- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pity the guy who lost his job. But also pity the guy who kept his. As companies run leaner operations with fewer workers, they are asking more from those still employed. While the increased productivity makes companies more profitable, the greater demands on workers can leave many feeling overwhelmed, burned out and losing any work-life balance they may have had.

It’s no wonder, then, that there is increasing demand for time-management training, both in and out of the workplace.

“A lot of companies don’t have as many people as they used to,” said Sheila Adlerheila Adler, who teaches time management for the New York-based American Management Association. “But there are many other time challenges that can be stressful.”

Ms. Adler ticks them off on her fingers:

• Information overload, thanks to barrages of e-mails, voice mails, letters and faxes.

• Changing priorities as companies reposition themselves.

• Stress from working long hours and missing children’s activities.

“We need to teach people to work smarter, not harder,” Ms. Adler said.

That’s what drew Tammy Overcash to a recent time-management course taught by Ms. Adler.

Ms. Overcash, 36, the mother of two, works as a senior manager of finance for Merz Pharmaceuticals LLC in Greensboro, N.C., and is also four courses away from earning a master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“The company has grown and my responsibilities have grown,” Ms. Overcash said. “I need to be more organized and meet deadlines by working efficiently and not stressing about it.”

David Fagiano, chief operating officer of Dale Carnegie Training, a management training company based in Hauppauge, N.Y., said he thinks there has been a permanent shift in the business world to pushing for higher worker productivity.

“You could say that’s a hardhearted way to look at it. But in the bloated ‘80s, companies put so many people on payroll, added people willy-nilly, that they went under or couldn’t compete with foreign companies.”

At the same time, he added, some workers are making things more difficult than they need to be.

“Most people, including me, do a lot of stuff that doesn’t really make an impact,” Mr. Fagiano said. “It’s kind of there and you feel you have to do it, maybe because you’ve always done it.”

His advice is for people to take a hard look at how they spend their time and purge tasks that are no longer necessary. At the same time, they have to be willing to adapt to changing work demands.

“Anybody who is inflexible in today’s work force should forget it,” Mr. Fagiano said. “Everything changes so fast that midcourse corrections are necessary. You have to be prepared to go with the flow.”

Julie Morgenstern, a time-management specialist and author of “Never Check E-mail in the Morning,” said that both companies and workers benefit when employees have good strategies for managing their workloads.

“Companies are conscious that people can’t work this relentlessly and be effective,” she said.

“And some are focusing on work-life balance — insisting that their people take vacations, get home to have dinner with their families, things like that — because it helps them retain good employees.”

Ms. Morgenstern said that technological advances such as e-mail have pushed workers into what she calls the “instant-response culture.”

As they work in “staccato” mode, they don’t ever slow down to “legato” and set aside time blocks to do the thoughtful, complicated projects that companies want.

In training sessions and in her book, she recommends that workers not check e-mail first thing in the morning and, instead, use those early and fresh hours to tackle their most important projects.

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