Sometimes it’s the simple insights that are the most powerful. This was true for me of one approach, shared by the Time Queen Robyn Pearce at a recent Managing Director peer group meeting she ran for MD2MD.
She suggested we should manage our time by looking at our activities through four key stages. You can read Robyn’s tips and thoughts on time management in more depth here. What follows is my summary and slant on her thinking; so my version of her truth!
1. Goal clarity
The first phase she suggested, like other MD2MD speakers, is the importance of goal clarity; of being clear about your goals and priorities. This applies for to you as a whole person; not just to your business world so consider your objectives in four key parts of your world:
- your home and family
- your business and career; and
- your community and the wider world
I won’t cover this tip in any more detail now as there are numerous other articles on this site and elsewhere on the subject of goal setting.
It was the linkage from this first phase to the second that was the lightbulb tip for me, although like many of the best insights it now seems obvious. There is a critical linkage between having this goal clarity and the “Important vs Urgent” time management matrix made popular by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and explained briefly here. And I feel slightly embarrassed to admit I hadn’t previously made the link. It’s simply that you can’t analyse activities as to whether they are important or simply urgent unless you have some structure to define what is important!
2. Effectiveness = Doing the right things
Phase two in Robyn’s approach is about planning and prioritising based upon those clear goals. And in addition to reminding us all of the “Important vs Urgent” matrix, she discussed the need for a proactive approach, how annual and monthly or weekly plans help, and how ending each day by identifying 3-5 key items to prioritise the next is really helpful. So phase two is all about being effective by doing the right things.
3. Efficiency = Doing things right
Having focused on doing the right things, phase three of Robyn’s approach is about doing things right. Robyn shared a range of tips and techniques gained from her thirty-five years of experience in the field that help ensure your time is used efficiently. Key ideas discussed under this heading include the following:
- “Chunking”, the idea that setting aside blocks of time to do important activities is critical in our business lives.
- Email distraction. Don’t switch on your emails until you’ve completed the one most important thing you need to do today.
- Interruptions, and the recognition that however much we might believe we are good at multitasking, there is significant evidence that productivity is higher when we focus on one key task at a time.
- Education; the need to educate those around us to avoid our productivity being damaged by them. This led to discussions around delegation, in particular to Kenneth Blanchard’s “four-box grid” which is discussed on this site here, the monkey metaphor discussed here, and coaching techniques such as those discussed here and here.
- Robyn shared numerous tips advising how we can use advanced (but not too advanced) features of today’s email systems to enable us to be more efficient and less distracted. I share my thoughts on the subject in an article here.
4. Sanity breaks
The final stage of time management thinking that Robyn shared with us was the suggestion that we all need to include in our schedule sanity breaks. Robyn suggested that regular micro-breaks throughout the day, or macro breaks when we take time out to think strategically, regain our clarity of focus on what is important, and recover from the stresses of the day.
Indeed, I believe one of the values that MD2MD delivers to its members is exactly this, providing members with a chance to get out and talk to others business leaders in confidence, with no axe to grind about their business. I think we end up helping them recover, too! Members sometimes tell me how they arrive at a meeting feeling tired and drained from facing the daily challenges of leading their business in the tough world, and leave feeling inspired, re-energised about their business and re-enthused to tackle the challenges they face. If you’re a business leader trying to work more on your business and less up to your neck in it, why not consider whether MD2MD membership can help you lead rather than just do? Click here to find out more.