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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

Can I manage my time better to collaborate? Part 2

Cartoon: person struggling to juggle several balls in the air thinking 'It's too much! I can't keep collaborating!'

You’ve worked out what leads to pursue, invested in the set-up, made the necessary time commitments, found your collaborators and have embarked on a collaborative relationship to achieve specific shared outcomes. Are there ways to be more efficient during the project itself and assure more effective outcomes? Yes!

Read on for more time management tips!

2. Remember to pause, reflect and communicate

Sometimes ‘planning’ is that thing we do at the beginning of an endeavour and – despite good intentions – we either park that task and get on with ‘implementation’ or only use the plan to set up a series of reporting dates.

It’s worth agreeing with your collaborators at the outset:

A. the kinds of issues, risks and opportunities that might warrant a rethink of the plan, rather than just a tweak,

B. intervals to review the plan to check for slippage, see if some things planned at the outset are still necessary, etc., and

C. being clear on shared responsibilities for A and B.

A dynamic plan is a great time management tool. Used well it helps you to focus on the key things that will help achieve outcomes and avoid time sinks for little reward.

Making time to pause and reflect is important. ‘Reviews’ aren’t the same as updates. In a collaboration you should be reviewing together, making decisions on the next step, and keeping a firm handle on the intended outcomes of your collaboration and being open to unintended outcomes too. We can’t always predict the best route at the outset of our collaboration, what opportunities will come up or what new paths will form. Making and protecting time for review and informed decision-making is going to be time well spent to achieve the best outcomes.

Good communication for collaboration is much more than sharing information and coming together to update one another on what you each did since you last met. It’s the most important skill needed to manage your time for effective collaboration. In a collaborative relationship no-one is the ‘leader’, you are all responsible and accountable, and you need to have a high degree of trust. That trust will build through open communication, active listening, and being prepared to challenge others and change your position. Trusting relationships take time to build but, once established, are much more time-efficient and will lead to more effective outcomes.

All too often one bad experience stops us trying to collaborate. And so it’s important to bring in a good dash of perspective – you may not be sure if a given collaboration is going to work out or whether working collaboratively is going to be a new experience for you / the other parties, but it’s OK to start small or ‘give it a go’.

So consider the stakes, manage expectations and be prepared to change your approach along the way. We collaborate to tackle difficult things together to achieve better outcomes. It’s not always going to work out; that’s OK too. We’ll learn a great deal and have the opportunity to apply that learning and try again. It’s not a ‘waste’ of time. Learning from what didn’t go so well and embracing ‘failure’ are key ingredients to be able to come up with something ‘new’, i.e. to innovate. The next blog is all about collaboration for innovation.

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