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What is the Right Time for Effective Time Management?

By: Dave Brock


Hourglass on laptop computer concept for time management and countdown to deadline

Time management has always been an important concept. I can remember reading all sorts of books on effective time management, even back to college days. I continue to devour them, adapting many of the principles to my own time management.

We have reached a “crisis” in time management. Every leader I speak with identifies the issue of “finding the time,” as one of the top issues they face. It’s not strategy, process, tools, talent, structure, execution or all the other things that consume leaders. It’s finding the time to do these things.

Some of the time pressure we all face is a result of the disruption, volatility, change impacting everyone. We live in a quickly changing world. Understanding the impact of these disruptions, developing strategies to leverage them impact our priorities, strategies, and time.

But I think the majority of our “time problem,” is self inflicted. And it’s not our inability to leverage time management techniques, it goes much deeper. Here are some thoughts for leaders about the challenges and potential solutions. These are not prioritized and presented at a high level. For more detail feel free to reach out.

  1. We are overwhelmed with “Initiatives.” As we try to deal with the changes we see happening with our markets, customers, and people, we are driven to create initiatives to address each one of them. We pile new initiatives on those we developed the previous quarter, and the quarter before that, and the year before that……. The result, is we are overwhelmed, overloaded, have no clear priorities. With each new initiative, identify two initiatives you are stopping. If you can’t do this, you haven’t thought through things deeply enough.
  2. We don’t understand our leadership priorities. In speaking to leaders at all levels, I ask the question, “Other than making the number, what are the top two priorities for driving your organization’s performance this quarter/year?” The usual response is, “Dave, you don’t understand, we have to do all these things….” That lack of clarity leads to initiative overload. It keeps us from understanding the most critical things we (individually and organizationally need to focus on). As corollaries, we constantly shift our priorities and focus, restarting every week, month, quarter. We never develop deep understanding of what it takes to achieve our priorities, learn and improve. And we confuse ourselves and our people on what’s really important.
  3. We bias our time to react/respond rather than being proactive. There will never be an end to things that come up, problems, challenges, or….excuses that we have to react/respond to. But these things, while seeming to be urgent, are seldom important. Filling our time with react/respond keeps us from working on the things that are critical in moving forward in implementing our strategies.
    • Sometimes there’s something “fulfilling” about being “busy.” Alternatively, we think the busier we are or appear to be, the more importantly we may be perceived. As a result, we bias our behaviors incorrectly and unproductively.
    • Proactivity in identifying the top two areas of focus is really tough work. It’s filled with uncertainty. We, consciously or unconsciously, use our busyness as an excuse to avoid this hard work. The hard work needs focus and needs to get done. The more we avoid it, the more we fail to achieve our goals.
  4. As leaders we need to reframe all our coaching in the context of our top two priorities. Each person on our team needs to be focused on the execution of these priorities–at least in the context of their jobs. We need to focus our coaching on how they contribute to the ability of the organization to achieve these top two priorities.
    • In doing this, we need to be able to “connect the dots,” between the top priorities/initiatives we have established for the organization and, specifically, what it means to each person in the execution of their jobs. We need to train, coach, and measure them based on those key initiatives.
  5. Related to the previous points, when we coach our people, we tend to go into the coaching equivalent of “initiative overload.” It’s like a close friend teaching me to play golf, “Dave, do these 25 things when you are driving the ball…..” You know how it ended up. When I paid a professional to coach me, he said, “Dave, focus on this one thing….” Once I mastered that, he identified the next thing, then the next. We confuse our people by constantly shifting our coaching priorities. As a result we set them up to fail. Interestingly, time to improvement/productivity is far greater when we focus on the top two coaching priorities, then the next, then the next.
    • Again, those coaching priorities are aligned with the top two initiatives/priorities we are driving for the organization.
  6. Perhaps being redundant, as we look at our own time, we should not allow anything on our calendars that does not contribute to at least 1 of our top priorities. Learning to say “No,” to interesting things or other requests is tough, but if the activity doesn’t contribute to our top initiatives, then we are wasting time.
  7. Some might still be wondering, “Dave, you don’t understand, we have to make our numbers!!!!” Yet, in our current mode of operation, we are failing to make our numbers. And in our quest to do more, to increase the volume and velocity of those activities, we continue to fail. The sharp execution of our top two priorities results in our ability to achieve our goals and make our numbers.

This is not new information. It requires discipline and focus to identify our top priorities and commit to them, over time. It’s so much easier to react/respond. It’s so much easier to appear busy, yet accomplish little.

We will never have the time we want or need. But we make it worse by not identifying and viciously focusing on the top two things that enable us to move forward.

Published: April 9, 2024

Source: Partners in Excellence

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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