Wish you had a time machine? Manage yourself instead.

Wish you had a time machine? Manage yourself instead.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear from a colleague or a manager I am coaching, “I just need to get better at time management.” In fact, many of our leadership competency models label Time Management as a behavior to strive for.

Well, the reality is that we cannot manage time. Time simply is. And each day 24 hours will pass regardless of our belief that we can manage their passing.

So, here’s the important message – which, by the way, is a message that sometimes catches people off guard:

The activities we fill time with – our priorities.

We can manage what we put on our calendars and daily agendas.

Below are some tips you can use to help your Leaders improve how they manage their priorities and focus on what’s important to them and to your organization.

  1. Define overall stakeholder demand. List what you do every day, every week, every month, and every quarter to meet all of the current demands on your time.
  2. Review the list and identify whether the activity is tactical or strategic, focused on developing your team, developing yourself, accountability meetings, etc.
  3. Determine what you expect will happen when you perform these activities.
  4. Put all of this into a spreadsheet or calendar.

When identifying stakeholder demands – for each activity be sure to capture:

  • Time of day
  • Duration
  • Activity name (I encourage those I coach to include personal demands in addition to work demands – like things done to be healthy, personal family and friend time, fun time, etc.)
  • Add details to describe the activity
  • List all participants, including yourself
  • Location – Where does the activity take place? In-person or video meeting? Personal work time at your desk, or at your kid’s soccer court?
  • Results – Did you do it? If not, what happened?

  • Am I spending time on the things I should as a leader?
  • Did I attend meetings that were for information only? Is there another way to get that information?
  • Are all the activities I spend time on really necessary?
  • Am I doing any non-value-added work?
  • Does my work encourage “firefighting” or drive to a root cause?
  • Am I promoting continuous improvement and innovation?
  • How am I doing with work-life integration?
  • For every activity, ask:
    • Can it be eliminated? Is it a case of “we’ve always done this,” and can’t even remember why?
    • Can it be streamlined? Is there an opportunity for process improvement?
    • Should it be reassigned/delegated? What no longer provides learning for one person could be a great development opportunity for another.
    • Is it driving improvement? Is the task maintaining the status quo, or can it be reevaluated and changed to better impact department or organizational success?

“I have a secret project which adds four hours every day to the 24 we have. There’s a bit of time travel involved.” 

— Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc., and its subsidiary Google


Helping your Leaders document, understand, and reflect on the many and diverse stakeholder demands allows them to make conscious decisions about what belongs on their priority list, where activities are placed in terms of priority, and the time in each day that they allot to those priorities.


Since you cannot provide them with a time machine, equip your managers to move beyond “time management,” and provide them instead with the tools to effectively manage themselves and their priorities.

This is not a once and done task. Rather, it requires ongoing evaluation about what is important and where those demands and activities fit in their daily, weekly, and monthly calendars – and blocking that time. One must ruthlessly guard space in each day for top business and personal priorities.

When Leaders work on managing themselves and their priorities, there is a profound impact on overall wellbeing and work satisfaction.

If you’d like to know how coaching can help, contact us at: