As a supply chain manager, everything you consider, do and touch is overshadowed by a ticking clock. Operations and fulfillment are all about efficiency: You’re always trying to get more done, more accurately in a shorter period of time. Everything—customer satisfaction, fill rates, wages and even fulfillment costs as a whole—rests on your ability to make the most of your time. However, even as the leader of a team, you're only one person and can only make yourself so efficient before you'll hit a wall.
The key isn't to work harder, but to think smarter in terms of time management. Use your time wisely, and efficiency will either follow naturally or become considerably easier to obtain. Here are 4 methods to get the most out of your hours on the clock.
1. Use the 1440 Reminder
Kevin Kruse recently discussed a simple yet profound approach to time management with Forbes. Faced with a never-ending parade of "Got a minute, boss?" knocks on his office door, he placed a sign with the number 1440 on it on his door. This number represented the number of minutes in a day, and hanging it so prominently (and without explanation) prompted both he and his team to reconsider the questions they were asking and "minutes" they needed.
While this exact approach may not work for every workplace, the concept behind it does—a gentle, department-wide reminder that many employees are empowered and able to make the decisions they often second-guess. By shifting the responsibility back onto the employees who were hired for their expertise, the workforce becomes empowered and more autonomous and managers are able to better allocate their time and attention.
2. Learn the Power of No
As a manager, it can be difficult to turn down an employee or co-worker who has come to you looking for help, but one of the most powerful words you'll use in the workplace is “no” (so is the phrase “not right now”). It enables you to prioritize correctly and keep focused on your own department's expertise, rather than getting mired in the fringes of another's.
Don't be afraid to use it where you need to, encourages Matt Mayberry of Entrepreneur.
3. Reframe Your Inner Language
Mayberry offers an additional tip in a second article for Entrepreneur: namely that you must change the way you speak to yourself. Asking or listing what you have to accomplish tomorrow frames your day-today tasks as a chore, a litany of unpleasant tasks lurking on the horizon. Instead, he advises you to ask yourself "What can I do today that will save me time tomorrow?" It’s a stance that echoes your smart supply chain planning.
By framing your supply chain problems as challenges, tackling issues like fulfillment costs feels more like dominating a nagging math problem and less like running a marathon.
4. Plan to Be Flexible
Rigid boundaries may feel comfortable or even necessary, but they aren't feasible in the busy, ever-changing landscape of fulfillment. While you should still be prepared to say no if a project is too time consuming or difficult, be sure to fully consider your abilities before denying a shift in direction. A little flexibility in the warehouse may mean a huge sigh of relief for another department. Elizabeth Saunders of INC goes so far as to say that flexibility is a trait native to the most extraordinary of supply chain professionals.
While there are some things you can't change—warehouse size, staff numbers and fulfillment costs—other aspects of your job are ripe for streamlining. And when you change the way you utilize your office time, all of the cost-cutting measures and efficiency initiatives already in place become that much more effective, and you’ll likely see a corresponding drop in your stress levels.
How are you going to use your 1440 minutes today?