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Strategic Time Management

In a recent article, I asserted that success requires that we focus on the right activities in a sea of competing priorities. Easier said than done Find more.

Our most precious resource is our time. If you work for 40 years, you have about 83,200 hours to make a career. It is really just a flash, especially considering how much time has already passed. If you are 40 years old, you have already lived 350,640 hours. Time’s a wasting. Tick, tick, tick.

Yet we spend our time at work as if it is in endless supply. Too bad it is not, as we get inundated with requests, information and data in an era of global competition that places unprecedented demands on us each and every day. To make matters worse, the concept of “time management” is an illusion. We have no power over time. Each hour passes by exactly as the one before it, 60 minutes.

What we can do, no, make that must do, is control how we spend our time. Most of us are empowered to make choices about how we spend our time at work. But if you focus on trying to become more efficient with your time in order to get everything done, you will only become more fatigued and frustrated. Newsflash…we can not do it all.

What we can do is to focus on those activities that have the greatest impact on achieving results. They are connected to producing results and are strategically important and operationally focused. I have developed a simple diagnostic as part of my coaching practice to help executives assess how they spend their time.

Take an objective and clear-eyed look at how you currently spend your time as evidenced by your calendar. Highlight those activities that are initiated by you and strategic in impact in green. Highlight those activities that are initiated by others and strategic in impact in blue. Highlight those activities that are initiated by you but tactical in nature in yellow. Highlight those activities that are initiated by others but tactical in nature in red. Code all of your travel time and other activities into one of these categories. Take a look at the “picture.” Answer the following questions:

Am I initiating most of my activities or are others?
Am I focused against strategic and tactical activities in the right balance?
Do I spend a significant amount of time on strategic drivers or am I reacting?
Do I have white space available on my calendar for strategic purposes?

The key is to maximize the green and blue activities and minimize the yellow and red ones. Yellow activities should be delegated to someone for whom the actions will be developmental. Red ones should be eliminated. Once you have completed the analysis of your past schedule, the key is to implement the learning into your prospective actions.

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