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Leadership and Time Management

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 19 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Time Management Leadership Manage Work

Time management is incredibly important in any leadership role – not only is time valuable and does often actually equate to money, but it is also one of the few things which once wasted can never regained. No matter your wealth, power or position, you slow down, speed up or stop time. So learning good time management is an essential skill for an effective leader.

Managing Time…

One of the best ways to improve your time management is to analyse how you spend your time and trying to implement ways to stop wasting time on some tasks and save time in others. However, be careful of getting too bogged down in details – for example, you could spend so much time creating priority lists or time management spreadsheets, separating work into ‘priority piles’ or colour-coding tasks that you end up wasting more time in trying to manage it! All you could end up implementing time management techniques that are so complicated, you end up disheartened and return to your old bad habits.

Time Wasters

Everyone is guilty of wasting time to some extent – some of us have really bad time-wasting habits which we may not even be conscious of! Here are some of the most common:

  • Procrastination – the biggest enemy!
  • Spending a lot of time in meetings which are ineffective and unproductive
  • Being Indecisive (worrying about something but putting it off)
  • Poor prioritising - focusing on the wrong tasks first
  • Making stupid, unnecessary mistakes which then require time to correct and do over again
  • Being unrealistic in time estimates
  • Poor planning and lack of contingency plans
  • Having to deal with too many interruptions or distractions
  • Poor organisation
  • Micro-managing others in the team
  • Implementing things without thinking it through and analysing the situation first for the most efficient solution.
  • Not learning to delegate
  • Not having policies and procedures in place to smooth things along

Time Savers

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many things we can do to save time:

  • Focus on doing only one task at a time
  • Establishing priorities, divided into short-term and long-term
  • De-cluttering
  • Distinguishing between personal deadlines and ones for the whole organisation
  • Not engaging in time-wasting activities with other people (e.g.. unnecessary gossip)
  • Keeping up-to-date and accurate calendars and dairies
  • Abiding by your calendars and diaries
  • Tackling all correspondence in a timely manner, with quick, short responses and memos
  • Focusing on managing the decision-making process, as opposed to just the decisions
  • Keeping things simple
  • Learning to empower other members of your team by delegating everything possible
  • Having realistic estimates of the time required for each task/project
  • Setting aside specific time for specific tasks/project, especially high-priority ones
  • Making ‘To-Do’ lists and checklists
  • Being able to adjust priorities in response to changes in the situation or new tasks emerging
  • Knowing when to stop on a project or task – not falling into the trap of nit-picking perfectionism
  • Planning and managing meetings carefully so that they have a time limit, a purpose and an expected outcome – and only involve the essential people.

By following these simple steps – avoiding the time-wasting activities and trying to incorporate more time-saving activities in your routine - you can ensure that you practise effective time management in your leadership roles.

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