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This is a fourth in a series of conversations on personal productivity between Bob Pozen, chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management and senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, and Justin Fox, editorial director of the Harvard Business Review Group.
Of the time executives in the satisfied group spend interacting with others (externally and internally), 40 percent involves face-to-face meetings, 25 percent video- or teleconferences, and around 10 percent some other form of real-time communication. While many large companies create a master calendar for key meetings involving members of the senior team, few take the next step and use that calendar as a tool to root out corporate time wasting. In our experience, companies can make even more progress by identifying which meetings are for information only (reporting), for cross-unit collaboration (problem solving and coordination at the interfaces), for managing performance (course-correcting actions must be adopted at such meetings, or they are really just for reporting), or for making decisions (meetings where everything is approved 99 percent of the time don’t count, since they too are really for reporting). The not-so-good performers are often highly fragmented, spending time on the wrong things in the wrong places while ignoring tasks core to their strategic objectives. Cheerleaders spend less time than other executives with a company’s external stakeholders. Augmenting that structural frame of reference with the time required to achieve goals is critical to the long-term success of any organizational change. Of those who deemed themselves effective time managers, 85 percent reported that they received strong support in scheduling and allocating time. Leaders can pay more attention to time when they address organizational-design matters such as spans of control, roles, and decision rights.
The communication channels they most favor are e-mail, other forms of asynchronous messaging, and the telephone—all useful tools, but often inadequate substitutes for real conversations. For schmoozers, more than 80 percent of interaction time takes place face to face or on the phone. The starting point is to get clear on organizational priorities—and to approach the challenge of aligning them with the way executives spend their time as a systemic organizational problem, not merely a personal one. Approving this, managing that, signing off on time sheets, on sick leave, and on budget items in excruciating detail. Get formal education teaches as an adjunct communications instructor at Loyola been covered in media outlets, or is an author of books.
No matter how early you get to the office each day or how long you stay, the reality is that if you don’t methodically plan for your priorities and regularly pivot away from the best laid plans to tackle emerging challenges, you will quickly find yourself boxed into a routine that may inhibit business and personal growth.
Making careful judgments about how and where you’ll spend your time, and with whom, on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis will help keep you agile and provide a sense of confidence that you have what it takes to make the most of every day and every new opportunity that comes your way. After my oldest is on the bus, my little guy and I do errands and I am back home at 1pm to work for two hours.
Create deadlines that are unambiguous, with time-sensitive tasks to be accomplished along the way and hold those responsible accountable. Too often women executives insulate themselves from the people most valuable to the company bottom line; the workforce.
At one leading professional-services firm, a recent analysis revealed that the senior partners were spending a disproportionate amount of time on current engagements, to the exclusion of equally important strategic priorities, such as external networking, internal coaching, and building expertise. The time pressures on senior leaders are intensifying, and the vast majority of them are frustrated by the difficulty of responding effectively.
General managers accounted for the largest number of people in this category, which is characterized by the amount of time those in it spend alone in their offices, micromanaging and responding to supposed emergencies via e-mail and telephone (40 percent, as opposed to 13 percent for the schmoozers). Time Log: Perfect for anyone who needs to track their time especially when managing a few different clients. After about a year and a half working part time out of the home to help our family get through a rough patch, I was able to start staying at home again.
Communicate through the message board on the wiki or project management system instead of in person and at meetings. One way that employers may measure your time management skills at interview is via an in-tray exercise. On average, executives in the satisfied group spend 34 percent of their time interacting with external stakeholders (including boards, customers, and investors), 39 percent in internal meetings (evenly split between one on ones with direct reports, leadership-team gatherings, and other meetings with employees), and 24 percent working alone.4 4. The same challenge confronts cheerleaders, who spend less than 10 percent of their time focused on long-term strategy.
Stayed up way too late getting Cozi up and running for my family…it is just what I needed! Extreme as this case may seem, the perennial time-scarcity problem that underlies it has become more acute in recent years.
It is fine during meetings and on the project management system to question each other about the why, what, who, and by when - but only when it is done with respect and for the purpose of bringing out the best in everyone. Nine out of ten times, we find, the top two drivers are e-mails that appear in the inbox and meeting invites, albeit sometimes in reverse order.


The survey results, while disquieting, are arguably a natural consequence of the fact that few organizations treat executive time as the finite and measurable resource it is. Nearly half admitted that they were not concentrating sufficiently on guiding the strategic direction of the business.
Know those millions of permutations and interactions and coincidences and synchronicities doubts.
Leadership time, by contrast, too often gets treated as though it were limitless, with all good opportunities receiving high priority regardless of the leadership capacity to drive them forward. Establishing a time budget for priority initiatives might sound radical, but it’s the best way to move toward the goal of treating leadership capacity as companies treat financial capital and to stop financing new initiatives when the human capital runs out.
None of these, interestingly, is the sort of transactional and administrative activity their dissatisfied counterparts cited as a major time sink. At one industrial company, a frontline supervisor spent almost all his time firefighting and doing unproductive administrative work, though his real value was managing, coaching, and developing people on the shop floor. While executives cannot easily combat the external forces at work, they can treat time as a precious and increasingly scarce resource and tackle the institutional barriers to managing it well.
Say that a company has $2 billion of good capital-investment opportunities, all with positive net present value and reasonably quick payback, but just $1 billion of capital readily available for investment.
But the responses of the relatively small group of satisfied executives in our survey (fewer than one in ten) provide some useful clues to what works. Initial proposals must include time commitments required from the leadership and an explicit demonstration that each leader has the required capacity. These last two data points suggest that time challenges are influencing the well-being of companies, not just individuals. It is for these reasons that effective time management has risen dramatically on the needs list for anyone charged with running a global enterprise. Take stock of who and what are competing for your time and attention on a regular basis, and whether you can steer others away from your desk either through delegating or giving them the confidence to make some decisions on their own. For me, what works is training myself to work during my productive times, and sometimes, hiring help for the house.
Create a method of communication that is clear, that is to the point, and that can be accomplished without a meeting such as a Wiki or project management system. Ask for help keeping meetings on track by agreeing to stick to a written and focused agenda before each meeting.
As a woman executive, when you implement these kinds of time management strategies, you create an environment where everyone can be at their productive bests.
These individuals seem to be doing valuable things: schmoozers spend most of their time meeting face to face with important (often external) stakeholders, while cheerleaders spend over 20 percent of theirs (more than any other dissatisfied group) interacting with, encouraging, and motivating employees. One large health system we know has established a formal governance committee, with a remit to oversee the time budget, for enterprise-wide initiatives. I also found that closing Facebook, Twitter and email are huge helps and love the timer idea!
Rewarding time well spent is more important than punishing people who are late or underperform.
Organizationally, that might mean reviewing calendars and meeting schedules to make an honest assessment of which meetings support strategic goals, as opposed to update meetings slotted into the agenda out of habit or in deference to corporate tradition. This is a terrific post, even (or maybe especially) for those of us who aren’t managing kids along with the home-based career. Another unintended consequence of our cavalier attitude toward this supposedly infinite resource is a lack of organizational time-management guidance for individual managers. Our research and experience suggest that leaders who are serious about addressing this challenge must stop thinking about time management as primarily an individual problem and start addressing it institutionally.
Vonetta interviewed me for her upcoming eBook for aspiring entrepreneurs, and asked if I could share my story.
When we arrived early one morning for a leadership meeting with the director of operations at a large manufacturing company, we found her staring in frustration at her laptop. That said, just as the principles of a good diet plan are suitable for all unhealthy eaters but the application of those principles may vary, depending on individual vices (desserts for some, between-meal snacks for others), so too these remedies will play out differently, depending on which time problems are most prevalent in a given organization. Executives at the highest-performing organizations we’ve seen typically spend at least 50 percent of their time in decision meetings and less than 10 percent in reporting or information meetings. To stop wasting a finite resource, companies should tackle time problems systematically rather than leave them to individuals.
Today individual partners have a data-backed baseline as a starting point to measure how well their time allocation meets their individual strategic objectives. Put the agenda on the project management system or Wiki for each member of the team to add to before the meeting. Such executives also complained about focusing largely on short-term issues and near-term operational decisions and having little time to set strategy and organizational direction.


The inclusion in performance reviews of explicit, time-related metrics or targets, such as time spent with frontline employees (for a plant manager) or networking (for senior partners at a professional-services firm), is a powerful means of changing behavior. Our survey suggests that a laissez-faire approach to time management is a challenge for all four types of dissatisfied executives, but particularly for the schmoozers (CEOs are well represented) and cheerleaders (often C-suite executives one level down).
The online junkies spend the least time motivating employees or being with their direct reports, either one on one or in a group; face-to-face encounters take up less than 20 percent of their working day. The myth of infinite time is most painfully experienced through the proliferation of big strategic initiatives and special projects common to so many modern organizations. So is friendly competition among team members and verbal recognition of people who spend their time wisely. Obviously, you can't have an open-door policy for everyone all the time, but you can do three things: create operational procedures that allow the workforce an opportunity to air complaints, contribute to the bottom line, and feel you care about them. But most companies allocate their leadership time in exactly the reverse order, often without knowing it: the way people spend their time can be taken for granted, like furniture that nobody notices anymore. They also represent powerful levers for executives faced with talent shortages, particularly if companies find their most skilled people so overloaded that they lack the capacity to lead crucial new programs. To create time and space for critical priorities, business leaders must first of all be clear about what they and their teams will stop doing.
In some cases (such as jobs involving highly complicated international tax work in finance organizations), a leader has the bandwidth for only two or three direct reports.
The satisfied executives identified four key activities that take up (in roughly equal proportions) two-thirds of their time: making key business or operational decisions, managing and motivating people, setting direction and strategy, and managing external stakeholders. Respondents represent all regions, industries, company sizes, forms of ownership, and functional specialties. Slover's leadership expertise stems from 18 years directing a state youth services program, experience organizing 20 state and national conferences, and running her own consulting firm for over six years. Companies can ensure that individual leaders have the tools and incentives to manage their time effectively. There are exceptions, though: one global manufacturer, for example, avoids the duplication of travel time by always arranging key visits with foreign customers to coincide with quarterly business meetings held overseas. The online survey was in the field from November 8 to November 18, 2011, and garnered responses from 1,374 executives at the level of general manager or above. It forgot that different types of managerial work require varying amounts of time to oversee, manage, and apprentice people.
When a critical strategic initiative at a major multinational stalled recently, company leaders targeted a talented, up-and-coming executive to take over the project.
To adjust for differences in response rates, the data are weighted by the contribution of each respondent’s nation to global GDP. They say they have difficulty connecting with a broad cross-section of the workforce or spending enough time thinking and strategizing. Yet delayering can be a time saver because it strips out redundant managerial roles that add complexity and unnecessary tasks.
Many dissatisfied executives, particularly firefighters and online junkies, struggle to devote time and energy to the personal conversations and team interactions that drive successful initiatives. Since then, Pozen has developed some pretty clear ideas about how top executives should do their jobs.
More often than not, people will get caught up with the nice to have activity rather than the critical work which creates more value for the business. Executives are usually surprised to see the output from time-analysis exercises, for it generally reveals how little of their activity is aligned with the company’s stated priorities. I always try to set aside time in my day {morning, mid-day and after dinner} to turn everything off and just be with the boys. Once leaders start tracking the hours, even informally, they often find that they devote a shockingly low percentage of their overall time to these priorities. She offers a range of services from web and graphics design to mentorship for women women entrepreneurs internet marketing, sales, blogging and more.
Every time there is one of these efforts to cut costs in a function, work that had previously been done by a small group of clerks and administrators gets pushed out to executives and managers to do themselves, reducing the clerical department by five or six FTEs.1 1.
So place your emphasis on the behavior you desire rather than spend time dealing with behaviors you don't help your company bottom line.
Sometimes, creating a ritual or routine that helps you focus for the day ahead can give you the boost you need. After all, if everyone needs a meeting to make a decision, or requires your approval even for the small stuff, you may need to do a re-set of expectations with your team.



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