Take Back Control of Your Time

How do you spend your time?

This question is painfully simple, yet it plays a major role in the execution of your firm’s vision and priorities. Sadly, many leaders cannot accurately answer it. You may be surprised to find a sizable disconnect between your top priorities and how you actually spend your time.

People take their cues from the leader when it comes to time management. How time is allocated must match both your business priorities and your team’s actual day-to-day activities.  If they don’t match, have a look at your goals and priorities (you DO have goals and priorities, right?).  I’ve found that in most cases, time management issues are merely symptoms of underlying goal and priority issues.

Although time allocations may vary depending on time of year, staffing changes and external factors, time management must become a conscious decision that fits your vision and priorities. In fact, a periodic review of how you invest your time is a vital business habit.

Give yourself the gift of time for the new decade: track your time for 3-5 days.  Have your management team do it too, then review the results together.  Once you see the reality of how your spend your day, you can more realistically and honestly evaluate what needs to change to bring your time allocations back into alignment with your goals and priorities.  Like a fleet small boats bobbing in the ocean – they are bound to drift over time.

Back in the 1920’s, a PR man named Ivy Lee was hired by Charles Schwab – the President of Bethlehem Steel.  Lee gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He told Schwab “I can increase your efficiency. Pay me in 3 months whatever you think it’s worth.”

Lee met with Schwab and with each member of the executive team individually for exactly 10 minutes.  In the meeting he told them “Promise me that for the next 90 days, at the end of each day you’ll list the 6 most important priorities you need to accomplish the next day, and number them according to importance.  Then when you come to work the next day, work on them sequentially until they are all completed. Any leftover items get transferred to the next day’s list.”

They all said: “That’s it?”  And then they all agreed to Lee’s rules.

Schwab wrote Ivy Lee a $25,000 check 90 days later and said “This is the best investment I’ve ever made.”  Remember that this was in the 1920’s!

Whether you realize it or not, all your staff’s eyes are trained on you – looking for cues and norms to help them define how they should behave.  If you need THEM to make better choices around how they spend THEIR time, start by setting an example for them to model and follow.

Track your time, analyze the results, and make changes to your allocations. You might also consider taking Ivy Lee’s $25,000 advice to Charles Schwab – often it’s the simplest things that can make the biggest differences.

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