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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

Can I manage my time better to collaborate? Part 1

Cartoon: person sitting at desk looking at an overwhelming in-tray thinking 'I haven't got time to start collaborating!'

Collaboration takes time. Effective collaboration leads to better outcomes – so does that mean that the time you invest is ultimately worth it? ‘Yes’, provided 1. working in a collaborative way is the best approach to achieve the intended outcomes, and 2. you are managing your time effectively. So, what does good time management look like for effective collaboration?

Apart from the usual strategies such as task planning, minimising distractions, tackling procrastination, etc. there are two main ways to manage your time to help you collaborate effectively, the first one is all about what you do before you even begin:

1. Before you start...

It’s not just while you are collaborating that effective time management is important. Working out what leads to pursue, what not to pursue and how much time to invest in trying to set up a collaboration are crucial first steps.

There are two probable starting points for any ‘collaboration journey’:

A. you think that collaboration would be the best approach to achieve your intended outcomes; or

B. you’ve been approached by someone to collaborate on something with them or with others.

If you’re working from point A you need to assess whether collaboration would be the best approach to take and you need to find collaborators that share your intended outcomes. As described in the ‘who are my collaborators and how do I find them?’ blog, these tasks need not be particularly formal or time-consuming – there’s nothing wrong with quick and dirty when working through ideas and options.

If you’re starting from point B you still need to be sure collaboration as an approach will work well, that you share the desired outcomes, that you will bring a different perspective, and that the potential collaborator will make a ‘good’ collaborator.

From both starting points you need to be aware of how much time you need to put into the collaboration to achieve a successful outcome and be prepared to make that commitment.

Similar considerations apply if you’ve been asked to broker or facilitate a collaborative relationship between two or more parties. For example:

  • Do the parties have different perspectives needed to work on a solution?

  • Does everyone share the intended outcomes?

  • Should other parties be involved in this relationship?

  • How much support will be needed?

  • How much capacity do I / the parties have to work collaboratively over a given timeframe?

  • What is driving the ‘ask’? Is that going to cause too many constraints, lead to unrealistic expectations, etc.?

  • How much flexibility is there around timescale, resources, support and potential collaborators?

  • Do you know / can you find out if each party already behaves collaboratively?

  • How much of a ‘stretch’ is a collaborative way of working likely to be?

You might not be able to assess all this from the get go, so making time to investigate further and test new relationships are always going to be time well spent. That doesn’t have to mean a long series of meetings or a particularly costly pilot; informal chats with the aim of establishing these parameters can be as effective.

As much as this will help you decide what to take forward, you need to be prepared to back out of the other opportunities or reframe your involvement in them.

So, you’ve been through these steps and you’ve decided to embark on collaboration –are there ways to manage your time more effectively whilst collaborating too? Absolutely! The next blog reveals all…!

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