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I’ve spent many years coaching executives in many different positions across industries, and one of the most common issues plaguing managers and leaders is consistently: Time Management. Many executives have a common objection: “I don’t have time to think about that!”
Time is a rare and precious commodity, unlike almost anything else in life. Once it is gone, stolen, wasted, or taken away from you – you can’t get it back. Being wise with our time is an essential skill for all of us, even more so in this age of texting, IM’s, ballooning email inboxes, meetings, initiatives, and the list goes on.
The fundamental truth is that time, once spent, cannot be reclaimed. In a world inundated with constant communication channels and an ever-expanding to-do list, the ability to manage time efficiently becomes a defining factor of successful leaders.
Take Control of Your Time
To increase productivity, I challenged a manager who was struggling with time management and not getting to important initiatives by saying:
“What if you could get back 5 hours a week to work on these initiatives?”
“Not possible,” he said, “I am maximizing everything!”
I replied, “All I want you to do is conduct this simple survey on your time:”
I explained that for two or three, days I’d like him to list all the tasks he completed and assign them each a dollar value. I told him that he could write them down as he went along during the day or in 10 minutes at the end of the day. Then, I instructed him to review the tasks and give them a dollar-per-hour ranking. Some were marked as $20/hr tasks, others at $50, and many others at $100/hr. A few days later I asked him some simple questions:
- Should you be doing the low-value tasks?
- Could you delegate the medium-value tasks to someone who is better than you or wants to learn them?
- Is there any habit or unnecessary step you can remove from the process to save time?
This was an eye-opening experience for him. Assigning dollar values to the tasks forced him to think about them in a different light. He saved over four hours each week during that first month after this session. He realized that he needed to take control of his time.
This approach of assigning a dollar value to tasks and categorizing them based on their inherent value per hour provides a structured lens through which people can truly evaluate what makes sense for them to do, and what doesn’t. This method compels people to confront the reality of how they spend their time and make conscious decisions about where their efforts are best placed.
The pivotal questions posed to the manager above – whether he should engage in low-value tasks, if higher-value tasks could be delegated, and if there were habits to eliminate for time savings highlight the importance of delegation and empowerment. Recognizing that not every task requires personal attention and that some might be better suited for others on the team is a key part of effective time management. Delegating tasks not only frees up time for more crucial endeavors but also empowers team members by entrusting them with meaningful responsibilities and allowing them to grow.
Identifying Time Bandits
Time bandits are out to rob you of your time. Take a minute to reflect on your habits and activities – are there any that may be consuming valuable time unnecessarily? Breaking free from habits that rob you of time is an important way to take control of the limited hours you have each day.
Distractions are a serious time bandit. Another challenge you can take is to consider the impact of distractions. Do you allow distractions to rob you of time regularly?
Many of us spend too much time looking at emails, IMs, text messages, and other distractions. While these tasks need to be completed, how much time do you lose when you stop an important task to look at an email or respond to a non-urgent instant message? You lost five minutes at least, plus another 5-10 getting your focus back on what you were doing. You could be losing over an hour a day!
What if you blocked your time to look at these messages? Checked them at a set time in the morning, midday, and afternoon? You may need to let people know you’re doing this and why. You will also need to manage the urgent messages, and that includes differentiating them from the less time-sensitive communications. Even with these considerations, how much time could this save you each day?
The Journey to Reclaiming Time
Ultimately, as you embark on a journey of reclaiming your time, you will be challenged to resist the gravitational pull of distractions and external influences that can erode productivity. By embracing effective time management practices, setting priorities, and fostering a culture of empowerment and delegation, teams can overcome the barriers preventing them from reaching their full potential.
In essence, success is not merely about working harder but about working smarter, making intentional choices about how time is spent, and empowering oneself and others to contribute meaningfully to the overarching goals of the team.
Over time, I have developed a system that works for me and many other Executives I have coached over the years. The SPAN time management system is an easy-to-use system that only requires some paper and can revolutionize the way you manage your time. It is made up of key components, including daily focus, weekly review, and planning, as well as prioritizing for success. If you would like more information on this, simply reach out to Stephen Wright at email@example.com.
Whether it is this system or another one – find a system that works for you and work it. It takes effort to keep yourself free from the Time Bandits that are out to steal your time and create chaos in your world.
Stephen Eric Wright is a Business Growth Consultant who specializes in working with businesses that are looking to grow and expand. Stephen brings a practical experiential approach to this area having run companies with both a local, national and global footprint. His pre-consulting career included an extensive career...