Time Management? How About Time Leadership?


Many leaders struggle with time management for a variety of different reasons. It can be hard to manage time. After all, it does not stop or slow down, regardless of how hard we might try and regardless of what we need to get done. So what if there was a better way?

Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. On the surface, this sounds easy enough, and it seems like a necessary thing to do. However, for leaders, this can be a problem on numerous levels. For instance, unanticipated interruptions that derail your efforts are a major thing that hinders time management. Interruptions are a leadership constant. Another one that I am highly critical of is unrealistic time estimates that put unnecessary stress on yourself and your people. The biggest problem with this approach is that it does not allow for time interruptions, which is a leadership constant.

Time management often breeds inefficient to-do lists. When such lists are handed out, people want to knock out the quick stuff first rather than focus on the tasks that will move the needle. This is poor planning in the flesh. These lists lead to contorted priorities and delegation issues as well. I could probably write a book on this topic, but the point is that situations such as these create inefficiencies because of cut corners and unnecessary errors. I do not want to focus too much on it because there is a better way. Just know that time management often leads to people going home feeling unfulfilled and stressed out.

So what if there was a better way? What if you could follow something like Time Leadership? What might that look like? Well, you would be surprised. To my understanding, no one has defined Time Leadership, but I am using this phrase to help differentiate the pitfalls of time management and to let you know there really is a better way.

If you were going to subscribe to something like Time Leadership, the first step would most definitely have to be embracing the fact that you will not be able to plan out the entirety of your day. Interruptions happen. Your people are going to need something. Emergencies that require your input occur from time to time. So would it not make sense to expect these things and plan for them rather than be aggravated when they knock on your door? I would say that you should be prepared to plan out only roughly 60 to 80 percent of your day. Leave the rest to being available for your leadership duties.

Since your task time will be reduced, the second step would likely have to be ensuring that you work on the things that will make the most significant impact first. Messing around with the small stuff is tempting, but let us be honest; it keeps you from moving forward. So take all that little stuff and leave it for downtime. Better yet, leave that small stuff for last or some other designated time. You can knock out a few of those things with any extra time you free up towards the end of your day.

Very much related to the previous suggestion is doing one thing at a time. You probably already know that multitasking is inefficient and counterproductive. So why do it? FOCUS! Take things one step at a time and only do one task at a time. Of course, this includes when you’re with your people. Give them your undivided attention.

Something that I believe is often overlooked is how we delegate and how we ensure task completion. Seriously, do not micromanage your people. Micromanagement is the antithesis of leadership. If you are looking over their shoulder all day, you are not completing the things you need to get done. You have better things to do. Of course, this also means that you need to delegate to the right people, ensure that your people are trained and that you are continually putting them into a position where they can make decisions without you having to constantly look over their shoulder. Be a leader. Empower your people and make them leaders capable of helping you move your organization forward.

Next, stop wasting everyone’s time. If you do not need to have a meeting, do not have the meeting. If you have a meeting scheduled for an hour, but the meeting only requires five minutes, do not sit around. Get out of there. Keep it simple.

On the other hand, if you need more time for a meeting, take that time. Make your meetings about the information and the collaboration – not the clock. Doing so ensures that nobody’s time is wasted. Also, if someone does not need to be in that meeting, do not keep them there or do not require them to attend. Let them get back to their work.

Let us talk about that extra time for our people, the emergencies, etc. You could handle this in several different ways. I have seen some carve out the last 15 minutes of every hour, and I have seen some carve out the hour before or after lunch or an hour first and the last thing of the day. No matter how you do it, you just need to let your people know that such time is theirs if they need it. Furthermore, you could also use the time to have one-on-ones with your people, train, or use that time for idea exploration. Make the time designated for your people all about your people. If your team rocks, everything is going great, and that time is no longer needed, then simply walk around to see how things are going, sit down with a worker and learn more about what they do or see if someone might need a hand with something.

Of course, you do not want to waste that time. So what happens if your people do not use the time allotted and everything really is fantastic? Perhaps you could use that time to knock out some of those tedious tasks, make phone calls, catch up on emails, or simply grab a cup of coffee for yourself or a worker. These things tend to interrupt your primary task list, so it is better to include them as part of the off-time schedule.

Remember that a big part of leading requires a level of anticipation. You know your people need you, you know you have things that need to get done, and you know that things will come up. Embrace it all and plan accordingly. Doing so will reduce stress and ultimately allow you to be available to your people while also motivating yourself to create more leaders in your organization so that you will not have to have your hand on everything.

Did you enjoy this post? You might also like my article titled “Turning Change Management into Change Leadership.