How well are you managing a precious personal resource—your time?
As the saying goes, we all have the same amount of time each day. How we use our time says volumes about us and the lives we lead.
From that perspective, time management is really “me” management, especially considering the different results we produce over time.
Several years ago, two Harvard professors, Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria, wondered how CEOs of big complex global organizations allocated their time.
The extensive results of the professors’ research study How CEOs Manage Their Time is the lead article in July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review.
More than two dozen CEOs—and their executive assistants–of big complex organizations have agreed to participate. This involved tracking time in 15 minute increments 24/7 for 13 weeks at a stretch.
The learnings of how CEOs allocate their time at work, at home (awake as well as asleep), with friends and family, and everything else they do—including the wide variations by individuals–provide insights to the rest of us.
For example, these three recommendations from Porter and Nohria for CEOs are also valuable for other leaders and anyone else who wants to use their time more effectively and compassionately.
1.View your time as a strategic asset and manage it carefully. Take care to set your agenda in a matrix fashion. In other words, be sure to allocate time for your identified immediate and longer-term priorities as well as schedule time for development areas that you also want to focus on. Additionally, preserve blocks of time to think, and keep some time open during normal business hours. The latter will help you be spontaneous as well as deal with unpredictable items without feeling pressured and overscheduled.
According to Porter and Nohria, “it’s vital for CEOs to block off meaningful amounts of uninterrupted time alone, to give themselves space to think, reflect, and prepare.” This means chunks of two or three hours or more, not the more common amount of an hour or less. When your time is fragmented into short pieces, you can’t think big thoughts effectively; you just do. And these days, “doing” often means plugging into digital devices to read and respond to emails and social media updates.
And last but not least, be sure to schedule and protect time that’s valuable for you. This can include time for regular exercise, family outings, vacation, and other downtime to recharge
2. Review at least once a quarter how well you managed your time over the past three months. According to the professors, this review can help two ways. First, you’ll be able to determine how well your schedule matched up with your personal agenda, including the extent to which you lived up to your priorities and worked toward fulfilling your goals. Second, you can use what you’ve learned to adjust and update your schedule and agenda for the next three months.
By managing your calendar both retroactively and prospectively, you’ll get more visibility into how you’re managing your time—and yourself. And if needed, you can get better control of your work and personal agenda.
3. Make more time for face-to-face communications and reduce time on electronic communication to be more genuine, approachable and authentic. Regardless of your priorities and your goals, build in more time to communicate in person with people—co-workers, family and friends. Being present makes you human and authentic. As one CEO observed, “And even in an age when e-mail is prevalent, you must be disciplined about communicating face-to-face in a way that lets people see you as genuine and approachable.”
Face-to-face is the preferred mode of communication for the CEOs in the study – by far. On average, CEOs use face-to-face interactions 61% of the time. (The variance by CEO was very low, just .14) The next highest communication mode was 24% for electronic communications. The remaining 15% was talking on the phone, replying to written communication and reading.)
Considering that many of these CEOs are running complex global organizations, these leaders have an additional challenge being face-to-face with employees, customers and other constituencies around the world. CEOs travel extensively, and they should be using video conferencing and videos to reach out and touch more people.
How are you doing at “me management”? And are you willing to join me in making a commitment to have more face-to-face communication?