“Please call my secretary for a meeting – she knows when I’m busy” is often heard from an important CEO?
To develop a time management skill means to become aware of how one uses his time. William Penn said: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” And yes, there never seems to be enough time, unless you’re the one that serve the time. Nothing can replace a time wasted, it can never be regained. Time management is a resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding in what and how you perform.
A leader is burdened by numerous things almost always with limited time resources. Just worrying about time limitations and putting off or postponing may lead to indecision and consequently inefficiency. Due time pressure you resort to implement instead of analyze first. In leadership inefficiency occurs when unrealistic time estimates are made. Most of the time is lost due to issues resulting from poor organizational skills. This leads to ineffective meetings and finish with a leader micro-managing. The latter is also supported by failing to delegate tasks and performances. Many bad leaders are also not so strong in planning. They have not a clear idea about prioritizing, standardizing, or implementing organizational policies and procedures. They rather tend to deal with urgent tasks and thusly postpone the important ones till they become urgent (see my blog: Cause and consequence / Urgent and important).
Some essential steps are to be taken to efficient time management. Firstly, you’ll have to be organized yourself – meaning that you should prioritize and schedule your work and tasks. It sounds simple, but the path is more curved. You’ll need certain skills to develop or uncover time management practice –patience, flexibility and awareness. You should carefully analyze your chosen method of time management to succeed.
Start by identifying a first small step that you want to achieve and remain focused on it. Sometimes you must change what you do, the way you do it. You also have to learn to say ‘no’. Most probably you’ll have to change how you do your work. A nice example to shorten the meeting time is by asking the attendants to come prepared and to stick to the agenda. Or, spend less time in reviewing results with people and devote it to brainstorming ideas instead. Assign realistic priorities to each task. Find which is your most productive time of a day. Use it to the full for work and not moving from one to another meeting or something even less important. Start working on task(s) that has to be finished by the end of e.g. current week, and begin with the most important first. When tasks are completed visually move things from ‘TO-DO’ to ’DONE’ list. And later erase them just so that ‘DONE’ list is longer than ‘TO-DO’ one. This gives you the impression of being effective – and it is the right impression. Because of new information or other issues rewrite and reprioritize your list on a regular basis.
But do not strive to become a time management fanatic and convert or set everything on time management spreadsheets by creating also priority folders and lists. From time to time allow yourself to take a break: clear your mind to refresh and to refocus.
Some of the above skills (setting clear goals, breaking goals down into discreet steps, reviewing a progress towards goals) add to yours and not others managing your time. Finally, always remember that your team also profits when you become a more effective leader.