Executive Time Management – A Guaranteed Solution

Have you ever said the words, “Someday, when I get time, I’m going to…”

Regardless of our professions, most of us have an innate desire to become better organized, to get our lives and businesses under control and to find the time to do the things that are really important to us.

If I were to walk up to you and say, “Pardon me, what time is it?” how would you respond? You’d probably look at your watch and tell me, “It’s two-forty-five (or something to that effect).” But how about this scenario? What if I were to ask you the same words, but in a rearranged order: “Time…what is it?” How would you respond? What is your definition of time?

Defining Time

After pondering the question, Albert Einstein offered the simplest of definitions while introducing the idea of “simultaneous events.” He said, “The train does not arrive at the station at 7:00 p.m. The train arrives at the station at the same moment the hand on the clock reaches seven p.m.”

He was saying that time is actually how we measure events. Your reading this newsletter is an event. Driving your car is an event. Answering e-mail is an event. Meeting with customers is an event. And each one takes up a certain amount of time.

Time management has nothing to do with the clock, but everything to do with organizing and controlling your participation in certain events that coordinate with the clock.

Einstein understood time management is an oxymoron. It cannot be managed. You can’t save time, lose time, turn back the hands of time or have more time tomorrow than today. Time is unemotional, uncontrolled, unencumbered. It moves forward regardless of circumstances and, in the game of life, creates a level playing field for everyone. The paradox of time is that we rarely consider that we have enough of it when, in fact, all of it is available to everyone equally. You and I – along with the rest of the world – start each and every day with the same 24-hours …1,440 minutes … 86,400 seconds.

The only difference between being a productive person and a disorganized person is whether or not you grasp – either consciously or subconsciously – that you cannot manage time; you can only control the events within a given time frame. You can make use of time … as in riding the train to the station … but even if you choose to stay in the depot, the seconds will continue to click by on timeless tracks.

Perhaps the best known business example regarding time management occurred in the 1930’s and involved management consultant Ivy Lee and Charles Schwab of Bethlehem Steel. Schwab challenged Lee saying, “Show me a way to get more things done and I’ll pay you anything within reason.”

Lee gave Schwab a blank sheet of paper and instructed him to “write down the most important tasks you have to do and then number them in order of importance. When you arrive in the morning, begin at number one (the most important) and stay with it until its completion. Once you’ve completed the most important task, begin number two and continue through the list all day long – only working on your most important task. If at the end of the day you have not completed your entire list, then don’t worry. You couldn’t have done so with any other method. Make this your habit every working day, and then send me a check for what you think its worth.”

Weeks later, after Schwab found the prescription worthy, he sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000, an incredible amount in the 1930’s. When asked by his associates how he could justify such an enormous amount for such a simple idea, Schwab posed the question, “Aren’t all good ideas basically simple?”

Schwab stated that the $25,000 was his most valuable investment and credited working off a list as the idea that turned Bethlehem Steel into the largest independent steel producer of that time.

To customize the concept, imagine that everybody in the world lives in rooms that are exactly the same size. There is no chance of enlarging their dimensions so the only thing differentiating us is the way in which we fill our rooms.

Some of us will buy lots of furniture and then get annoyed because we can hardly move around in the congestion. Others will buy less furniture but have it arranged in a disorderly fashion. These people complain about feeling cramped and unorganized.

Then there are those of us who invest in bookshelves, desks with lots of drawers, closets and organizers. We compartmentalize our belongings and, in doing so, make our lives less congested. Moving around, locating things and accomplishing goals is much easier.

Which room do you occupy?


STEP 1: Make a list of everything you have to accomplish under the topics of social, professional, civic, family, leisure, travel, consumption, solitude, creating, development, etc. You can only begin maximizing time when you know what you want to do with it. Once you are certain the list represents the events you would like to accomplish, move to Step 2.

STEP 2: Value each item on the list. How? By using the ABC method. As you go through your list a second time, put an “A” next to those tasks (events) that are “critical to be done.” And then resolve, if nothing else gets done today, you will accomplish all the A’s on your list. After valuing the A’s, you then put a “B” by the events that are important to be done. However the caveat is, you will only work on the B’s after you have fully completed your list of A’s. You complete your list by writing a “C” next to any remaining items on your list. Your C’s are relatively insignificant and are only worked on should you have discretionary time, after completing your A’s and B’s.

Your goal is not to cram more things into an hour but to focus on the quality of those items on your list and how they fit within your overall goals.

STEP 3: Numerically sequence your events. You now review your list a third and final time, and revalue your A’s, B’s and C’s by their importance. Determine which A is the most important and then label it A1. The next most important would be A2. Then complete your list doing the same thing with your B’s and C’s.

I once heard Brain Tracy say, “Feeling listless? Make a list.” Try this idea for 30 consecutive days and my personal guarantee is that your productively will increase by 20 to 30 percent. In fact, after one week of diligent application, I think you will not only experience astonishing satisfaction, but also absolute serenity.

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