Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

By the time you read this, you'll be a full month into 2016. For most of us, New Year's resolutions will be already in the rear view mirror. There's one New Year's resolution, though, that we should attempt to keep on life support: time management. We've been told that behind dieting, time management is the second most important New Year's resolution. And it kind of makes sense. How we spend our time should reflect our priorities. Sadly, though, that is not often the case. Just the opposite, we tend to spend time on urgent, but un-important, issues that derive little value.

We've got a simple exercise, though, to increase our awareness of exactly how we're spending our time. It isn't entirely unlike a Work Week Critique—an exercise that many power stations and manufacturing facilities conduct to see if they spent their time as hoped or as scheduled.

On a scratch sheet of paper, draw a pie chart. Then start asking questions. How much of my time was spent in the field? How much of my time was spent in important meetings? Unimportant meetings? How much of my time was spent on strategic, structural issues? How much of my time was spent on tactical problem solving that demanded an answer? How much of my time was spent on personnel issues such as staffing or training or mentoring? How much of my time was spent on administrative functions? These are just a sampling of questions that you can ask yourself regarding last week's allocation of time.

We did this exercise two weeks ago with one of our protégés. During the exercise, we noticed that he was spending 30% of his time on administrative functions and another 45% of his time on meetings—75% of his 60-hour week disappeared into these two areas! This exercise, of course, sparked some meaningful questions—can this be delegated? What meetings can I just say NO to? We checked in after a couple of weeks. While the percentages weren't quantum shifts, as he now spends 20% of his time on administrative tasks and 33% of his time in meetings, he estimated that he got 2 hours of his week back. He chose to spend it out in the field with his employees. His quote—not ours—is, "Two hours may not seem like much, or anything really, but I'm a believer that greatness is at the margins. These two hours in the field have brought me closer to my people, and now I've got a better handle of some of the issues they face."

At ELP, we can help. To learn more about how we can sync up your time management issues with your professional/personal strategic priorities, we invite you to email Robin Bichy for a professional consultation at