Learning Curve: Time management

How managers organise their day is crucial to their success or failure. What is the secret to succesful time management?

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

What is it?

In a resource-constrained world, time is one commodity that cannot be artificially created or replicated. So how managers organise their day is crucial to their success or failure. It was Henry Minztberg who pointed out four decades ago that a manager's day is in fact a constant series of interruptions - and this was before BlackBerrys, email and other triumphs of new technology. Efficiency and effectiveness: it's about time. Manage your time well and all you have to worry about is the business cycle, customers, colleagues and the competition.

Where did it come from?

Early civilisations worked with the light and the seasons. This was partly what Ecclesiastes was talking about in his famous 'And there will be time' ruminations in the Old Testament - 'a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them', and so on. With the growth of industrialisation, the concept of 'clocking on' developed, often for a long working day in a factory or down a mineshaft. Commuting from suburbs led to the slightly more civilised concept of the nine-to-five job. But now new technology has created the possibility of the always-on employee.

Where is it going?

Time for a change. September always has that back-to-school feeling, so now is the right moment to question your use of time. Is that journey really necessary? Should this boring meeting be taking place? What proportion of your activity actually does something useful for customers, and how much merely serves the internal bureaucracy? The late Stephen Covey's timeless (sorry) two-by-two matrix, which separates the urgent from the important, not urgent and not important, remains a winner. Grasp that, as they say, and you grasp everything. And remember to switch off the gadgets when you need to think straight.

Gradient: A steep and slippery path.

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