Leading Inspiration: Time Management

Q: As a leader I never seem to have enough time to get everything done that I think needs to get done. Any tips?

A: Thank you for a great question. Here are some tips from Don Clark – http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/about/about.html.

Time in the organization is constant and irreversible. Nothing can be substituted for time. Worse, once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. Time keeps getting away and they have trouble controlling it. No matter what their position, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up. Thus, time needs to be effectively managed to be effective.

On the other hand, you can become such a time fanatic convert by building time management spreadsheets, creating priority folders and lists, color coding tasks and separating paperwork into priority piles that you start to waste more time by managing it too deeply.

In addition, time management techniques may become so complex that you soon give up and return to your old time-wasting methods.

What most people actually need to do is to analyze how they spend their time and implement a few time-saving methods that will gain them the most time.


Time Wasters

• Worrying about it and putting it off, which leads to indecision.

• Creating inefficiency by implementing first instead of analyzing first.

• Unanticipated interruptions that do not pay off.


• Making unrealistic time estimates.

• Unnecessary errors (not enough time to do it right, but enough time to do it over).

Crisis management.

• Poor organization.

• Ineffective meetings.

Micromanaging by failing to let others perform and grow.

• Doing urgent rather than important tasks.

• Poor planning and lack of contingency plans.

• Failing to delegate.

• Lacking priorities, standards, policies and procedures.


Time Savers

• Managing the decision-making process, not the decisions.

• Concentrating on doing only one task at a time.

• Establishing daily, short-tem, mid-term and long-term priorities.

• Handling correspondence expeditiously with quick, short letters and memos.

• Throwing unneeded things away.

• Establishing personal deadlines and ones for the organization.

• Not wasting other people’s time.

• Ensuring all meetings have a purpose, time limit and include only essential people.

• Getting rid of busywork.

• Maintaining accurate calendars; abiding by them.

• Knowing when to stop a task, policy or procedure.

• Delegating everything possible and empowering subordinates.

• Keeping things simple.

• Ensuring time is set aside to accomplish high priority tasks.

• Setting aside time for reflection.

• Using checklists and To-Do lists.

• Adjusting priorities as a result of new tasks.



A Simple Time Management Plan

Effective time management is crucial to accomplishing organization tasks as well as to avoiding wasting valuable organizational assets. The following nine rules (Butter & Hope 1996) will aid you:

Get started. This is one of the all-time classic time wasters. Often, as much time is wasted avoiding a project as actually accomplishing the project. A survey showed that the main difference between good students and average students was the ability to start their homework quickly.

Get into a routine. Mindless routines may curb your creativity, but when used properly they can release time and energy. Choose a time to get certain tasks accomplished, such as answering e-mail, working on a project, completing paper work; and then stick to it every day. Use a day planning calendar. Find one that fits your needs.

Do not say yes to too many things. Saying yes can lead to unexpected treasures, but the mistake we often make is to say yes to too many things. This causes us to live to the priorities of others, rather than according to our own. Every time you agree to do something else, something else will not get done. Learn how to say no.

Do not commit yourself to unimportant activities, no matter how far ahead they are. Even if a commitment is a year head, it is still a commitment. Often we agree to do something that is far ahead, when we would not normally do it if it was in the near future. No matter how far ahead it is, it will still take the same amount of your time.

Divide large tasks. Large tasks should be broken up into a series of small tasks. By creating small manageable tasks, the entire task will eventually be accomplished. Also, by using a piecemeal approach, you will be able to fit it into your hectic schedule.

Do not put unneeded effort into a project. There is a place for perfectionism, but for most activities there comes a stage when there is not much to be gained from putting extra effort into it. Save perfectionism for the tasks that need it.

Deal with it for once and for all. We often start a  task, think about it, and then lay it aside. This gets repeated over and over. Either deal with the task right away or decide when to deal with it.

Set start and stop times. When arranging start times, also arrange stop times. This will call for some estimating, but your estimates will improve with practice. This will allow you and others to better schedule activities. Also, challenge the theory, “Work expands to fill the allotted time.” See if you can shave some time off your deadlines to make it more efficient.

Plan your activities. Schedule a regular time to plan your activities. If time management is important to you, then allow the time to plan it wisely.


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