effectiveness.
Being efficient is doing things right – so that’s really about speed – whereas being effective is about doing the right things. In other words, it’s about focusing on the few things that will have a real impact. In many cases effectiveness is not intuitive, so people have to learn and practice to make it become a habit.
MW: People often say they are bad at time management, but is this simply because they are extraordinarily busy?
CP: You need to be very careful not to confuse time management with being busy. The two are not the same. Over the years I have seen many junior people far out of control because they are so busy, but they are not necessarily working to manage their time well. And I have worked with senior executives, with huge amounts of work to do who were far more in control. So being effective with your time is different from being busy.
At the end of the day, it’s about quality not quantity. It’s about doing fewer things that really matter and doing them well.
You should also learn to prioritise your time by impact, not by urgency. Performance is all about asking, “I know all this is due tonight, which one will have the most impact long term on my performance?”
MW: What are the main things people can do, or the main techniques they can use to gain or regain control of their time and workload?
CP: When we ask managers and executives what they’re struggling with, we notice that companies have become very smart about writing strategy and targets. What this means is that many people know what they’re supposed to be doing, but the reality doesn’t necessarily match up to this.
A world without meetings and emails would be great. But it’s not going to happen. There’s no magic wand you can wave where you can completely change your work habits or patterns; it takes time.
I suggest three steps to regain control of your time and workload – think quarterly, plan weekly and act daily.
Think quarterly – So many people have a five-year plan and that’s never really going to work. Every quarter I suggest you stop and think about the two to three priorities (not five, ten or twenty) you need to focus on for those two or three months ahead and go with that.
Plan weekly – Take time each week to plan what you will do next week. Review your quarterly plan and make sure your week is not only filled with day to day operations and crisis.
Act daily – Then make sure you keep it realistic. If you work 10 hours a day, you cannot plan for 10 hours of work to happen. Instead, plan for six hours of work to happen and leave the other four hours open for meetings, crisis and interruptions.
We’ve created a world and a business world that is very different to how it used to be. We are sitting at an open plan and concentration becomes poor. One of the key attributes of high performers is focus.
MW: What is the one big mistake most people make when it comes to time management?
CP: People want to do too much. The word priority was invented in Fourteenth Century, but up until last century it was a singular. Now we are told to think about them [priorities] in plural. This comes back to the idea that, “if everything is important, then nothing is”. You need to accept that there’s a lot of brilliant ideas that you just won’t have time to do.
Cyril Peupion is the author of the best selling time management book, Work Smarter: Live Better, which was named a Top 100 business book by Amazon and a Top 10 business book in Australia. You can find out more about Cyril and his time management techniques, including resources and his book, right here.