If you are in a management role, each day is a challenge, and it seems like there is never enough time.

In fact, we all have the same amount of time each day — 24 hours. The difference is how we use it. To do so effectively, you have to be aware of several factors: your own short- and long-term priorities, daily capacity, and how to leverage your own time.

Time management is exactly what it sounds like. Managing your own time versus allowing time to manage you!

How NOT to Manage Your Time

It is always interesting to me to observe how others, especially managers, manage their time. For example, when I was young in my career, I can remember one manager, who had a habit of trying to handle three things at once. I would be in his office trying to carry on a conversation and he would pretend to listen as he shouted in another direction to his assistant and answered his phone at the same time.

Another manager — and one of my all-time favorites — used to get up out of his chair at exactly the same time each night to leave. I was in my 20s, and this was my first big job. My peers and I never would go home until the boss went home. He was about 6 feet 8 inches, and every night when he was leaving, he would look over each cubicle to say goodbye. He was not the most organized manager. His desk was covered with pink message slips (this was before voicemail and email) and you could barely tell what color his desk was. One night when he was leaving, he looked over my cubicle wall and saw me sitting there with one piece of paper. I always preferred a clear desk and liked to work on one thing at a time. He stopped and said, “It looks like we need to give you more to do.” More work! This was the last thing I wanted. So I got this idea. The next night, just before he was going to leave, I took my garbage can, which was filled with the papers, coffee cups, and other stuff from the day, and I dumped it all on my desk. As my boss looked over the cubicle he stopped and said, “Wow, it looks like you had a productive day!” I think I kept this process going for a few weeks, just to show I was busy!

Some managers confuse activity with being productive.

I had another manager, who although he was at work all day, didn’t get going until around 4pm. Sure enough, each day around 4pm, he came walking down the hall, wanting to meet everyone and give each person more work! We usually did everything we could to avoid him finding us in our cubicles at this time of the day.

Some managers think that everyone else works the same ways they do!

The Most Common Time Management Mistakes

  • Cherry picking: I have found in my career that people will tend to do what they like and what they are good at.
  • Fast tracking: I have also observed that people do things which are easy and don’t take much time.
  • Dodging: I have had my fair share of managers who seemed to wait until the very last minute to plan anything! It seemed for these managers only a deadline worked for forcing some work to get done.
  • Working Chronologically: It always amazed me, how many people work based on the first-in and first-out principle. These people just work on things based on the order of arrival!
  • Flip-flopping: Finally, the most common management mistake which I have observed, is that a person will work on demands from others and someone else’s priorities versus what they had planned for the day.

So How Does The Best Manager Use Time Wisely?

The best manager …

  • … takes time daily to plan. The daily tasks are taken from a master list, which is a reflection of a greater strategy or plan.
  • … is careful not to schedule more personal work than his or her daily capacity. It is important to carry a list and focus on deciding the result of which activities that day will return the most leverage. It means that you need to focus on achievements versus what you would like to do.
  • … doesn’t allow for interruptions (email, phone, or small talk) when working on priorities. Having a place for everything is also important.
  • … does one thing at a time, but several trivial things simultaneously. Make use of those extra few minutes while waiting for other activities to clear things off the list. Work on the most important items during your peak times of the day.
  • … doesn’t procrastinate and keeps track of time always! It is important to always set deadlines as this helps one to prioritize daily. The best manager doesn’t have time to worry; worrying is not a good use of time!
  • … schedules personal time to relax. Finally, using a system is helpful to keep organized and it is more important to use a system with which one feels comfortable.

How to Role Model Great Time Management Methods

Managers set the tone for their team’s time-management style. As a way to ensure my meetings were productive and stayed on track, I used to hold them late in the day and sometimes standing up! This gave a greater sense of urgency to the meeting, as people wanted to finish and go home. It also helps to set a time limit for meetings and ensure everyone knows their role at meetings. These strategies reinforce good time-management principles.

Just following simple practices like being careful to not overschedule the day and learning to delegate can help one stay on top of the most important tasks.

Finally, I have learned over the years to not let papers sit around. Learn to handle paper once reviewing, and then either throw it away, file it, or take action. Many successful time managers use this philosophy.

Educating the Workforce on Time Management

Invest the time to teach people how to keep their workplace neat, organized, and free of clutter. Reinforce the importance of daily planning and following up. Prioritization is a great strategy to get the most leverage out of one’s day. Teach people to use a system to plan, organize, and carry out their tasks daily. These are lessons which will last a lifetime.

While we all have a certain amount of time each day, the best managers know how to move time over to their side. As a result, the most important things get done, and it seems like there is plenty of time left.

Craig Nathanson

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