I am not going to bore you by telling you why time management is important and all that. I suspect enough books have been written on this topic. (I always have wondered though how people focused on effective time management are supposed to read up all those books on effective time management J ). Instead, let me tell you a couple of observations on some of the executives that I have learnt from.
First – and this might surprise you – what to spend time on differs vastly from executive to executive (and I have filtered the ones that I consider are very successful). Some spend lot more time on understanding the details – some prefer to drive the strategy. Some spend more time with their directs, some spend less. Some consider spending time with employees after work improper time of their work and some make it a point to do so. Regardless of the usual story of “balance” and “do both” and all that, my observation is that the successful executives – knowingly or unknowingly choose what they want to spend time on. And usually this differs from one executive to another.
Second – and this will not surprise you – they are very disciplined about managing their time with the choices that they have made above. It is very easy to fill up one’s calendar – especially as you go up the hierarchy. There is always some crisis, there is always an important customer, there is always an important presentation and so on and so forth. The ones that I admire most have struck me with their ability to say “No” and question why they are getting involved in things that they should not. That is undoubtedly a common thread between successful executives.
Third – and this is more empirical evidence than I have taken the time to observe in detail – it seems that some amount of ability to compartmentalize your time and thoughts is important to be able to succeed. Some of the best ones had an uncanny knack of being able to switch gears yet grasp the “linking points” when they existed.
Finally – there is no correlation as I have seen between success and how much time some of the best executives spend on work. There are the ones who are absolutely obsessed with spending as much time as they can on work related items and there are the ones who draw boundaries and stick to them. While it is very difficult to compare two executives since they tend to differ so much from one another, I can definitely make the following observation thinking thru all the great executives I got close to – customers, partners and employers: In the longer term, the differences they made to their companies was very little to do with how much time was spent but a lot more to do with what they did with their time.
I am sure you will have something to share with me on this…