Effective use of time is a vital tool for business success. A business leader’s ability to use her time to delegate and motivate will grow an innovative and productive organization. A salesman’s ability to heighten a sense of time scarcity in his customers will close sales. A passive, reactive style of time management will lead to disappointment and unsatisfying results. I have found three necessary foundations for effective time management: clarity of intention, focus on effectiveness, and desire to innovate and improve.
Clarity of Intention: Having clear goals is an obvious requirement for managing time. Clear intentions require both an understanding of all the results you want to achieve and how you need to contribute to the result. The best goals are directed at what is going on in the present. For example, revenue and profit measure what’s been going on over the last few months. Winning five new customers in a specific market segment or achieving a 50% gross margin on a bid focuses a business on what is happening right now. The other question is what are your effective behaviors? Managers organize and clarify, salespeople empathize and persuade, and production workers need to be precise and consistent. The suggestion is to identify the activities that will boost your personal productivity. I would caution that another requirement for personal productivity is having clear goals for your life outside of work. A lack of life balance will disrupt your time management.
Focus on Effectiveness: Clear focus is engaging in the activities that are important to achieving the result and reducing the unimportant. The focus needs to be broad enough that it addresses both the activities and the relationships necessary for success. While the purpose of a business is to satisfy customers, focus needs to be on delivering products and services that are pleasing to your customer; and not just pleasing your customers. Whether it is a relationship with customers, a boss, or a personal relationship, once you surrender your focus, your effectiveness is lost. The amount of courage required for maintaining confidence in your mission and integrity in your relationships should never be underestimated.
Desire for Improvement: Measurement is the basis for all improvement. Effective measurement includes metrics for all the important activities that lead to a result; rather than just measuring the end goal. A willingness to keep an open mind and experiment with new approaches and tools is vital. In the Internet age, we are bombarded with new ideas and information. The trick is to pay close enough attention that you can identify the ideas that may be of use to you. A mentor early in my career advised that managers should always take phone calls. (This was back when businesses depended on the telephone.) His argument was that one call in twenty will guide you to a really great idea. Stay vigilant and keep changing it up.
I enjoy helping organizations tune their productivity. Please post your own suggestions or any questions on how to make time management work.