Leveraging Time

Who is Really in Control?
David Williams, Vice President

Leveraging time is a strategy of using time in an intelligent way to pursue your most important goals and to maximize outcomes. Time management is the day-to-day process you use to leverage time for scheduling, accomplishing to-do lists, and a method to delegate responsibilities.  Without specific time-leveraging  strategies, time management alone will not help you achieve your goals.

Time management is a challenge for all of us, whether we’re business people, workers, students or stay at home parents.  In order to make the most out of leveraging time, we must be motivated and willing to make the necessary behavior changes.  Leveraging time is much like compounding interest in a savings account.  Make small changes toward your goals and develop rituals.  Rituals become habits, and habits become behavior and establish mindsets. The results of a little investment in top priorities, done consistently over time, pay out huge dividends.

Stephen Covey, in the Habits of Highly Effective People, uses a First Things First Matrix as an example, to divide the day in to quadrants of importance and urgency.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Urgent and Important (Must Do it Now)
  2. Important, not Urgent (Should do it Now)
  3. Not Important, Not Urgent (Dump It!) and
  4. Urgent, not Important (Delegate it).

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on.  They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them, perceived or real, are immediate.  And sometimes our inability to correctly prioritize these “Urgent” tasks result is us wasting valuable time.  Time Wasters come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be physical and mental.  They can be self-inflicted or imposed by others. What activities in your day-to-day life are managing you, and which ones are you effectively managing?

So what are some time-leveraging strategies?

Eliminate procrastination.  Procrastination is a huge time waster.  We often procrastinate when faced with things that are unpleasant, boring, complex or lengthy.  Many times we put off doing things because we don’t see any real value in them.  It helps to determine if the thing that we are procrastinating is really important and valuable to us in the first place.  We are less likely to procrastinate on things that we acknowledge are valuable.  The best way to deal with procrastination is to attack it head-on.  Once we honestly identify the real reason we don’t want to make a decision, or take an action, we can overcome the obstacle and get on with it.

Don’t buy into the myth of multitasking:  If you focus on doing one thing right, and one thing at a time, you don’t have to waste time trying to find things you misplaced or re-doing things. You’ll be more productive and use time more effectively.  A number of scientific studies have been done regarding multitasking and most have come to the same conclusion: it does not make us more productive.  In fact, these studies have found that multitasking can actually result in us wasting around 20 – 40 percent of our time, depending on what we’re trying to accomplish.  As leaders, we continue to try to do two or more things at one time in an effort to accomplish more or be more efficient.  The end result is that we may not do as well at those multiple tasks as we would by mastering one.

Make your meetings more effective:  Ineffective meetings are a huge “time thief” for leaders and participants alike. As a participant, arrive at the meeting prepared to contribute, keep to the topic, and respect others’ time. As a meeting chair or leader, publish the agenda ahead of time, invite only those who need to be there, keep to the agenda topics AND timeline.  Reign-in those off-topic or personal agenda discussions and transfer those items to the parking lot or a side-bar meeting.  Close the meeting with a call to action or decision.

Learn to say NO.  It is not always easy to say NO, although it is vital to effective time management.  The truth is that the most important things are typically not urgent and the urgent things are not often that important for your lost-term goals. Your ability say NO is a valuable component of your time management skills. Saying NO determines how much of your time will be wasted on solving some one els’s problems as opposed to accomplishing your goals.  This does not mean you are selfish, you just need to be aware of the cost of helping others, especially when you have time-critical tasks that you are responsible for.

These are a few of the strategies you can implement to leverage time, and to regain control over your schedule, and your productivity.  For more discussion, I would love to sit with you and discuss how to transform your organization into a truly high performance organization.