The art of time management

Jürg Widmer Probst

The art of time management

Jurg Widmer Probst

There are as many ways to plan your time as there are to waste it – and it can be a real challenge to know how to best divide up your time as the leader of a growing business. The early days are usually straightforward – as one of the only people running the company you have to do everything and simply dedicate as much time as you possibly can to making it all a success.

These times are hard but satisfying, and putting in the long hours then usually pays off in the long run. But as your company grows and becomes more successful, it is increasingly difficult to divide up your time effectively. So, here are our thoughts on how to go about it.

Hire the right people – and delegate to them

As the leader of a small business, what is the single most important factor in terms of the quality of your personal time management? For us, it has to be the skills and abilities of the people you hire, as well as how well they fit in with the culture of the team you are trying to create.

Why? Well, because there is nothing that can eat into your time more than trying to manage the wrong people in the wrong roles. Equally, if you hire the right people, and then trust them to get on with the jobs that you employed them to do without overly interfering, it can free up a huge amount of your time.

Ironically, for some, getting the right people into their company can actually present real problems for those people who can’t let go of control – so trusting others and understanding how to delegate is absolutely crucial if you want to succeed.

Think about value

Leading on from this point, once you have the right people in place in your company you are better able to think about where your own time is actually best spent. Where you once had to do everything, you now have the luxury of being able to focus on your time and energy into those activities that bring the most value to your business, to your customers and the rest of your team. So, think about where your talents lie, and how you can now best use your time to truly have a transformative impact on your growing business.

Find a prioritisation process that works for you

Whether it is Covey’s Big Rocks theory, mono tasking or David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, there are hundreds of competing theories of how to prioritise your tasks and get on with the jobs you need to do in as productive a way as possible.

We’re big fans of the mono tasking principle here – that actually it is impossible to properly focus on more than one job at a time, and that therefore whichever job you choose to do, simply give it your complete attention until it is done – and then move on to the next task and repeat. It is a very simple way of looking at how you divide up your time that puts an emphasis on making the very most of the time you have now, rather than wasting your attention trying to plan future jobs or analyse past ones.

Use a timer

Which leads us on to our final tip – and that is to use a timer to segment your day up into separate blocks of focused work and rest. There are plenty of so-called ‘pomodoro’ timers out there that allow you to set a period of time – say 25 minutes – to work on a particular job, after which you take a couple of minutes’ break before moving on to the next 25 minute segment. Even if you don’t do it this precise way, dividing up your time into blocks of time that you then commit to working and resting in is a very helpful way to begin to make sense of how you should manage your time throughout the day.

Of course, as a leader it isn’t always easy or even desirable to be this rigid, and it is important to be flexible in your approach to time management. If an issue that you thought was going to be cleared up in ten minutes actually takes an hour, then give it that space and adapt.

After all, you’re the boss, so you can be flexible – but just make sure that whatever you do, you always make the most of the time you have available.

Jürg Widmer Probst


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