Time is a finite business resource. Nine ways to use time productively

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Leaders were debating in an open discussion that the four essential resources – people, time, money and materials – had to be managed effectively, however the debate centred on which one is the most critical.

They concluded time is the most vital and critical resource they have at their disposal. Further they reached consensus on two points; of the four resources only time is finite – we cannot get more time only manage it more effectively. The second point on which there was general agreement is that time is the resource that is most often poorly planned and managed. The group agreed to share the tips they applied to manage and utilise the time they had available to them.

Interestingly all of the leaders had a universal starting point they used to manage their time – Habit 3 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders. Habit 3 is Put First Things First. All apply his Time Management Matrix where activities are segmented into four areas:

  • Urgent and important – Crises, Deadline Driven Projects, Immediate Challenges/Problems.
  • Important not Urgent – Creation, Capitalise on New Opportunities, Critical Thinking, Planning and Preparation, Networking.
  • Urgent not Important – Interruptions, some calls, meetings, mail and reports.
  • Not Urgent, Not Important – Trivia, non-producing activities, distractions

All spent either the first ten minutes or the last ten minutes of their day using this matrix to plan. This link  will take you to a short video that explains this Covey concept.

The other area where there was agreement was to use their diaries effectively. So many people use their diaries to record little more than their client appointments. Each leader used their diary much more judiciously to schedule:

  • Thinking, business review and planning time;
  • Activities associated with family and social activity;
  • Activities associated with health and exercise:
  • Personal time
  • Client appointments
  • Administrative tasks

Other techniques the leaders used varied widely. Here are some of the best of the time management approaches they apply:

  • Use the Power of 10. Don’t float; if you have ten minutes use it productively, don’t waste the time, it’s amazing how much you can get done if you apply yourself.
  • If you are not using Social Media as an integral part of your business strategy ignore it when working;
  • Build in time for distractions and interruptions, they are a part of everyday business life so plan for them;
  • Be willing to re-prioritise. Some days will go ‘pear shaped’, forcing priorities to change;
  • Identify those aspects that are regular, repeated drags on your time. One by one address them to free up your time;
  • Make time a friend, not an enemy. Become aware of how long things actually take to do, e.g. plan preparation, and allocate time realistically;
  • Educate those around you to circulate essential documents prior to meetings so there is time for people to read and consider the contents prior to the meeting. Meetings should be action and decision forums, not places where people share information that could have been circulated prior to the meeting.

One leader summed up the discussion this way “if you want to use your time to maximum effect, you need to pay attention to what you are paying attention to”. Please share with us the tips and techniques you use as a leader to plan and utilise your time effectively.

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.