Too many managers seem to operate on a variation of an old Groucho Marx routine; “I’ve got top priorities. I am going to stick to those priorities. And if you don’t like those priorities…I have others.” It’s very hard to bring the discipline of a goal setting system or planning process to a team or organization if your own time management and personal organization is a joke.

  • What are you so busy doing? Are you working on high leverage activities that will catapult you, your team, and your organization toward your vision? Are people “delegating up” to you and your team? Has busyness and long hours become a dangerous status symbol of importance? Are you and your team members measuring your importance by how many e-mails you get, vacations missed, or crazy hours you work?
  • Know thy time. Figuring out how effective your busyness is, starts with a time log. This takes some real discipline, but the learning and personal effectiveness you’ll gain is immeasurable. For a few weeks, (ideally a month), keep a log of how you spend each fifteen minute block of your day from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Before you start, develop categories such as reading, learning, meetings, dealing with e-mails, family time, relaxation, travel, telephone calls, visiting, preparing, planning, etc. Estimate how much time you spend in each activity before you start your log. Once your log is complete compare your estimates to the way you actually use your time.
  • Plan your time. Use a time organizer system, software program, or Personal Digital Assistant. Take it with you everywhere you go. Develop weekly or monthly activity lists that link to your vision, values, and purpose so you’re always doing the most important things. Over the weekend or first thing Monday morning, sketch out your week. Each morning reprioritize your day’s activities and plans.
  • Learn how to lead effective meetings. Poorly run meetings cost you and everyone else an enormous amount of precious time. There are few excuses for not starting and finishing on time, not having clear meeting outcomes and agendas, not keeping discussions on track, not minimizing disruptions, or not handling conflict effectively. It’s a skill issue. Improve yours and you’ll free up time for everybody.
  • Schedule regular reflection time (daily/weekly/monthly) to review progress on your goals and reset your priorities.