HR professionals are natural nurturers, according to LaShawn Davis, founder of The HR Plug. Whether working as generalists or specialists in areas such as DEI or talent acquisition, HR pros naturally have a soft spot for helping their organization and the people a part of it, she said.
But that can lead to time management problems. “When we feel like it's chaotic, when employees aren't happy, when they're seeking third-party representation, when employers don't know how to handle that, when there is no budget, when there's no payroll, when inflation is high ... HR professionals have to remember: you only can do what you can do,” Davis told HR Dive.
Below are some tips The HR Plug — which supports employees in their self-advocacy quests, and employers as they mend their employee experience — shared regarding how professionals in this arena can make the most of their time.
Make your to-do list manageable
Davis’ no. 1 tip for HR time management? Learn how to triage.
“Prioritizing is a critical skill, because everything is going to be very important to every person who brings it up,” Davis said. She recommended HR pros first jot down all their to-do list tasks. “I know it's so antiquated, but when you have your to-do list written out on paper, you have something to hold you accountable to what you know in your mind that you have to do.”
Next is to be realistic, Davis said. Go through the list and pick three to five items that will be the day’s focus. Davis explained that she focuses on no more and no less than what is written on the daily list.
“Your goal for that day is to get those three to five things done. If you accomplish that, then guess what? You had a great day,” she said. “And you can't worry about the 25 other things on that list. Because they’ll be there tomorrow, but today, celebrate the fact that you got through something and you were able to complete it.”
Having this focus is crucial, because often workers chip away at different items on the overarching list and “nothing ever gets completed,” she added. And if the daily list is completed early, do not go back to the overarching list to pull another item down.
“Guess what? You finished the day early,” Davis said.
Learn how to delegate
She also highlighted the power of handing off tasks — something Davis learned from reading about Shonda Rhimes.
For Glamour’s anthology 30 Years of Women Who Have Reshaped the World, Rhimes once wrote, “Part of being a great leader is hiring amazing people and delegating well, so you can let these great people do the things they are great at, while you do the things you are great at.” Forbes’ review of her book, Year of Yes, notes “a key to Rhimes’ executive success is delegation; she insists that people she trusts can make decisions related to the shows.
HR leaders often want to do everything themselves and worry about the end results of tasks that leave their hands, Davis said. But sometimes, “you’re preventing people from doing their job, that's also preventing you from doing yours.” Find a delegation team, Davis recommended, to lighten the load.
Release the dream of work-life “balance”
“Honestly, when you're in HR, you have to move away from the work-life balance mindset,” Davis said. “Sometimes, it's going to be imbalanced.” Sometimes, personal life will be at the forefront; other times, work will be the priority. “Trying to maintain a balance is sometimes what drives us crazy,” Davis added.
Think of it more as different work-life seasons — and don‘t let any season last too long. “On one end, you will be burnt out. And if the other one lasts too long, then you're going to lose connection to what's happening in the world of work,” she said.
Take time to unwind
In that same vein, Davis emphasized that HR folks must prioritize self-care. “You cannot pour when your cup is empty,” Davis said.
So, when is the right time to unplug? “There are some really easy ways to determine that. Are you beginning to take things personally? Are you beginning to feel some kind of way? And are those feelings causing you to change your behaviors towards other people?” Davis asked. “Because if you're losing objectivity, then it's time to disconnect. It's time to step away.”
Lack of support can exacerbate the tension HR folks feel at work, Davis explained. “In HR, we're not decision makers. Oftentimes, when we’re not feeling heard or believe we're not influential, we start to get mad at people. We start getting passive aggressive with that person or we believe people are being passive aggressive with us,” she said. When HR professionals don’t receive proper compensation and appreciation, Davis said, “it's no longer loyalty; it becomes abuse.”
At the end of the day, recognize limitations
Davis again highlighted the importance of not taking things personally. When employees and managers butt heads, she said, “You might begin thinking you're ineffective or you're not doing your job well enough. That this isn't the right role for you. You may get discouraged or even burnt out.”
“Everybody who works in HR was called to work in HR for a reason. It's because we're special,” Davis said. “Don’t allow external factors to change how you feel about yourself internally.”