Paul's Tips for Time Management

Paul's tips for time management for executive managers and other professionals. These are based on my experiences and learnings of multitasking / running several projects in parallel for 20 years in high tech-- your mileage may vary.

  1. Top Three. Make sure your entire organizations have complete clarity on Top Three priorities for each leader. (Perhaps these are for the next 30 or 90 days. And you should of course also have complete clarity on 5+ year vision/mission/goals.)

    Ideally the Top Three lists are kept up to date linked from the home page of your intranet (which should be made to be so useful that it becomes by choice the home page for all employees) and sometimes printed and pasted onto computer screens as well. :)

    Nailing the Top Three is almost always dramatically more impactful to your organization than doing a "good job" at 20 things.

    (There are other advantages to having every employee knowing the Top Three for every leader-- e.g., sometimes when you can't get a colleague to do what you want, it is because their Top Three is sending them in another direction.)

  2. Rock Stars. Most people who go into management do so hopefully in part because they care about people. A bad side effect of this is having managers spending too much time helping weaker team members, or fixing their mistakes. To get the absolutely best, world-changing results (and to have more fun!) you should instead focus most of your time on working with your best people ("Rock Stars"). Not micro-managing, but brainstorming and collaborating with your superstars. You will learn from and energize each other every day. (And make sure your entire management team is great at hiring, so you will have some rock stars.)

  3. Strategic Time. Always be thoughtful about time spent on urgent/reactive/transactional vs important/proactive/strategic. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of the former, and not spending enough time on the latter.

  4. One Touch. The time spent answering an email two weeks after receipt is the exact same as the time spent answering it today, so in general, answer it today. It is true that sometimes by holding off for a few days, the requestor will find an alternative solution which does not require your time-- however, I'm more interested in finding ways to always keep my inbox to 10 items, thus I always try to answer in real time. Answering in real-time forces you to be fast. For all email, I do "one touch"-- only touching it once, immediately doing (a) do something about it (b) delete it (c) delegate it (d) defer it (starred in gmail).

    Note: I read about 400 emails a day, and send about 80. And yet, I usually have only about ten items in my inbox. (Even when I'm traveling in Africa!)

  5. Search, Don't File. Rather than filing email in folders by topic, don't file them at all. Instead, use software such as Google Gmail which by default archives all of your email forever, and which has incredibly fast search. The simple gmail search function will shock you in how quickly it can find just the messages you want! (And probably only one out of 20 searches will need their advanced search form.) If you can't use Gmail (are you sure?), use Google Desktop, or some other non-Microsoft desktop search engine that is FAST.

  6. Blowoff Template. This one is tough for many managers, especially managers who are unusually sensitive and caring. But you need to develop a "blowoff template" which you can send to requests for time that is not Top Three or not connected to Rock Stars or not Strategic. This might feel bad, but by blowing off low priority requests, you then get to spend more time with the people and tasks that most matter to you.

How your assisant can help

A great assistant can monitor your calendar with respect to the above points, and meet with you monthly to point out how much time is spent on Top Three / Rock Stars / Strategic vs other things.

One more thing: if you want more time in your life, kill your tv :)

Home Updated Fri 17-Dec-2010 8:01 AM