For the busy operations or logistics manager of a growing company, there never seem to be enough hours in the day. Managing a team and constantly juggling challenges like fluctuating shipping schedules, increasing freight forwarding costs, meeting business targets and many more may leave you stressed out and not see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.
There are ways to reduce the amount of “busywork” that constantly takes away attention from more important, core tasks.
Understanding the challenges of logistics and operations managers we gathered six strategies successful managers have used to reclaim valuable time and reduce their stress levels.
The aim is to free up time and use the newfound focus and drive to pour into the business.
Read on to find out how you can cut through the static and regain time for core business activities.
1) Use lists effectively
Lists can either be the bane of a manager’s existence or a solid time management technique. The trick is using them effectively.
In creating your list, take some cues from experts in effective management and start by working out a system for prioritising items on the list.
You might go from A to D for example, with A being core tasks that must take priority, through to D, which are tasks that do not have any urgency and can possibly be left until later.
Where there are major tasks, such as “work on annual freight forwarding report”, break it into small, discrete steps and make each its own line item.
Simply taking the time each morning to create the list will also give you space to think about each task carefully and perhaps help you spot some busywork that shouldn’t be on there at all.
2) Goal setting
Managing the day-to-day is actually easier when you have a big picture to guide you. Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham, two US experts on goal setting, developed a framework A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance that can be used both for manager goal-setting and for setting goals with staff.
They say that goals should be both clear and concise and have outcomes that are specific and measurable.
Goals are also more likely to inspire achievement if they are challenging, even difficult. You also need to make a clear commitment to your goals.
Ensure goals have clear steps within them that can be used to measure progress towards the desired outcome.
Also, you need a way of giving yourself or your team-members feedback. Take the time to review progress regularly and have a system of rewards for achieving milestones towards the goals.
A personal schedule can be an extremely powerful tool for reducing busywork. Start by working out what times of day best suit you for undertaking the key parts of your job – that is, taking action, communicating and thinking.
Everyone is different – some people have more energy in the mornings, others are afternoon powerhouses. Make your schedule reflect your own disposition.
Most successful managers also include undisturbed time for deep thinking and reflection as a priority, as this is when you gain the insight and inspiration to improve your business and its performance.
It is also important to communicate your schedule to your staff, so they know when the right times are to make requests, organise meetings, or check-in about progress on their assigned tasks.
4) Triage the unexpected
Just as a busy hospital emergency department will triage incoming patients and decide on whose needs are most urgent, managers can do the same.
An article in the Harvard Business Review, ‘Beware the busy manager’ points out that focused managers make a choice not to be constantly in reactive mode. They do not necessarily respond to every unexpected issue, email, phone call or meeting request immediately.
You can use strategies like creating email folders that automatically sort messages depending on the sender. This makes it easier for you to quickly deal with specific matters, such as emails from staff, without having to look at others until you are ready to.
You can also schedule in specific times that staff are welcome to come and raise any issues and make it clear there are other times when you are not to be interrupted.
5) Grow your people through delegating
One of the most effective things a great leader does is help the members of their team grow in their roles. By deciding what tasks you have on your plate can be tackled by others, you will actually increase your staff’s sense of worth and engagement.
Best practice advice on delegating from business coaches suggests managers take the SMART approach.
That means making tasks Specific, with Measurable outputs, giving the employee the necessary Authority to implement it, ensuring they understand they are accountable and take Responsibility, and clearly communicating the expected Timeframe.
Do not be tempted to micromanage! You need to be able to trust your staff and they need to feel trusted. Set up specific “check-in” mechanisms and then let them get on with it.
6) Outsource non-core tasks
In this global and connected economy, it has become more and more possible to outsource tasks that were once only do-able in-house. Take the time to have a good look at your processes and tasks, and then see what can be done just as effectively by an external supplier or contractor.
Partnering with an experienced international freight forwarder, for example, would be a simple way to take away some of these kinds of “administrivia”.
*Bonus: Make time work for you
Ultimately, how you manage time will determine not only how satisfied you are in your job, but also how effectively you perform it.
By taking away some of the busywork that has you feeling you are constantly “racing against the clock” you will find more time for focusing on the tasks that really matter.
This not only has benefits for you and the team around you, it also contributes to the business bottom line as you tackle every logistics solutions manager’s goals of meeting business KPIs, increase efficiency and order numbers.
The number of tasks and activities a logistics and operations manager has to tackle every day has very much increased in the last years. Freeing up time for core tasks is essential to stay ahead and keep control of everything.
- Create to-do lists effectively based on the priority of the tasks.
- Set goals that are clear and concise with specific and measurable outcomes. Add feedback sessions on goals for yourself or your team for progressive improvement.
- Create a daily schedule based on your personal highs and lows.
Manage your distractions.
- Outsourcing to partners like experienced international freight forwarders.
For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).