Tag Archives: Time Management


“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”  – Thomas Edison

There are many skills a quality leader should have — good communication skills being one of the most important — but perhaps the second most important skill that can help elevate the workplace is time management.

Why Time Management is Such an Important Skill for Leaders in Business

Time management is about learning how to use time wisely and manage your employees effectively. When you push too fast too hard to get things done, it leads to burnout, which is the antithesis of productivity. Once you or anyone on your team starts experiencing burnout, it can be challenging to turn things back in a more positive direction.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people in the workplace to end up pushing themselves harder when they start experiencing burnout for fear that they aren’t doing a good enough job. This, however, can make things worse and lead to long-term burnout, which can result in severe mental and physical fatigue, a loss of motivation, a weakened immune system, and frequent mood swings.

This is why time management is so crucial a skill to have as a leader — because it helps protect mental bandwidth, which is another word for your executive functioning and cognitive capacity or the ability to exert mental effort. When you’re burnt out because your time is not well managed, it can have a significant impact on your mental bandwidth.

When a leader has mastered time management, however, they lead their team to make smarter decisions, which fosters efficiency and productivity. When your cognitive functioning is working at full capacity, it enables you to better plan out your day so that the right tasks get done at the right time. This is effective time management — not working faster, but working smarter by making smarter decisions.

Tips on How to Master the Art of Time Management

There’s no single right way to develop solid time management skills. It’s a combination of efforts and mindful behaviors that can teach you how to better manage your time and your team.

Set Personal and Professional Goals

Your personal and professional goals can impact your time management ability. For example, if you aren’t enjoying personal time, not getting enough sleep, or not making time for activities or hobbies you love, this can impact how you feel at work.

Part of learning to better manage your time and mental bandwidth is setting both personal and professional goals for growth, such as learning a new software or tool, getting better sleep, and learning to set better boundaries so you have more time for personal activities.

Automate Processes When Possible

One great way to find more time in your day is to go through all the repetitive and redundant tasks you or your team perform every day and see if those tasks can be automated. It might seem like a minor adjustment, but over time, when you don’t have to worry about doing small things, you reserve more of your mental capacity for bigger things that matter.

Delegate Wisely

Learning to delegate tasks to the right people is a key time management skill. If you don’t have enough people to delegate to, it’s potentially a sign that you need to grow your team and hire more people. Additionally, if any staff members are interested in growing into a management position, start delegating certain leadership tasks to them a little at a time to mentor them and help them grow.

Make a To-Do List of Top Priorities Every Morning

Even if you think you remember everything that needs to get done, get in the habit of sitting down each morning and writing everything down. Doing so can be a huge mental relief and help you create a better plan for your day or week. Highlight the top priorities so you know which things need to get done first to avoid wasting time on less important tasks.

Avoid Over-Commitment

Deadlines are important, but be mindful that you are setting and agreeing to realistic deadlines. Pleasing your customers is essential, but not if it means over-committing and burning out yourself and your team. The quality of the work you and your team do will be much better if you allow for the appropriate amount of time to get things done.

Allow for Flexibility

Your list of top priorities should act more as a guide for your day rather than a hard rule set in stone. You will undoubtedly have days where timelines shift and new things pop up that take precedence, and your ability to be flexible can make your day much easier when this happens. It is not the end of the world if something changes and throws a wrench in your plans. Simply go back to your list and move things around.

Allowing for flexibility also means allowing for breaks and space to decompress. This is critical for you and your employees if you want to manage stress in a high-volume work environment. Your days and weeks must allow time for self-care, both at work and at home. If you can tell your team is being pushed too hard, make them take a break. Go outside for a little walk, do some stretching, refuel with a snack — something to just allow the mind to get a little reprieve to avoid mental bandwidth being over-expanded.

Effective Time Management

To remind yourself and your team every day how to be most efficient with time, consider making a list of the “golden” rules of time management and keeping it posted where you can be reminded each day. This might seem silly at first, but writing things down and keeping them where you can easily see them is one of the best ways to remember something often enough that it becomes a habit. At the end of the day, healthier and smarter work habits and behaviors are key to effective time management.

*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.

Need more horsepower for your change management project

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In my previous post, I explained how building strong client relationships makes the project process easier and increases overall success. As a company, we pride ourselves on our ability to integrate into our clients’ organizations, find the right solution, and leave them with the capability to continue improving after our project is complete. Part of this comes from our client-centric mentality and constant efforts to be a positive force for our clients. This can at times be difficult for both sides, as it involves a change process that many people are naturally uncomfortable with. The discomfort occurs especially when employees are perfectly content with their positions within the organization. It also involves a large amount of patience from our team. We must explain the process, allow it to sink in, and continue to reinforce all of the main points. Often times a client may develop their own view of the intent of a Management Operating System (MOS) and it is important for our team to remain calm, stay focused, and continue to work with the client to repeatedly direct their attention towards the valuable output of an MOS.

Listening and Understanding

Our first task at every project is understanding our client’s issues, perceived limitations, and goals. We strive to learn their working style, culture, and comfort level. It is during this initial stage of the relationship that we can quickly lay the foundation for success or failure. The quicker we are able to learn our client’s likes and dislikes about their job, the more time we have to build upon that later. This can sometimes be a balancing act between providing impact at a focused level or at an organization level. We recently ran into an example of this at a logistics site office. A site director could not understand why the specific changes he requested were not being completed immediately and were not on the top of the priority list. When dealing with such a decentralized organization, communication and coordination of changes in the management system must be consolidated. This process can sometimes take more time and energy than the client is initially prepared for. The communication of this at the beginning of the engagement is very important so that the client can be prepared for the project as well.

Uncovering Opportunities Together

After we understand the issues, we move forward in discovering the solution, keeping in mind all that we have learned about our clients so far. Their acceptance is important, so we make sure we adequately explain what we plan to do and how we plan to do it. This can be difficult as it requires a certain degree of finesse. It is important that our clients design the answer and we simply facilitate. It is not a game of who is smarter, but rather a training process to view issues as opportunities. We believe that permanent change must always come from within. We will often work through the brainstorming process several times on our own before working through it with a client. This is especially important for the problems that the client feels cannot be solved. One of the first steps we took at a recent project was to train the office staff on identifying issues within the process they were using. This may seem like a straight forward task however, it can be extremely difficult when a “work around” or broken process is part of your day-to-day routine. We worked one-on-one with the office staff to help them review their individual processes by having them decide if each activity is value added or non-value added. We also asked them if they thought there might be a better method of doing each specific activity. Once they began to make this distinction, true exception time (office non-value added time) can be measured and quantified. You can really surprise a client when you help them solve a problem that they truly believed was just the “nature of the business”. One of my first posts described in detail the Root Cause Analysis process; this same process can be applied to any issue or problem, and with the right expertise in the room, will often uncover some interesting solutions to the main issue. While working through this process one client remarked that, “We would never be able to get rid of this problem. It would always occur as it is part of our business.” He was entirely accurate in his statement. However, what if 60% of the issue could be reduced? The business essential 40% would remain, but the capacity from a 60% reduction in major office issues would open up, leaving plenty of room for growth.

Making the Real Change

The implementation of our proposed solutions can be the most challenging phase of a project in regards to our client relationship. Often, this is where other firms will stop and leave the most difficult portion of the change process up to the client. This is the most powerful stage in the process, as it can merit our client’s infinite trust or make us seem like we’re “all talk”. When we actually start changing the way things are done, we are met with more questions and contentions. An immediate overnight change is very unlikely, as real change is a process that takes energy and problem solving. Our clients realize that we have not just shown up with the answer, we’ve begun to provide them with the tools to expose the answer. It is common to experience a significant amount of push-back from direct managers. This is in large part due to the proximity they have with their employees and their day-to-day understanding of their own KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). At a recent project, one of the managers was questioning the difference between having the numbers on paper coming directly from day-to-day operations and having them in his head from speaking with his people throughout the day. A comment was made that he knew the business and the reports would only confirm what he already knew. There are several issues with having all of this information in one person’s head. Firstly, if he was sick or on vacation there would need to be a suitable replacement that could decipher the same information. In addition, on a day-to-day detailed basis, management may have a good general sense of the state of the business; however, they typically can’t speak to a weekly trend, monthly trend, or correlations between various KPIs. We need to think about the future. What will the requirements be when the business grows? What happens when there is a shift in management reporting structure? What is the true cost of doing business? If all of these questions can be answered accurately, the management team will be ready for growth. If not, they may be able to maintain and sustain, but will have a large degree of difficulty when it comes to change and growth.

Training for Sustainability

After the changes are implemented, we invest time in training the client team to sustain and continue improving their processes. By transferring the ownership over these improvements to their people, we ensure our solutions last. We know as soon as we get to this phase whether or not our client truly understands that value of what we have put in place at their organization. If they understand this, they will gladly take over any and all responsibilities as they will be receiving 100% credit for positive change and have been given to tools to drive it. This is an excellent final gauge to understand if your implementation was initially successful. If you sense hesitation on the client’s part at this point in time, you must quickly identify the frustration source and review the intent with the client. At this point in the process, the client should be seeing the value and wanting more. With each significant change they are getting closer and closer to perfect.

At the End

Our projects are only complete when we are confident that our client is able to sustain the changes we have implemented. By understanding their issues, working with their people, and providing adequate support and training, we know we are leaving our clients in a better place with the tools necessary to succeed. We leave behind a management team prepared to take on the challenges of the business equipped with the tools to do so. This is our commitment to each and every client.

If you give a mouse a cookie…

I‘m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase above, and some of you probably remember this book from grammar school. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, open a new tab, Google it, then come back.

If You Give a Mouse a CookieNow that we are all on the same page, I can tell you why you should avoid the mouse (and friends) type of people in your workplace. There is nothing wrong with being a team player and helping out your co-workers when they ask. Personally, I enjoy the random requests from my co-workers and rise to the challenge when they ask for the impossible. Most often, they’ll show appreciation for my assistance and help me when I need a hand. Sometimes people are not as appreciative, and have come to expect assistance. I know these kinds of people are in every workplace, I’m sure a few of your own co-workers just came to mind. They take advantage of your generosity and habitually come to you when they need something. By being the kind person that you are, you usually surrender to their needs and then later realize you might have been tricked into doing their work for them. You’ve become the unsuspecting victim, who has not only given them a cookie, but given them the run of your home and your time.

This kind of working relationship is not helpful to either of you in the long run. You probably have your own tasks to complete and don’t want to fall behind. They clearly want to make their lives easier and can do so by delegating to you under the guise of “I just need a little help”. Once this cycle has begun, it’s hard to cut them off.

Who’s really hungry?

Before you start denying all requests for help, you should identify the repeat offenders versus the occasional askers. Knowing who is actually taking advantage and who just genuinely needs help is important, but you also need to consider the level/position of the individuals prior to locking up the pantry. Typically, requests from your superiors are not considered favors and are just tasks being delegated to you. Though when the tasks start looking more like favors, you should question why you are agreeing to take them on and if it is something you really need to be doing with your time. If you are trying to work your way up, saying no to someone above you isn’t advised, but that is another topic for another day. As far as other co-workers go, you should figure out what kind of person they are and when it’s time to start cutting them off.

The Mouse – Just wants a cookie

It all began with a small request, and over time they have increased the frequency of their needs. Fortunately, they’re consistent with the level of work required, but you’re constantly doing small projects for them. So you’re forced to divide your time over your work and theirs.

The Weasel – Has you making sandwiches

They started out like the mouse, but then they began shifting responsibility to you. Suddenly, you’re in charge of those tasks they just needed help with. Over time, they kept adding to your workload while lightening theirs. Everyone else has forgotten who those tasks originally belonged to because you’ve been doing them for so long.

The Fox – You’re cooking, serving the meal, and doing the dishes

This person started out with reasonable requests, and even convinced you that you were going to benefit from all your hard work. As the tasks have become more complex, you started to notice that you weren’t benefiting at all from the arrangement. But when you’ve tried to bring it up in conversation, they hand you another cup of their Kool-Aid and you agree to continue on with the unrewarding workload.

The Bear – You’re catering for a crowd (and footing the bill)

Their first request was a huge one, and for some reason, you obliged. You thought this was a chance to show how versatile you are or how committed you are to the team’s success. Now they come to you with short deadlines, outlandish requirements, and it’s not optional. They aren’t asking you anymore, they’re just telling you. You’ve proven yourself to be so dependable, that they don’t consider the fact that you may not be able to get done.

Closing the kitchen

Miniature blackboard  - with 'kitchen closed' message handwritte

So how do you start taking back your time without burning bridges? Carefully. You should approach each type of person differently. You don’t want to sever ties or sour relationships, but you should be prepared for some initial negative reactions.

Next time you’re approached by the mouse for another one of their minor requests, instead of just doing what you always do, confront them about their continuous need for assistance. Offer to show them how to take care of these things on their own. Explain that your time is valuable and they should respect your need to put your own work ahead of theirs.

The weasel will not be as easy to shake. Obviously, they’ve become accustomed to you doing their work for them, so giving it back will probably be a battle. They clearly passed these tasks off to you because they didn’t want to do them and chances are, they don’t want them back. You will need to stop taking on any new tasks and become the weasel yourself. Slowly pass the tasks back to them in the same fashion they were passed to you. By reversing the roles, you will eventually regain the balance that existed before the transfer of tasks. Don’t stay the weasel, or you will be stuck in a whole new cycle of trading tasks.

When it comes to the fox you need to stop walking into their traps, so it’s time for you to wake up and recognize when they are manipulating you. They don’t ask you directly, they just work it into conversation in a way that makes you feel like they are sharing something with you, but really they’re just setting you up to take on part (or all) of their project. When this this inevitable conversation begins, you should see it for what it is, cut it short, and tell them about how busy you are with something else. By denying them the opportunity to ask, you can avoid falling into your old habit of taking it on under false promises. Most of the time, you are not going to benefit from their offer, so don’t entertain it. For the tasks you have already undertaken and want to get rid of, refer to dealing with the weasel.

The bear is the swiftest to cut off, but could damage the reputation you were probably trying to achieve. Since their demands, I mean requests, are typically random and over the top, you never know when and what they will be asking for next. This can work in your favor because you can stop conceding when you finally have the guts to say no. The next time they approach you, take it as an opportunity to end the madness. Take back control over your schedule and explain that you are simply not going to be able to complete the task. By posing the denial of their request as an attempt to respect them by not over committing yourself (and ultimately failing), they will be forced to make other arrangements. Eventually they will stop asking because you are not their go to person anymore. Obviously, you started helping them for a reason, but continually stressing yourself out every time you’re up against a deadline for them, isn’t worth the potential bit praise they might throw your way.

The house is all yours again

Now that you’re no longer doing other people’s work for no real benefit, you can go back to focusing on your own tasks. This doesn’t mean you can’t lend a helping hand every once in a while, but set boundaries and stick to them. It’s too easy to fall back into your old habits, so keep your eyes open and pay attention to the signs.

And remember: Don’t feed the animals!