Time Management: Technique or Attitude?

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

Time management has been and always will be an oxymoron. We have all there is, yet none of us ever seem to have enough. At best we can learn to work with the never-ending passage of minutes and hours. No matter how often we say there are “never enough hours in a day,” there will continue to be 24 just like yesterday, today and tomorrow. When business groups are asked if they have been to a time management seminar, at least 50% raise their hands. However, when these same people are asked if they are in control of their time, very few say “yes.” So what can one do? Let’s look at four techniques, and then discuss attitude.

Technique 1: Time Log
When Peter Drucker wrote The Effective Executive in 1966, he suggested that there could be no “time management” until the “manager” had a concept of where s/he spent time. Therefore, step number one is to do an honest time log of where one spends one’s time. The interesting thing about time logs is how few people do them. Most of us think we know where we spend our time. Without a valid database (an actual logging of events and times), analysis and action becomes suspect. With a valid database, the reviewer can then determine which activities to eliminate, combine or delegate.

Technique 2: Block Time
Tom Peters once said that the average U.S. manager is interrupted every nine minutes. Then there is the study that says it takes 20 chunks of 10 minutes to equal the effort of one uninterrupted hour. With these two statements as stepping stones, the only answer to the dilemma is to just shut the door, turn off the phone and get some work done! Those that say this can never be done are probably captives of their own habits. No, you cannot “manage time,” but you can manage yourself!

Technique 3: Priority List
Everyone uses this technique. Many use it in a less than fruitful way. This method of management is directly related to taking care of the vital few, not concerning oneself with the many easy to-do’s. If you look at habit in this area, many people take care of the easy things on the list in the wrong order of priority. In other words, it is easier to do routine paperwork than call a disgruntled customer. The interesting fact is that the tough things on the list usually get tougher the longer they stay. Dale Carnegie once said: “Do the hard things first, the easy ones take care of themselves.” Or, as motivational speaker Danny Cox puts it: “If you have some frogs to swallow, swallow the big one first!”

Technique 4: Delegation
The single greatest reason that managers fail is their inability to delegate effectively. Many people in leadership roles earn their leadership position because of their technical skill. Technical skill is only the ticket of entry into the management field. The longer the period of time that one spends in a leadership role, the less time is spent on technical matters. In a recent discussion with a vice president of a very high tech business, he told me that “about 90%” of his time was spent in handling people issues, not technical problems. Without effective delegation, this could not be done.

The techniques above are tried and proven. Many of us know that following these principles will lead to a better sense of control. In fact, any time management seminar that is out there will concentrate on one or more of the techniques. Then why is time management still a problem?

Picture this: You have a full day scheduled and you decide to start it off by doing the number one priority: calling a very unhappy customer. The phone call goes even worse than you expected. When you hang up, rather than going on to the next thing on your priority list, you manage your time by cooling off emotionally. In other words, you find a co-worker to listen to your frustration. The crazy thing is that one person’s bad experience can lead to more than one person’s poor time management.

The same thing takes place when a salesperson has had just a little bit too much rejection. When in that situation, rejected time management leads to things like an extra cup of coffee or taking care of low impact busywork. We could go on and on with examples. You know your own. Techniques are great. Attitude is critical!

The point is: Unless you can control your attitude, you will never even start to get a handle on time!

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