There’s one thing every manager worth their salt will attest to: time is your most valuable commodity.
According to a LinkedIn survey, time management is included as one of the top five skills companies say they need most in 2019. However, perfecting the art of this skill – particularly in the digital era (where we are more accessible, and more likely to be distracted) can be tricky.
In that vein, we decided to round up five expert tips from CEOs and leaders who are at the top of the game:
1. Learn to say no
To quote the late and much-admired Steve Jobs, the wizard behind the success of Apple Inc., “innovation is saying no to 1000 things.”
Having an inbox inundated with seemingly great proposals, invitations to endless networking events, and a phone that rings off the hook, are all part of being a successful manager or business leader.
However, to keep your workflow (and your sanity) in check, it’s important to know the value of being able to say ‘no’. That is, to decline things which may not necessarily progress your career or align with your vision. This means, learning (on occasion) to disappoint those who might want your time.
2. Work face-to-face
World-renowned business management theorist and founder of strategy consulting firm, Michael E. Porter, conducted a study at Harvard University which picked the minds of 27 successful CEOs. Through his research, he identified several critical points in their workflow that drained a lot of their time.
His remedy? Learn to avoid the lure of the email and learn to work face-to-face.
By setting up meetings (instead of relying on phone or email), Porter’s study revealed that CEOs had an easier time keeping on top of things, understanding their company’s processes, and were able to delegate with ease. Plus, the work got done.
3. Become friends with your calendar
Calendars are at the matrix of every successful enterprise – be it creative or other.
“Calendar management is the single most important thing, especially as you get busy and have more responsibilities”, said Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management, to CNBC.
“You have to be manically focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues?”
4. Go through the (Eisenhower) Matrix
Understandably, being a pre and post-conflict leader, comes with a demanding schedule. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower certainly knows a thing or two about managing time effectively. He was once quoted saying; “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Eisenhower created a matrix to assist in decision-making processes, paving the way for fine-tuned time management skills. The matrix, with four simple quadrants, is essentially a prioritisation framework. It asks you to evaluate your set tasks by two factors; how important your task is, and how urgent it may be. Depending on where the task sits on the matrix scale determines what action you could take – providing you with plenty of time to tackle the high priority list.
Being a successful leader or manager means remaining ‘on’ for most, if not all, of your time. However, this doesn’t mean that every task, big or small, is up to you.
The solution, according to Virgin CEO Richard Branson, is to stay focused on the tasks that only you can address while delegating the rest. That is, call on your assistant to answer several emails on your behalf or hire someone to meander through the mountain of bureaucracy that needs your attention.
The key to proper delegation is hiring people you trust and letting go. As long as you have trust in those you work with, you will feel less inclined to microtask.
Studying an MBA can help to develop critical thinking and resourcefulness that lends itself to the development of time management skills. You can find out more about studying an MBA here.