Page banner

Blog Posts

The Cure For Boredom


by Mark Ellwood

Live Differently!


300 kids come to our house every Halloween. Instead of candy they get stickers and a “magic scroll”, a rolled up poem that I write every year.   This year, my son inspired me to write  ”The Cure For Boredom.”  I’m passionate about inspiring people to spend their time on what’s most important to them.  Sometimes, what’s most important is just curing your child’s boredom.
Be inspired.

 

THE CURE FOR BOREDOM

 

Mommy I’m bored there’s nothing to do

I don’t know what’s next, I don’t have a clue

 

I’ve read all my comics, my coloring’s done

I’ve played with my toys, they’re not really fun

 

I finished my homework, there wasn’t too much

Rectangles, triangles, big circles and such

 

I don’t want to finish my drawing right now

The one of the barn with the horse and the cow

 

There’s a whole lot of clay, but what should I make

A monster from Mars, or a big birthday cake?

 

I could build an old castle with all of my blocks

Or play that weird game with the hen and the fox.

 

I’m squirming around in dad’s favorite chair

I turn upside down, put my legs in the air

 

I might twist around all my fingers and toes

And make a strange face while I turn up my nose

 

I’m here all alone there’s nothing to do

I sit at the window and stare at the view

 

I’m bored of this boredom, I’ve now had enough

I don’t want to play with any old stuff

 

But what I would like when there’s nothing to do

Is just to spend time with someone like you

 

Let’s play with some cards, I don’t know the name

It’s like crazy eights, a really fun game

 

I could stop being bored I think I know how

Mom did you hear, can you play with me now?

 

I really don’t care what we do, you and I

Just reading together or playing “I spy”

 

The thing I want most from my mom and my dad

Is time spent with me, and that makes me glad

 

  Mark Ellwood

  October 2014


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

When Do Employees Work Overtime?


by Mark Ellwood

When do most employees work overtimes at the office? Do they go in early or do they stay late after work? If you want to catch them, what would be the best time to find them? Data from our work measurement studies provides some insights.

If one considers a “normal” work week for knowledge workers to begin at 9:00 a.m. and finish at 5:00 p.m., this would add up to 40 hours per week, including lunch and breaks.

We examined time and motion strudy data from employees who tracked their own time using the innovative TimeCorder device. All of the data is anonymous, so employees felt comfortable in tracking the time they spent on work activities. Across a broad range of industries, our data shows that the average employee works 46.7 hours per week. This means that they work just over an hour per day extra, assuming a base of a 40-hour week.

For this time study analysis, we looked at people who work more overtime hours than the average . Examining the pattern of activity among 235 employees who work over 50 hours, TimeCorder data shows the average time worked for this subset of workers is 55.5 hours per week. 72% of these hours (or 40 hours per week) are completed during the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. period. Of the remainder, 19% occur prior to 9:00 a.m. and only 9% occur after 5:00 p.m.

So overtime work occurs more in the morning than in the evening.

An expanded work day shows the same pattern. When the bookends of the day are extended one hour earlier and one hour later, the result is a work day that stretches from 8:00 a.m. in the morning until 6:00 p.m. at night. Among those with high overtime hours, the total time worked during this period now represents 85% of all hours. Earlier in the morning than that, hours worked are equivalent to 10% of the total. Meanwhile later in the evening, overtime hours represent just 5% of the total.

Clearly, when people work long hours, there is a greater tendency to come in early and do their work before the start of the official work day. The chart below show the percent of time spent during each of the 24-hour periods of the day, starting at midnight, the “0” hour.

Overtime chart

(On the chart, it appears as if work drop off in the afternoon. This is because some  employees shift their hours by arriving very early in the morning and finish their day by 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. )

What does this mean for organizations? If they plan to provide snacks to those who work overtime, breakfast items may be more appropriate than dinner items. And if extra meetings need to be scheduled, employees may be more willing to come in early than to stay late. Finally, energy levels may be higher in the morning than at the end of a day when some employees have already worked ten hours or more.

Undestand the hours of work when you are most productive. Your time is worth it!


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

The Administrative Time Hog


by Mark Ellwood

Hand and budget

Managers spend much of their time doing everything but managing. With all of the daily crises, pressures, and trivial tasks that are thrown at them, it is tough for the typical manager to stay focused on the things that are important. So it is not surprising that administrative tasks are a massive time hog.

The classical definition of the organizational manager is one who plans, organizes, coordinates and controls. However, the reality is that there are numerous, mundane activities that take up a manager’s time – some of which actually impede his or her productivity. Many of these non-priority tasks are unavoidable; they come with the job, but are never written in the job description. Managers try to focus on their priorities, but often get bogged down in the requirements of the job.

Administrative tasks are an unavoidable reality of work. In our time and motion study consulting projects, we define administrative tasks as those that don’t necessarily advance work toward achieving its major objectives, nor directly support these activities. Instead, they are necessary requirements of the job. They might support the operations of the organization, such as filling out time sheets, reports, and paperwork. They might support the dissemination of information, through internal, non-planning meetings. Or they might support other workers, providing assistance by answering questions or filling in for others.

The irony is that since we began conducting our time studies using the TimeCorder device in 1990, technology continues to proliferate; yet there is no reduction in administrative tasks. This is because for the manager, the computer is not an automation tool; it is an information-processing tool. With the increasing number of tools, or programs available, from word processing to spreadsheet analysis and presentation software, options have also increased. Now, more scenarios can be checked, more reports can be printed, and more data needs to be inputted.

As shown in the table below, the administrative burden is massive and takes up 11.6 hours of the manager’s work week. This is 25% of his or her time. The activities in this category are also very interruptive; 43 of them occur each week lasting 16 minutes each.

Administration is also an area where managers would like to spend considerably less time than they do. Managers spend 11.6 hours in administration time, but would ideally only like to spend 7.3 hours doing these activities. No one likes doing paperwork.

Administration time increases as one moves higher in the organization (see table below). Some of the time in this category is simply staying in touch through networking, writing and responding to e-mails or communicating with head office. Nonetheless, even when communication activities are excluded (some of which are routine and some of which are people management), administration for presidents is still 11.7 hours per week or 18% of the time.

 

ADMINISTRATION ACTIVITIES
 

Hours per week

Occasions

Duration in minutes

Ideal Hours

Difference vs. Ideal

Middle Manager

9.8

39

15

7.6

+2.2

Senior Manager

13.6

46

18

9.8

+3.8

Sales Manager

10.9

37

18

6.2

+4.7

President

14.1

26

32

14.8

-0.7

All Managers

11.6

43

16

7.3

+4.3

 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Administration – A Time Hog for Managers


by Mark Ellwood

Administrative activities are a massive time hog for managers. Prior to conducting our time studies, we ask managers in a questionnaire, “What are the most important things you need to do in your job?”. Their responses show that paperwork and administrative tasks are well down the list of managerial priorities cited. Typically, these activities are mentioned as a main priority by only 6% of managers. Clearly, handling paperwork is not what they perceive their job to be. Yet based on our work measurement studies, administration is the largest category of activities that a manager is engaged in.

Administrative tasks are not acknowledged in other analyses of managerial time, but are an unavoidable reality of work. In our time study consulting, we define administrative tasks as those that do not advance work toward achieving major objectives.. Instead, they are necessary requirements of the job. They might support the operations of the organization, such as filling out time sheets, reports, and paperwork. They might support the dissemination of information, through internal, non-planning meetings. Or they might support other workers, providing assistance by answering questions or filling in for others. Or they might be activities that could be delegated entirely to an assistant, to another department or to technology, with no changes to the manager’s performance.

In one of our questionnaires, managers are also asked “What things, outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?” Since we began asking the question in 1990, the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks continues to lead the responses to this question across all job categories. For managers and non-managers alike, the percentage is the same.  20% of respondents cite administration as an impediment. See Table 4 below for responses to the second open-ended question cited by more than 4% of managers.

What things outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?  
Paperwork / administrative tasks 20%
Customer requests -service / problems / complaints 18%
Computer / system / equipment problems 14%
Changing priorities / ad hoc / unplanned projects 13%
Interruptions 12%
Staffing / HR issues / changes / people absent 12%
Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries 11%
Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary 9%
Other depts. inefficient / make mistakes 7%
Volume of e-mail 6%
Fire fighting / emergencies 5%
Volume of work / not enough time 4%
Customers without appointments / walk-ins 4%
Central office visits, interruptions, requests 4%

The irony is that since 1990, computers and new software programs continue to proliferate; yet there is no reduction in administrative tasks. This is because for the manager, the computer is not an automation tool; it is an information-processing tool. With the increasing number of tools, or programs available, from word processing to spreadsheet analysis and presentation software, the options have also increased. Now, more scenarios can be checked out, more reports can be printed for review, more data needs to be inputted. It is no surprise then that the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks is seen as a huge impediment to productivity.

As shown in the table below, the administrative burden is massive and takes up 11.6 hours of the manager’s work week. This is 25% of his or her time. The activities in this category are also very interruptive; 43 of them occur each week lasting 16 minutes each.

Administration is also an area where managers would like to spend considerably less time than they do. Actual hours spent versus ideal expectations are the most dramatically different for this category compared to others. Managers spend 11.6 hours in administration time, but would ideally only like to spend 7.3 hours doing these activities. No one likes doing paperwork.

Administration time increases as one moves higher in the organization (see table below). Some of the time in this category is simply staying in touch through networking, writing and responding to e-mails or communicating with head office. Nonetheless, even when communication activities are excluded (some of which are routine and some of which are people management), administration for presidents is still 11.7 hours per week or 18% of the time.

 

ADMINISTRATION CATEGORY
   Hours per week   Occasions   Duration in minutes   Ideal Hours   Difference vs. Ideal 
  Middle Manager     9.8 39 15 7.6 +2.2
 Senior Manager    13.6 46 18 9.8 +3.8
Sales Manager 10.9 37 18 6.2 +4.7
  President 14.1 26 32 14.8 -0.7
All Managers 11.6 43 16 7.3 +4.3

How do employees spend their time in your organization. Conducting a time and motion study is a powerful diagnostic tool to identify productivity hurdles on your way to increasing effectiviness, gettting more done, and increasing profits. 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

How Long Is A Typical Work Week?


by Mark Ellwood

Days of the week

We have been collectiong time study data since 1990, and have recently taken an interest in overtime hours. We were interested in what constitutes a typical work week for knowledge workers.

Our definition of knowledge workers mostly includes people who work in offices; managers, sales reps, service reps, researchers, engineers, supervisors, university faculty, municipal employees, and many others.

Our definition of a work week includes all of the work an employee is contracted to do during the day, plus overtime hours and weekend work. It includes lunch and breaks during the regular workday, but not after hours. Lunch and breaks typically take up about 4.5 hours per week, so a truer figure for work time might exclude this. Commuting is not included, because it varies by employee.

Our data includes results from TimeCorder data from time studies since 1990. Over that period of time the typical work week is  46.7 hours per week. That doesn't sound like a massive amount. But bear in mind. If you're working 9 to 5 every single day of the week, and then staying one extra hour right through to 6:00 p.m. every day, then you're actually a bit below the average. And our database includes a large number of service employees who only work about 43 hours per week. Their results tend to pull the average down. Our time and motion studies show that managers work about 50 hours per week - that's at least two solid hours of overtime every single day. 

So how do overtime hours break down across large groups of employees. We've classified different amounts of overtime in the bar chart below. And since some full-time employees work slightly fewer than 40 hours per week, we've classified them as "undertime"

Excluding part time workers (i.e. those who work less than 30 hours per week), the percentage breakdown among those we have measured is as follows:

Category hours

Categories of Hours Worked Per Week

We consider anything above 80 hours to be “danger time” because sustained activitiy at this level is likely to be dangerous to health, relationships, and even mental stability. Our database shows 0% for this group because our focus is on corporate employees. But there are entrepreneurs, partners, and those involved in urgent projects who occasionally work those long hours. Our best advice for those who work danger hours is: Get a life – outside of work!

Long work hours are simply not sustainable over the long term. If you're in that group, it's time to look at your time management for efficiencies. And you can always start by tracking your time - conduct your own personal time and motion study to measure your productivity. Sometimes awareness leads to better results. Your time is worth it. 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Only three-fifths of managers’ time adds value to the organization


by Mark Ellwood

Management

There are many ways that managers add value to the companies they work for. Too bad they only do it for three-fifths of the time.

The pie chart below is based on our time and motion studies of 565 different activities measured by managers since 1990. These activities are combined into 12 major categories.

The participants are managers from 38 different job types; sales managers, bank managers, vice presidents, construction supervisors and others. All of them are responsible for managing people.

These managers each tracked about 15-25 activities, corresponding with alphabet letters on our proprietary TimeCorder device. Each manager typically conducted a time and motion study of his or her own time for two weeks. The categories that appear on the pie chart each consist of a number of individual activities.

Ask managers what they do, and they will tell you that they need to be coaching, supervising, managing operations, planning for the long term, etc. These high priority activities fall into the first 7 categories clockwise (people management, strategy / analysis, planning, selling, customer administration, customer service, and operations)

Altogether, these pie segments show that only 59% of a manager’s time is spent on activities that add value. The rest are administrative, internal, travel, training (oneself) travel, personal time and miscellaneous activities. These do not directly add value to the organization.

Manager Time Chart

Companies need to recognize that operating at 100% efficiency or 100% capacity is simply not feasible. Time for long term priorities and daily responsibilities is limited. Numerous “requirements” or burdensome tasks will inevitably eat up time that managers would like to allocate to their priorities.

These job “requirements” are the unwritten or administrative tasks that are a necessary part of being an employee in the organization or that must get done eventually. These include administration, training, travel, personal time and miscellaneous activities. For managers, they can account for up to 41% of the time!

Managers should maximize their productive efforts by first understanding how they allocate their efforts through a time and motion study. Then they should look to improve processes, delegate tasks, automate, and get training on how to maximize productivity.

Following are brief descriptions of the main categories:

  • Planning – Activities oriented towards developing new products / services / clients, etc.
  • Strategy / analysis – Reviewing business results to aid in planning
  • Selling – Direct contact with prospects or customers to obtain additional business
  • Customer Administration – Internal activities that support sales and service
  • Service – Responding to customer requests or provision of products and services
  • Administration – Required internal activities not connected with main priorities
  • Internal Operations – Internal work that keeps the organization running
  • Training – Personal and professional development done on work time
  • Travel – Travel to customers, other offices, but not commuting
  • Personal time – Lunch, breaks, calls to spouse, short medical appointments, etc.
  • Miscelleneous – Activities not covered elsewhere


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

The Calm Manifesto


by Mark Ellwood

Sometimes getting more done means doing less of the stuff that's cluttering your life.

This 4-minute podcast combines insights, inspiration, and some wry humor. 

If you are inspired, then spread the word!  Click on the picture to listen. At the end, click the the upper right corner to share via social media or email. 

Be inspired !


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Daily Planning – How Much is Right?


by Mark Ellwood

Daily planner with pen

Time management trainers always encourage you to plan your activities every day.

This makes intuitive sense. But what does a time and motion study reveal about planning time? We have conducted numerous time and motion studies since 1990 using our proprietary TimeCorder device. Employees track their own time with this portable device, which is easy to use. The results are anonymous, so employees provide honest feedback, resulting in a remarkable 94% participation rate.

One subset of employees that we regularly study is sales reps. Their main job function is to call on prospects and customers, aiming to increase sales and service existing needs. On a weekly basis, their planning time typically takes up 4.8 hours per week, or 10 % of a 47 hour work week. Planning activities are what we refer to as “A priorities” These are activities that affect one’s results a month or more in the future.

Included in these activities are determining long term strategies, territory management, account planning, deciding which customers to contact and presentation preparation. It also includes team meetings to plan strategies and share information, plus planning one’s daily to-do list.

Within the 4.8 hours per week on planning, most sales reps spend about 2 hours planning their daily schedule and activities. Another hour is spent in presentation preparation, and just under an hour in team meetings. The remainder is other planning activities, listed above.

So what do we know about planning and results? Are time management trainers correct to encourage you to do more planning? The answer is yes, to a degree. There is in fact a correlation between daily planning and time spent directly selling to prospects. (Selling time includes making presentations, calling, and sending emails.) The chart below shows four groups of sales reps, distinguished by how much daily planning they do each week.

Those who plan more are able create more time for selling – but only to an extent. Spending 2-3 hours per week, or 24 to 36 minutes per day results in 12.5 hours for selling. This represents 26% of the time. However, too much time spent doing daily planning (over 3 hours per week) becomes counterproductive and as a result, selling time decreases, as shown in the bar on the far right.

So be sure to invest the time to plan well. It’s easy to procrastinate, or to let interruptions get in the way. Instead, take the time to focus on your goals. But don’t go overboard. Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

How Do Consultants Spend Their Time?


by Mark Ellwood

Consultation

I recently conducted a presentation for the Association of Independent Consultants, highlighting some of my time study research.

Independent consultants work on their own providing a range of services from accounting to cost management, coaching, productivity improvement, graphic and web site design, and strategic planning. Some bill their time by the hour; others bill by the project and some are on retainer.

Over the years, a number of them participated in a time and motion study using our innovative TimeCorder device to track how they spend their time. Most tracked about 100 hours.

The main categories of activity where they spend their time include planning, marketing / selling, client service, administration and travel and other. The “other” category includes activities that are not part of other categories as well as personal time.

Overall they work 52 hours per week, a considerable increase versus other knowledge workers in our database who work 47 hours per week.

Selling time takes up 11 hours per week or 20% of the time. Veterans who had many years experience and a full calendar of clients spend just about as much time selling as those who are new to the business; 10 hours per week for the veterans and 12 hours for the rookies. The message for consultants is clear; you always need to be marketing.

As for client service time, it would be great to be billing every hour of the day. But the reality is that all the other activities need to be done. So client service time, most of which is billable, only reaches 13 hours per week, or about one quarter of the time. For those who are really successful, service time is higher, in the range of 20 hours per week or 36% of the time.

Planning is a key activity that represents 3.5 hours per week. Critical within this is 2 hours per week spent developing new products and services. Consultants recognize that they cannot rest on their laurels; they constantly need to be thinking about what new products and services they can introduce to their clients.

Administration is a huge time hog for most knowledge workers. And so it is for consultants who need to take care of all the tasks that are not connected to sales and service. General paperwork represents about 4 hours per week; filling out reports, submitting tax forms, and everything else that is required to keep a business going. This along with other administrative tasks adds up to 10 hours per week.

Finally, travel is also a necessity. Consultants who deal with local clients need to be there to do on-site work, present reports, and gather data and implement their recommendations. Typically consultants make 8 trips per week of 47 minutes per week, adding up to 6 hours altogether, or 11% of the time.

Check out the video below where I highlight some of the key points from the time study of successful consultants. If you are a consultant, be sure to allocate your efforts on your highest priority activities. After all, your time is worth it.

 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

A Time and Motion Study for the 21st Century


by Mark Ellwood

Watch our 2-minute video below to see how our time studies improve productivity.

The TimeCorder is an easy way to measure how employees spend their time. Our time study consulting has benefits for process improvement, time management, work measurement, benchmarking and more. Best of all, employees enjoy the process – we achieve an employee participation rate of 94 % – people really enjoy the process because it is anonymous. That’s why we call it a user-friendly time and motion study. Call us at (416) 762-3453 or email mark@GetMoreDone.com to find out how your organization can benefit.

Hypnotism clock


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  
« 1 2 3 4 »
 
Top of page

Time Management Tip video

mark@getmoredone.com

Pace Productivity Inc.
350 Sunnyside Avenue
Toronto • Canada • M6R 2R6
416.762.3453

TwitterLinkedIn