Time Management: Are you In Control?

As a business owner or senior executive your biggestTime Managment day-to-day challenge may be managing your time. Lack of organizing and prioritizing what you do each day, how you deal with distractions or what responsibilities you take on that others should handle consumes valuable time and energy that can be more effectively applied to higher priority tasks and issues.

We can rationalize “how the day just got away from me” but the truth is, in the majority of cases, we made a choice in allowing various unplanned tasks, emergencies and interruptions to intrude and replace what we really planned to do that day. It is easy to fall into this pattern without a schedule or plan. However, being at the forefront solving crisis and reacting to emergencies means that we are not applying our best value developing the business to have fewer emergencies, mentoring managers and supervisors who should intercept and handle high priority issues, and spending at least half of our time working on the future of the company.

If this is you, then you are letting circumstances control your time.  How do you correct this pattern and take responsibility for the management of your time?

Time Inventory
We work at 110% day-to-day, often exceeding 8 hours a day and yet we finish each day with a list of things that did not get done.  We are busy all day but for some reason we did not get to all of the items on the list. The question is “not how busy you were” but “how did you spend your time?”  Without changing your behavior keep an activity log for a week of what you do and how long you spent doing it. Add up the time for similar activities, identify those that were appropriate and planned versus those that were unplanned that should have been handled by others. I think you will be surprised by the results.  The majority of your time is most likely spent reacting to events and too little time invested in planned activities that will advance the future interests of the business.

Time Slice

Time Management Tips
Owners and executives that I have observed, who manage their time well, have adopted a time management discipline that structures how they approach each day and how they proactively handle unexpected events. While each job situation is different, here are eight tips that successful executives use to manage their time and not let it manage them.

  1. Plan: Set a fixed time and location where you can (without interruption) plan your day, not only what tasks you want to accomplish, but also how much time to be devoted to each one. If this cannot be done at work, do it at home, before leaving for work, or stopping along the way. This becomes the schedule and road map of the day, as to when and how long you will work on each issue and what you expect to accomplish.
  2. Record Commitments:  As the day progresses, record commitments made to others.  Record both the scope of the commitment and when it is to be performed. Refer to your calendar to avoid commitments that conflict with a previous commitment and enter it into your calendar. Do not rely on your memory and do not agree casually to a commitment just to be nice and satisfy someone.
  3. Control Interruptions: Phone calls, emails and people dropping into your office can destroy a carefully planned day.
    1. Limit the number of phone calls that you answer.  Let most of them go to voice mail so that you can listen to them at the time you have scheduled and prioritize who you will respond to and establish what you want to accomplish when you return the call.  You might also elect to reply when you know you can leave a message on their voice mail, which might avoid a protracted and time-consuming conversation. In any event, all messages should be responded to, by someone, within 24 hours.
    2. Limit the number of emails also. One way to do this is to use a filter to weed out nuisance messages. Email might be best replied to at scheduled time(s) during your day and best when you will be uninterrupted.
    3. People who drop by to have a conversation should be “politely” rescheduled to an open time on your schedule to discuss a specific topic.
  4. MBWA (Management By Walking Around: Schedule open time either on a daily basis or throughout the week where you can be available to others.  This is valuable unstructured time to interact with others as you circulate. Try to utilize your time effectively and spend it with as many people as possible without letting a few people monopolize or dominate your time.  A casual conversation on the floor can eliminate or reduce issues that would otherwise consume more time if they were elevated to you through the organization.
  5. Meetings: Put people on notice that meetings should have an agenda with published objectives and time limit. Meetings should begin on time and end on or before the scheduled time.
  6. Delegate: Avoid taking responsibility for tasks that should remain on the shoulders of your subordinates.  Do not allow the proverbial “monkey” to be put on your back.  Consult with the subordinate, but do not let them dump their issue on you. If you are a hands-on/micro-manager this will be an area where you will need to grow and develop confidence in others so that they will be able to successfully handle the issue, as well as, if you were involved.
  7. Work on Your Business: Time should be planned to “work on your business” and not just to “work in your business.”  Some time management experts say this should be as much as 50% of your schedule.  In the beginning, it may be hard to put this much “future” in your schedule, but it is something that should be considered as you prepare each schedule. You control the tiller of your business and you need to make sure you are looking to the horizon to make sure the business is properly positioned to take advantage of opportunities and to avoid threats.  This is not easily or effectively done in a reactive mode.
  8. Protect Your Schedule: Keeping control of your schedule may initially be difficult.  You will find yourself less involved in fire-fighting and you are going to need to become satisfied that completing your schedule for the day is more important than being on the forefront of dealing with the number one issue facing the business that day.

Time management is a critical skill to master as you strive to be a successful executive or manager. Following through on your schedule to satisfy the goals you set for yourself requires focus and curtailing distractions.  Develop a strong time management discipline, so that you are working on the right activities to build your business. This discipline will be contagious and will set a standard for your leadership team that will influence how they manage their time.

Success is not just a matter of working harder but working smarter.


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