Coaching Harvard Business Review Leadership

Choose your Time

It’s better to spend a few hours a day doing important work than filling ten or a dozen with activities that don’t move you towards achieving your goals.

Kick it off by making sure you know what’s actually important to you. Do the work to understand your values, and then frame your goals.

Then, take stock of the current situation. Where does your effort go? Track your time to understand it. You’ll learn something for sure!

How much effort goes towards wasteful activities that are low value to you? Can you delegate away, or maybe just not do them at all? Recurring meetings are an area worth particular focus. Review your calendar, and try to cancel, short or spread out as many as possible.

Next up, where are your high value activities? There are probably not enough yet. Look at where you are doing good work. Can you extend these slots with the time you’ve just saved?

Big spans of time are better for doing activities that lead to real change, so extending an hour to two is powerful option.

If you can’t do this yet, then go back to that calendar and look at those gaps. If it’s anything like mine was, you’ll have a patchwork of meetings, with small gaps between them. You’ve cleared out the cruft now, so there’s not much left to get rid of.

Instead, start shuffling. Meetings you own are easiest, but any small group session is up for grabs. Two things help here. Knowing your own high performance times, so you can keep them clear for focused work. Then knowing your organisations culture. Start of week for team syncs? Planning mid-week? Retrospectives and demos on Fridays? There’s a cadence there. If it’s a big org, then understanding this is key, you’ll struggle to shift this culture quickly. If it’s small or just getting started, then it’s not fixed yet, so don’t be afraid to grab it and shape it a bit.

Now you’ve made the space, you have to keep it. Hold the time with calendar bookings that highlight the great work you are doing. Stay strong when people inevitably try to overbook and just say “No” (or at least offer a time outside your focus space).

Choose how you spend your time, and you’ll spend more of it contributing towards your goals and achieving the successes you deserve.

Harvard Business Review Leadership

Time is precious

Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of, the only thing we cannot get more of and our most precious resource.

As such, we should all be mindful of how we spend it, how much it’s worth to everyone we interact with, and how valuable it is when someone uses their own time to help you out.

The first and most important thing we can do is understand how we use it. HBR recently published an excellent and insightful article on how top CEOs spend their time. The Leader’s Calendar is an eye opening view on many aspects of the daily lives of top execs, and certainly worth the read.

One piece that stands out is that even for these already time conscious people, the difference between how they think they spend their time and how they actually use it is stark. As true today as it was when first coined, Know Thyself is advice that resonates down the years.

Understand why you are doing something, what value it brings to your life and the lives of those around you. Ruthlessly cut out anything that isn’t great or moving you in the right direction. Do this and you’ll do more of the right things, which is the most worthy of aspirations.