Time Management for Managers

If you cannot manage yourself to be effective with the way you invest your time, you cannot expect to do a good job of managing others. Here’s a 4 quadrant framework I developed to help managers make better time management choices and achieve higher productivity in their roles.

When I start working with an executive coaching client, the first thing I do is get a baseline understanding of how this manager currently invests their time. I use an assessment tool I developed called a “Personal Effectiveness Time Tracker”, a shared Google Sheet where I get the manager to track their time every 30 minutes for 20 working days (i.e. 1 month).

I’m pretty sure the clients curse me for making them do this exercise for a month, but it consistently reveals powerful, actionable insights.

After one month, we plot all recurring activities into this 4 quadrant matrix and prioritize opportunities to enhance your effectiveness. Then we create plans to (re)structure your role to spend a greater percentage of time performing high-value, high-leverage tasks the manager must perform to be effective in the role.

Top Left Quadrant: Energizes Me + High-Value Task (for my role)

This is your zone of high leverage. This is your personal sweet spot, where you will have the greatest impact as a manager.

Think of your personal energy as being like a cellphone battery. These are the tasks that charge up your battery. In addition, these tasks are high-value activities that only someone in your manager’s role can do.

The question we ask here is: “How can we structure your calendar to increase the percentage of time you spend performing these tasks?”

Bottom Left Quadrant: Drains me + High-Value Task (for my role)

These tasks drain your battery, but they are high-value activities that only someone in your manager’s role can perform. I call it “eating your veggies”. You may not like every task you need to do as a manager, but you need to suck it up and find a way to perform these tasks well, because they come with the job. That’s why they pay you the big bucks!

The question we ask here is: “How can we make these tasks easier?”

Perhaps we need to develop your management skills or create supportive processes to ensure these tasks can be performed to a high standard. We may also need to set metrics to ensure you spend enough time doing these tasks, because you are likely to procrastinate on them.

Here’s an example from a CEO I work with. He schedules 1 on 1 Meetings with all his direct reports on the same day each week. At the end of the day, he is absolutely drained, but he knows that meeting 1 on 1 with his department heads is the most valuable use of his time each week. We work together to make these meetings more efficient and easier for the CEO to perform to a consistently high standard.

Top Right Quadrant. Energizes Me + Low-Value Task (for my role)

These are often the tasks you built your career on. Nobody does them better than you. Nobody does them faster than you. You like these tasks. You’re in your comfort zone performing these tasks.

But having a manager perform these tasks is an expensive waste of company resources (time and money).

This is where you must change your mindset. You let go of tasks that are not the manager’s role, even if you are the best at doing them. You must increase your leverage. Your job is to recruit, train, coach, and support other people to get these tasks done.

The question we ask here is: “What is your plan to train and delegate these tasks, and by when will you hand them over?”

Bottom Right Quadrant: Drains Me + Low-Value Task (for my role)

Just stop already! It’s obvious you need to offload these tasks as soon as possible. Life is too short to squander your time in this way.

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Management thought leader Peter Drucker said effective executives ask themselves, “What can I, and only I do, that will produce the greatest results?”

Your goal is to increase the percentage of time you spend on the left-hand side of this quadrant, performing high-value, high-leverage tasks that you (the manager) must perform to be effective in your role.

Some clients like to perform this time-tracking exercise on an annual basis, or whenever their role changes in a significant way.

This is just the first step in my executive coaching process, but I hope this overview inspires you to take a closer look at how you invest your time and enhance your leadership effectiveness!

Until next time…
Stephen