Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Leadership a-z: T is for Time Management

Doing more with less is a key mantra of today’s business context. At the same time, most of us are
Time Management Wordle - Jennifer Britton, 2014
inundated with email.

Consider these factoids:

  • Managers may spend up to 40% of their time in managing email - more than 2.5 or 3 hours a day (
  • You may face up to 56 interruptions per day (read the article from Wendy Cole in Time)
  • Information overwhelm - Today an issue of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to encounter in their lifetime during the 17th century (Elaine Biech, 2007)

What are the implications for leaders? A constant barrage of information and communication, and the potential to quickly become overwhelmed with information and communication.

Today’s post provides four tips for time  management:
1. Know where your time actually goes. A lot of us “think” we know where we spend our time, when in fact it many not be representative of really where our time is being spent. A tool I share with leaders I coach is the Time Tracker. For the span of a week (or longer if your schedule varies greatly) track where your time is going. It may be useful to do this in 15 or 30 min increments. Electronically or on paper, note each block and categorize it into common categories (meetings, commuting, email, time with staff, reporting, relationship management etc). At the end of the week, summarize where you have spent your time.
As you review your schedule that week ask yourself:

  • What do you notice?
  • Where are you spending the bulk of your time?
  • What results are you getting from this? (Consdier the 80/20 rule in this context)
  • What changes are needed to support you in maximizing your productivity?

2. Prioritize - In a recent post, Leadership A-Z p is for prioritization, I shared four tools for prioritization. We have a fixed amount of time, so it is important to consider what really key in our work. The four tools I explored in the post include:
1. The Urgent/Important Matrix
2. the 80/20 Rule
3. Prioritization Matrix
4. Strategic Issues Mapping

These tools may be useful in supporting you towards more effective time management

3. Delegate - Delegation is critical for any leader’s success. Taking a look at your priorities, what are the things you really need to do and what can be handed off to others.
A recent blog post addressed the topic of delegation - which you can read here.
What tasks do you want to delegate?
4. Manage Interruptions: 
  Every time we get interrupted we need to stop what we are doing, refocus, and then start up again. We often don’t factor in the cost of “start up” again. While we may not be able to completely erase interruptions, we are able to manage them more effectively.

Some possible options for managing interruptions include:
- Keep an interruption log - like your time in general, where do your intrruptions come from. Which ones are “really important, and couldn’t be handled any other way”
- Create a dedicated focus time - this may require a change to the way you work. What time of day could you “close your door” for a centralized focus time. Communicating this time to other team members, or instituting it organization wide, can support more focused work, which may in fact shorten the time it takes you to get things done.
- Schedule times when you will check email and/or the phone. Depending on your role, email may be a constant interruption. It may be useful to experiment with creating dedicated email time, and turning it off at others. Communicate this to others so that they are aware that you will not be available or online at certain times.

A 2005 article by Spirex and Feintuch of BASEX estimates that interruptions consume 28% of a “knowledge workers” day, a cost of $588 Billion a year in the US (estimating a 28 Billion lost person hours and a cost per hour of $21/per worker). You can link to their article here.

Consider these questions:
What is the cost of interruptions in your day? 
Which type of interruptions do you face?
What approaches can you use to minimize interruptions?

Which of these four areas is priority for you? What resources would you recommend to others?

Best wishes,

Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, PCC
Potentials Realized
Author of Effective Group Coaching and From One to Many: Best Practices of Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2013)
Phone: (416)996-TEAM
Learn more about our retreat and leadership development offerings and support 

Visit our daily tips for teams and team leaders at the Teams 365 blog
As an author Jennifer Britton is known for her thought leadership in the area of group and team coaching. She is also a former leader and team builder who spent the first 13 years of her career working within the United Nations as well as the international aid sector. From Boardroom to jungle, beach and forest to mountains, Jennifer has worked to develop teams and leaders in more than 18 countries, and virtually many more. She founded Potentials Realized in 2004 and focuses on leadership, teamwork and coaching skills training.



Blanchard Research and Training India LLP said...

Nice blog!!! For a better leadership you should be most important management skill is the ability to lead.

jaya said...

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