Time Management Thoughts for Leaders

By Dymphna Ormond, IMI associate who teaches on Front Line Management and Essential Skills of Management programmes

“Time once lost, can never be recovered.” Geoffrey Chaucer en-route to Canterbury

Time is a resource. According to Peter Drucker “Time is the scarcest resource. Unless it is managed, nothing can be managed.” An effective manager makes decisions everyday on how to use their time to achieve results that matter. This involves goal setting, planning, prioritisation, saying “no”, effective communication and delegation and managing time wasting activities.

Goal Setting and Planning
Follow Stephen Covey’s advice and “Begin with the end in mind” (Covey, 1999). If you don’t know where you are going, you may be busy all day however you won’t achieve very much. Determine what you want to achieve by the end of the year, quarter, month and why. This will give you direction and focus your attention on the important things rather than reacting to what lands on your desk and other people’s requests. If you fail to plan your time, then expect that someone else will plan and fill it for you.

  • Know what you must achieve by the end of every month and why it is important to achieve it.
  • Plan steps to get you there. For example, what must be completed/in place by end of week 3, end of week 2, end of week 1 to deliver the desired results?
  • Schedule in the tasks and activities into your diary system and allocate a time. Mark it as a MUST DO task for that day. Build in contingency time as tasks may take longer to complete than expected.
  • Identify tasks that you can delegate and to whom. Plan time to delegate the task effectively.

Create and follow a prioritised To-Do-List
To-do-lists are an essential time management tool if they are used well. Write a prioritised to-do-list at the end of every day. This way you get to review what you have achieved during the day and can go home with a free mind i.e. not trying to remember things you need to do the following day. Prioritise your list. I like using MUST DO’s, SHOULD DO’s and MAYBE’s. The Must Do items are those tasks that no matter what other unplanned or unexpected items crop up you MUST DO. The next items on the list to be completed are the Should’s and then the Maybe’s. If you can’t get them completed due to unplanned, unexpected tasks that must be done then they will move to the next day – and moved up a priority level.

  • Review where you are against your goals for the month/quarter end.
  • Determine what must be done the next day and write it in your prioritised list as a MUST DO task. Failure to do this will mean that other people’s priorities will fill up your time.
  • Complete your MUST DO’S first.
  • Group similar items together, including reviewing and replying to emails, calls, certain queries, admin tasks.
  • Some tasks may not be urgent but are important. For example, one-to-one meeting with your team members, team briefings, planning and thinking time, training/coaching time for yourself or with a team member. Schedule these tasks in. If they are never completed you will possibly create a crisis or emergency for yourself or someone else.
  • Your prioritised To-Do-List will help you a) say no to certain requests and b) reduce some time wasting activities e.g. manage interruptions and procrastination.

Communication and Delegation
Communication and delegation are two essential skills of managers and effective time management. Delegation empowers your team, giving them opportunities to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Poor communication and delegation skills wastes your time and that of others and steals our energy. Take the time to plan your communications effectively to clarify your message, listen and understand feedback received and you will reap the rewards.

At the end of every day, week, month, quarter review what you have achieved, look ahead to the following day, weeks, months, quarter and refine your plans as needed.

Time management is about self-management: In the words of Gandalf, Lord of the Rings “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

About the author
Dymphna Ormond is an IMI associate who teaches on Front Line Management and Essential Skills of Management programmes. Dymphna has over 14 years of experience designing and delivering training that engages, challenges and stimulates the thinking of participants. Her areas of expertise and interest are in employee engagement, leadership and management skills, presenting and communicating with impact.