Time Management Skills for Executives: Keys to Productivity

7 min read

We all have 24 hours a day. The difference is how we use them. And whether we like it or not, but the day of an executive, a managing partner, a CEO, or a business owner is filled with much more tasks than they themselves would like. The demands and complexity of leading a company are mind-blowing. An executive oversees both functional and business agendas and answers to a multitude of shareholders, customers, employees, the board, the media, the government, and the community. And because executives are not robots, they need to make room for family, friends, and other non-business interests. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s why time management skills are crucial nowadays.

“A CEO’s schedule, or any leader’s schedule, is a manifestation of how the leader leads and sends powerful messages to the rest of the organization”.

© “How CEOs Manage Time.” by  Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria

Last year the Harvard Business Review published a survey of 27 CEOs and executives of public companies (worth an average of $13.1 billion) on how they use their time. Each executive was followed by an assistant, who recorded time in 15-minute intervals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This 12-year study of executive’s time use is the most detailed and comprehensive.  It clearly shows that the way executives allocate their time, and their presence is crucial, not only to their effectiveness but to the performance of their companies.

According to results, time management is the greatest challenge for anyone in a managerial position.

Key Recommendations for Effective Time Management

Porter and Nohria recommend that they create personal agendas and make them explicit to the organization. Without that kind of planning and communication, leaders can easily get distracted and never get the most important work done.

Any corporate strategy expresses itself in the allocation of resources. The leadership strategy in kind must account for the executive’s most valuable and replenishable resource – time. Your success, along with the company’s, depends on it.

Time management of a manager involves the following steps:

  • Learn to motivate yourself and employees to perform assigned tasks. Particularly relevant to complex tasks;
  • Goal setting is crucial. The ability to set long-term and short-term goals correctly can make all the difference;
  • Planning in time frames – for a year, a month. Drawing up an action plan for each working day;
  • Setting priorities in performing tasks, mobility, and readiness to change tasks, and approaches to solving problems;
  • Working with information – it is important to learn how to find, store, and use the information necessary for solving strategic and operational tasks;
  • Fighting “time eaters” – finding time leaks, controlling the allocation of temporary resources, minimizing unreasonable actions;
  • The ability to recuperate – a good rest is a key to success!

Successful Motivation

Motivation is necessary for a person to perform any work. The lack of meaning, interest, the presence of fear leads to delaying the execution of tasks. Every time management strategy recommends starting a working day with the most complex or unpleasant task.

It is important to encourage yourself to make a call or write a letter or report, which is necessary, but there is no desire to do so. How to stimulate yourself to action?

The most important thing in work is to start acting, to take the first step. This will help the mood to work. The motivation for action is the “anchor.” Each person has his ritual time management skills – morning coffee at his desk, a cigarette before starting work, listening to inspiring music on the way, and writing a work plan in the diary.

Successful motivation in time management

The creation of anchors is very individual; it may be associated with school and student years when it was necessary to tune in to study. They cause a special emotional state, readiness for battle – activation of internal reserves, concentration of attention.

Most of the tasks can be solved in a couple of minutes; all you need to do is set the task, think over the solution options, choose the most suitable one, and implement it. If the task is voluminous, it is recommended to divide it into parts, and points and gradually perform it – from simple to complex.

Types of motivation

You can motivate yourself and the method of encouragement or punishment, as in childhood, promising yourself to buy something on the way home, if you can quickly cope with all the tasks, arrange a meeting with friends at the end of the week. Of course, the main incentive is to build a career, increase revenues, and increase status.

You need to clearly understand why you need to accomplish this task, what results you will get, do and forget, and calmly switch to other questions. Motivation and add the timing of the task, you must always limit yourself in time to stimulate action, clearly set tasks.

Setting Goals and Tasks

Time management is impossible without setting goals. Goals – looking to the future, and the desired result, they determine the cause of action, and why a person is engaged in a project.

Goals help to set benchmarks. You need to learn how to set the right goals. Different managers with the same responsibilities can set different goals, and obtain different results.

Setting goals and tasks

Each person develops his goals, conveys information to his subordinates, and the work of the organization as a whole depends on the correctness of the definition of goals. It is very important to find the time to determine the main goals leading to prosperity and success. Having a specific set of goals allows you to concentrate all your efforts on important tasks while avoiding wasting your time and energy.

Task Prioritization

The important point is that goals must be specific, and have volumetric and temporary indicators.

Manager’s Time Management Skills: Planning

After setting goals, go to planning, how to pave the way from the existing situation to the desired one? A plan is a system of time management actions that leads us to the goal, in business – making a profit, the success, and fame of an organization. Planning can be in various areas – the development of the organization, sales, and personal achievements.

Manager’s Time Management Skills: Planning

If a person has a desire for personal development, a plan has been created for professional growth, for building a career, then there is also a motivation for action. Planning is designed to help save time and use it correctly.

There are two planning criteria:

  1. Maximum (rational) encourages you to find time to perform important tasks.
  2. Minimum, on the other hand, proposes to achieve the desired results with minimal loss of time.

Planning includes preparing for the realization of the desired achievements and the correct distribution of the time frame. Each person must plan their life. Otherwise, it will go with the flow without any change for the better. The manager needs to have his own time management skills – to plan personal time, ways to achieve goals, set targets, and achievement criteria for employees.

Succession Plans

We need to learn how to make a long-term plan – from 5 years, for a year and the next month. Interestingly, the term “five-year period” was often used in Soviet times, why this period? Because five years is a convenient time for planning for the average time, shows a clear result in a comparative analysis.

Long-term Planning

With long-term plans, you can decompose tasks into smaller periods, striving for the result. Now in organizations, employees are often assigned tasks by quarters and months, which is called tactical planning. The time management skills of the manager in the minimum consideration are the planning of the working day. Naturally, the number of tasks grows in proportion to the organization, and takes a lot of time to solve all problems.

Executive Time-Tracking

Time tracking and reporting become trickier than ever when you get the executive position. Even when you are working with one team and one set of tools, creating a correct account of all completed tasks might require you to “report” to several project management tools. Even more so, when you collaborate with multiple teams and conduct meetings and calls on a daily basis. Not mentioning the need to remember every single thing you do every working hour.

Luckily there is a tool with the power of aggregating, that is here to help executives with their troubles. PPM Express Time is a unique time-tracking tool, that is able not only to help you “reverse engineer” you’re any working day with unbelievable accuracy.

The app knows, what were you doing by aggregating the data from all the tools you’ve listed in it, starting with your mailing agent. (According to the survey mentioned earlier, emailing took up about 24% of the whole working day). Then it goes through all project management apps: your Jira tasks, Planner Plans, Trello tasks, calls on Skype, and meetings in your calendar. PPM Express Time “collects” all the data from your other apps and creates entries for every one of them.

First of all, you can forget the 24-hour surveillance by your assistant, guestimations, attempts to remember what has been going on last Wednesday, etc. PPM Express Time is here to aggregate data and turn it into an easy-to-use form. You check those entries and approve, edit, delete or add to them whenever you feel like, or find it necessary. No more manual data input for you.

Time reports became easier to create and manage. And they become more accurate. I bet the researchers from Harvard Business Review, who conducted the survey wish they had this tool at the time.

Executive Time-Management Checklist

To simplify the solution to current issues, the following recommendations are proposed:

  • Plan tasks for the day – ten minutes will help save two hours of work, speed up the process of work, and help you decide on important issues.
  • You should plan 60% of your time, and leave the remaining 40% to deal with current and unforeseen questions.
  • Identify the main interference in the work, write down what you did during the day, what distracted you from work, and how to reduce these points.
  • It is useful to break down tasks into “blocks” or “sub-tasks.”
  • Try to avoid “idle moves,” it is better to talk once with an employee, discuss all the important issues, set the time, let them prepare all the questions, and bring the documentation.
  • Urgent issues can be resolved over the phone.
  • Learn to delegate tasks. Carefully look at the list, of what work you can do only that you can assign to other employees. Decision-makers should solve the most important question without wasting time on routine tasks, like reports and letters.
  • Start the day with the most difficult and important issue that does not cause joy. Having completed such a task, you feel relief and pride; you did it, and you can continue the work with a sense of ease.
  • Plan your day regularly, and set real-time tasks for yourself.
  • Respond quickly to changes during the day. It is possible to rearrange some items n your raster, even if the action was prearranged and agreed upon. Check the plan during the day, and make adjustments and notes.
  • The work plan should be specific and contain the result, not just a brief description, like “call Mr. X,” but “arrange a meeting with Mr. Ch on the conclusion of a cooperation agreement.”
  • Put down the time frame for every task. Especially meetings. For example, “Marketing Team Meeting: 40 min.” There’s no need to “stretch out” the timeframe for small tasks.
  • Decide on the procedure for doing things.
  • Try to do everything calmly and confidently, without haste. This is the only way to perform tasks perfectly, without errors.
  • Find alternative solutions to create contingencies and backup solutions.

Save your time by using technology. Automate repetitive and routine processes that are related to your time management purposes and skills.

Time Management Skills for Executives: Keys to Productivity
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