Stop moaning that you don’t have time and prove it!

Paul Boag

We all complain that we don’t have time. But is that true and if it is can we prove it to management?

This post is sponsored by Resource Guru.

The biggest barrier I help my clients overcome is time. Whether it is mentoring digital agencies or consulting for in-house teams. Whoever it is and whatever they are trying to achieve, one of the biggest challenges they face is finding enough time.

Organisations have become obsessed with cost efficiency. The result is they under resource their digital staff. They are over stretched and unable to do anything but the day-to-day firefighting. This despite the fact that in the long term it can be damaging to organisational success.

The Impact of the time squeeze

Squeezing employees time is a dangerous game, especially in the digital world.

The atrophy of skills

For a start the skills of digital staff become out of date if they do not have time to learn. In the fast moving world of digital, what they learned two years ago could no longer be relevant. I often work with in-house teams whose skills are lacking. This is not a reflection on them, but rather managements continued under investment in their training.

The irony is that keeping skills fresh is not an expensive business. There are amazing online resources if you just give employees time to use them.

A lack of strategic planning

But skills are not the only casualty of a lack of time. There is also strategic planning. Most of the teams I work with are stumbling from one urgent piece of work to the next. They never have time to step back and think strategically.

This becomes a vicious cycle. Because they don’t have time, they can’t put together a case for management. A case showing the need for time to think strategically! As a result most teams are not working with a roadmap or long term vision in mind. They are not working within any kind of governance structure that would improve efficiency.

Battles with legacy

Talking of efficiencies, I am seeing teams struggling with legacy systems. Systems that erode the speed with which they can role out new or upgraded digital services.

They are all too aware of the problem. But they are never given the time to step back and address these underlying systems. That is because management are too fixated on new features to worry about how those new features get built.

As Eisenhower put it, teams are spending their time working on the urgent and not the important.

Eisenhower realised we have a tendancy to work on the urgent. But the urgent is not always the important.
Eisenhower realised we have a tendancy to work on the urgent. But the urgent is not always the important.

So what can we do about this problem?

A problem with management perceptions

The problem lies with management. After all they are the ones who decide if you can recruit and to a large degree what you work on. But if you ask a manager they would agree with you about the importance of training, strategy and firm foundations. At least they would agree in principle. Why then are they so reluctant to give you the time?

At its heart, the problem comes down to trust. Management don’t trust their teams when they say they are overworked. They don’t believe they lack time for training, strategy or laying solid foundations.

But before we start moaning about management, think of it from their point of view. Who doesn’t moan about not having enough time? Can you blame them for being hesitant?

Where is your evidence?

You need to be able to prove to management that you don’t have enough time. Can you show them a calendar of what your team is working on and who is doing what? Can you give them a utilisation figure? Can you show how much time was wasted on that low priority project that you knew you should never have done? If you are an agency, can you show which projects are making a loss and why?

Can you demonstrate to mangaement that your staff are fully utilised?
Can you demonstrate to mangaement that your staff are fully utilised?

Are you sure you don’t have capacity?

Also, the chances are you may well have more time than you think. Most teams are pretty poor at managing their workloads. They do little to prioritise the work coming in. They are poor at tracking how people spend their time and incoming work is rarely assigned as well as it could be.

You may feel you are being efficient, but are you really? More to the point can you prove it?

Finding the time to manage your team

Of course all this reporting to management and monitoring your capacity take time. Hell, in some organisations I have seen it turn into a full time job. A job involving endless spreadsheets, charts and complex resourcing calendars.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. Take for example a tool like Resource Guru. This tool lets you manage the teams time, track utilisation and produce reports for management. This is a tool that saves you time as well as prove that you need more of it! You can even show management the backlog of work that you have been unable to tackle and how much overtime people have been forced to put in.

Tools like Resource Guru allow you to demonstrate to management the need for more time.
Tools like Resource Guru allow you to demonstrate to management the need for more time

Use a tool like that for a few months. Then you will either realise you have time all along but weren’t utilising it well, or will be able to show a need to management.

What to do when you have some time

Either way it shouldn’t be long before you get a bit of wiggle room. The question then becomes, how do you utilise it effectively.

First I would recommend ring fencing a little time each week for training. This doesn’t need to be as generous as 20% time at Google. But anything is better than nothing. Allow people to experiment in this time, do online training or even go to the occasional conference.

Next, use something like Resource Guru to block out some time to step away from day to day firefighting once in a while. Treat this just as if it was another project that needed time assigned to it.

Block out time for strategic work and training.
Block out time for strategic work and training.

Use this time to work on that legacy and to start planning strategically for the future. This could be a little and often or you could block out a chunk of time every few months. Whatever works best for your company.

I guess my message in this post is a simple one. Unless you can track and prove that you are busy, no amount of moaning about it will make a jot of difference. If we want to work on those important but non urgent issues, we need to be able to prove that we do not have the time as things currently stand.