Practicing Safety With Time Management

Last week I had the opportunity to work with the "Signal Construction Leadership" at BNSF Railway on time management and work/life balance. These men and women are building an infrastructure of "Positive Train Signals" to ensure the safe operation of all the railways in the 28 states and two Canadian provinces owned by BNSF. Their commitment to getting these systems installed in a timely manner without accidents is admirable to say the least.

To start the morning sessions each day, they had a safety briefing where they covered such things as fire exits, what to do in case of a storm, and who to contact in case someone had a heart attack or needed first aid. They even spent time doing stretching exercises! I first thought, "This is strange. These people are normally working with massive machinery, complex wiring systems, and all kinds of tools. Do they really need to practice safety when they are going to be in a meeting room most of the day?" The answer is "Yes" of course, because safety only works when it becomes a habit. And their amazing success over the course of the past few years speaks to the value of making safety a top priority.

While working through the exercises that morning, I started thinking about how important the concept of safety can be for effective time management. Regardless of whether the day is packed with activity or you are having a day off, there are some important questions to ask BEFORE you begin your day to prevent loss of productivity. Some of them might include:

  • What activities in my day have the potential to "trip me up" and knock me off course?
  • Where might I "slip" into an old habit (like checking email too often or procrastinating), and fail to get the important things done?
  • How can I prevent myself and others from "falling" into the notion that they can simply work hard all day and get everything done?
  • As I look at my day, are there some potential "accidents" waiting to happen because I haven't adequately prepared for the task?
  • Does my physical or mental fatigue represent a danger to my productivity today?

Once you have identified potential problem areas and properly prepared for them, expect to have a day that runs more smoothly... and doesn't get "derailed" as often (sorry, couldn't resist).