Michael Podolinsky is Asia's Productivity Guru. For 33 years he's studied and taught productivity systems and techniques including Time and Stress Management, Managing Teams Productively, Facilitation Skills to get team members to open up and how to train, coach and mentor people.
He can be reached via his Website
, on LinkedIn
1. There are a lot of great tips regarding personal time management. But when you work with a group of people on a project, other team members can always drag you down. What can you do to ‘protect’ your project from people with less than ideal time management skills?
Deadlines fix most time-related issues. Cyril Northcote Parkinson gave us Parkinson's law, "Every task will expand to the time allotted to it." Give a shorter time and have mile markers where they are responsible to submit work or to have completed a portion of the project and it will tend to keep them focused. With those who 'tend to be late', give them more mile markers and particularly towards the beginning of a project to develop the right momentum. Make sure upfront they give their commitment to the project, not just lip service or you might as well find someone else to perform the task.
2. What are some of the common mistakes for group time management that you see companies make over and over again?
Working off different sets of priorities. If your boss has different priorities than you do and your colleagues have a third unique set... chaos ensues. Alan Lakein's ABC priorities formula has worked for over 40 years (Bill Clinton mentioned it in his autobiography as the key to getting him into the Whitehouse.) I added 2 elements, a D and an E to update it. D is for those projects you have, should and will delegate to others and then E for things we need to eliminate. NO ONE is talking about Eliminating work... just pile it on. Stupid! People cannot just do more and more.
3. Do you recommend using time management software and tools? What’s more important in your opinion – a mindset or are there solutions that are genuinely much better than others?
Generally mindset. A good mindset will find the tools and use them judiciously. A bad mindset given world-class tools will bumble though and deliver mediocrity. I have had people attend my time management programmes like Simon Ng and Chris Kelway who transformed their lives and became wealthy and leaders in their industry. In the same programmes, I had people with their arms folded and just 'putting in the time' required. One guy actually said to me at lunchtime on day 1 of a 2 day time management programme, "I think I attended this programme from you 4 years ago. Those stupid HR people never keep track of what programmes we attend. Oh well... it's 2 days off work." I REFUSE to take the blame for that guy and as a result, cannot take credit for Chris or Simon. They would have found what they needed SOMEWHERE because their mindset was to excel. "The teacher will appear when the student is ready." and Simon and Chris are ALWAYS ready to learn. For non-learners, they sit in classes with teachers and never hear a word.
4. It’s much easier to hire a punctual person, rather than trying to convert a procrastinator later on (no pun intended). Do you have any practical advice on how to identify people with good time management skills during a job interview?
Sorry, hiring people is not my speciality. In interviews, most people try to sound and look good. You might ask them to actually do some part of the job they are being interviewed for and have them explain how they will do it or watch them get it organised. Again, I teach productivity, time management, managing and training productively.
In general, hiring better can help with all kinds of time management issues by getting to the 'Productive Mindset'. Don't give them the 'screen saver' about how 'We work as a team. We have fun at work and are more like a family.' nonsense. Instead, tell them the truth. "It's hard work but important work. It's only rewarding for those who organise well and keep focused. It's hell for those who procrastinate, have poor time management skills or make excuses." You may have to interview 100 more people but those who like the work will request another interview and those who do not will 'think it over'... for a millennium or two.
5. What is the biggest misconception or erroneously given advice regarding time management and personal productivity in your opinion?
SMART Goals. Although I admire the originator and 4/5ths, I question what is 'Attainable'. I think most people set goals way to short of their potential. Likewise, overly optimistic people set their way to high. Blind people and those with missing limbs CAN climb mountains and enter and do well in the Olympics.
I also hear and read a lot to set goals for the things you want to accomplish. Unless it's an ardent desire, there is no intrinsic motivation. Also, if you want 100 things and set 100 goals, you are setting yourself up for failure.
One more comes from governments and companies that want their workers to be more productive. They somehow think throwing money at the problem will fix it. Ha! If people are working more than 40 hours a week, they will tend to produce less and less. The major exception is if they LOVE what they do. In Singapore that's only 26% and in the USA just 20%. Even then, there are human limits. They can be stretched, particularly in the first 30 to 40 years of life by diet, exercise and adequate sleep... but only so far.
6. What resources can you recommend to the readers of our blog who want to get more information on how to run a more productive company?
Productivity: Winning In Life (McGraw Hill) by Michael Podolinsky
Productivity: Managing, Motivating, Maximizing Teams in Asia (McGraw Hill) by Michael Podolinsky
How to get control of your time and your life by Alan Lakein
(oldie but goodie)
Thank you for the interview.