Four Tips from CEOs to Master Time ManagementWe've all felt like we could use another hour or two in the work day. According to an eVoice survey of small business owners, time is viewed as the most valuable asset, considered more important than tangible resources such as computers or cell phones.

As a business leader it’s interesting to see what other CEOs do to manage their time.

The Wall Street Journal has been doing a video series called Lessons in Leadership to gain insights, management tips, and more from CEOs at large companies.

Four Tips from CEOs to Master Time Management

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, says people often get caught up in the day-to-day flow. Weiner adds, “If challenges keep coming up there is a natural tendency to solve one problem after another.”

To manage his time, he carves out time to think, as opposed to reacting constantly. During his thinking time, he thinks strategically, proactively, and long-term. He tries to strike a balance between what is urgent versus what is important.

Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, creates spreadsheets to budget time for the year. He allocates time for meetings, travel, and innovation. He even schedules his free time and his vacations. He says he wants to make sure he feels comfortable he has enough free time.

Kevin Roberts, former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, says his secret to work-life harmony is to never back down or compromise. He also says not to do the stuff you don’t like, preferring instead to delegate.

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of AmEx, says he allots time for developing talent, managing business priorities, and meeting customers. He says business leaders need to spend a good amount of their time with customers because it keeps you externally focused. He sets a framework of how to manage his business, short-term, moderate-term and long-term issues.

You also need to set the pace of your organization and team; set the framework as Chenault would say.

Jay Steinfeld, founder and owner of, says as a business owner, you are called to be your organization’s timekeeper, to look at the bigger picture, and to set the pace for your team.

He wrote an article for Inc., offering a few tips on how to tell when you should speed things up or slow them down.

When to take it Slow:

  1. Strategic planning
  2. With criticism
  3. Making judgments before having all of the information
  4. Moving something to the top of your list
  5. When hiring
  6. With training

When to Speed it up:

  1. Dismissing non-performers and detractors
  2. Cutting projects when they’re not on the roadmap
  3. Offering specific feedback
  4. Correcting your course
  5. Admitting your own mistakes
  6. Promoting from within
  7. Trying and taking risks

As a business owner, you may be interrupted frequently and pulled in multiple directions. You can’t eliminate them, but you can decide on how much time you will spend on them. Everyone will find their own timing, but if you feel pressed for time, these tips might help you to stay on track.

What tips would you add? Do you use any tools to manage your time?

image credit: RLHyde 

Time Management When You’re OverwhelmedLeaders have many responsibilities that keep their schedules packed, and oftentimes overflowing. As business leaders tackle multiple roles from managing a team of employees, to looking for new marketing opportunities, and securing new business, effective time management becomes harder and harder to achieve.

We can begin to feel overwhelmed. Time is a precious commodity, and effective leaders put their time management skills into play to ensure they maximize their time and accomplish their goals.


Time Management Tips When You'Re Overwhelmed

Jen Groover, contributor to Entrepreneur, offered simple time management tips when you’re overwhelmed.

You aren’t taught time management skills in school, but time is a valuable asset. In today’s workplace, you can differentiate yourself by your ability to manage your time. If you feel overwhelmed, try these tips to stay on track and get your work done.

How do you manage your time to be more efficient and achieve your goals?

How To Apply Lean Principles To Time ManagementLean management is a broadly applicable philosophy that can increase production at all levels of an organization.

Continuous improvement should be your standard for your own work as well as that of employees.

Lean principles not only enhance productivity, but also allow leaders to understand how employees respond to Lean transitions.

At the core of Lean's success is its insistence upon empowering every employee to improve. Empowerment and accountability start on the ground floor, but must not stop there.

Three Lean Principles For Time Management

Here are three methods of Lean thinking you can apply today to better manage your time.

Keep the "Customer" In Mind

When you do not "think Lean," you will likely start your day with the work that presents itself first. Instead, make a habit of taking 10 minutes every morning, without distractions, to prioritize your work based on its value to the many "customers" you serve.

What will stakeholders most value from you today? How can you best serve your fellow leaders?

This thought exercise may lead you to discover that you are spending the lion's share of your productivity on tasks that are not valued by key "customers."

Use Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is used to chart a product's journey from raw materials to the end user, with the goal of eliminating waste. You can use roughly the same strategy to more efficiently manage projects that require your participation, but for which you are not solely responsible.

Let us say that your company is preparing a public statement about a product recall in your industry. The "raw materials"--a rough draft--will be sourced from a communications manager. The statement then "flows" up the chain to you for approval, potentially passing through multiple communicators and your legal team along the way. Once you have weighed in, the draft will flow back to your communications team and be delivered by a company leader.

If you spend five minutes sketching a time management value stream map before assigning this type of work, you may find that your original plan would force you to wait for redundant feedback, or would delay the statement's release by delivering it to you for editing at an inconvenient time. By understanding the flow of this "product," you can ensure that it is delivered more efficiently.

Watch Out for Wasteful Injury

Reduction of unnecessary movement is a common Lean management goal, usually targeting shop floor employees. Along similar lines, you may be wasting productive time because your working style causes unnecessary pain, leading to time off and/or frequent breaks during the day.

Consider having your workstation evaluated by an ergonomics expert. Instead of waiting until your level of productivity has been reduced by pain to stretch, schedule short breaks to walk around your office and limber up. If possible, use an adjustable desk to alternate between standing and sitting while you type.

Do you use Lean principles for time management?

How To Get Through Big ProjectsBig projects can be a pain, and sometimes they keep us up at night. We delay starting them, or find other tasks that need to be done first. Why? Maybe because we’re intimidated by the amount of time required to finish these projects, don’t know where to start, or are struggling to get a clear picture of what needs to be done. “Few things are as daunting as a blank page, a report you need to write, or a pitch you need to create. It’s all too easy to find yourself staring at the large white window on your computer screen. Pausing to check your email. And staring some more,” says Minda Zetlin, contributor to Inc.

However, it’s a great feeling to finish a large project, and look back at what you’ve accomplished. Since Zetlin is a writer, she finds herself facing a blank page on a regular basis. She’s developed some effective ways to get past the panic, and finish a daunting project.

Four Tips To Get Through Big Projects

Set Small Tasks Aside

When you have a big project looming over your head, sometimes you procrastinate and look for anything else you can do instead. It could be cleaning up your inbox or organizing some files. They seem urgent;  but really you’re just avoiding the task at hand. When you get them all out of the way, your day is done and most of your energy is sapped.

Instead of doing the small things first, Zetlin suggests you ask yourself: What will happen if the task has to wait until after your bigger project is finished? “If the answer isn’t something dire, let it go till the more difficult task is done,” she says.

Break Up the Big Projects

Large projects can feel overwhelming. To get through them, it helps if you break them up in to smaller, more manageable pieces. Define your project, set goals, brainstorm, and get organized. If your deadline is far off, plan tasks in increments. That way you’re not scrambling to finish at the last minute.

Use Short Blocks of Time

Zetlin says an effective approach is to set short blocks of time, mixed with short breaks, and concentrate on the job at hand. For example, work on a task for 25 minutes without stopping, and then take a five-minute break. “After four of these cycles, take a longer break. Knowing a break is on the horizon helps you focus on the work at hand and tackle it more efficiently,” says Zetlin. This is the principle behind the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that helps people get through big projects.

Reward Yourself

Once you’ve broken your project down into manageable chunks, stay motivated and on schedule by rewarding yourself each time you reach a milestone. “The reward could be anything from a few minutes playing a video game, to a short shopping expedition, to watching a favorite sporting event,” says Zetlin. Just make sure it’s fun.

Big projects are sometimes scary, usually difficult, and definitely time consuming. But they do need to get done, on time and on budget. While everyone is different, and these tips may not work for you, they’re a great starting point to help you meet your goals.

What helps you get through big projects?

Big projects can be a pain. Sometimes they're so difficult, so stressful, they keep us up at night.

Or, worse yet, we delay starting these big projects, or find other tasks that need to be done first.


Maybe we’re intimidated by the amount of time required to finish the project, or we don’t know where to start. Sometimes, we're simply struggling to get a clear picture of what needs to be done.

“Few things are as daunting as a blank page, a report you need to write, or a pitch you need to create. It’s all too easy to find yourself staring at the large white window on your computer screen. Pausing to check your email. And staring some more,” says Minda Zetlin, contributor to Inc.

We all need go-to techniques to push through this inertia if we're to be successful. And the upside is, it’s a great feeling to finish a large project and look back at what you’ve accomplished.

As a writer, Zetlin finds herself facing a blank page on a regular basis. As a result, she’s developed some effective ways to get past the panic and finish those big projects. (more…)

Tough Talk About Personal ProductivityTime for some tough talk about time management and personal productivity.

In a recent piece for Inc., management consultant Steve Tobak pulled no punches with his views on this important topic.

What used to really count for something—working, playing, thinking, feeling, etc.—“now takes a backseat to the instant gratification of distraction, addiction, self-importance, attention seeking, and minutiae.”

This could be why your personal productivity seems to have gone up in smoke.

Feeling distracted by social media? That happens, Tobak says, “because you crave a quick fix for attention.”

Lost in the jungle of your email inbox? The reason is “it makes you feel important.”

In short: “You waste ridiculous amounts of time doing things that don’t really matter because you choose to do them.”

OK, we get it.

So what’s the solution?

Here are Tobak’s blunt suggestions.

Avoid Online Activity During Work Hours

Social media in all its tweeting, blogging, posting, status updating manifestations “destroys your personal productivity.”

Unless it's a legitimate part of your job, do it away from the office and after work hours.

Respect Deadlines

If you say you have to finish a meeting by 11:00 a.m., stick to your commitment. “Deadlines force discipline. That’s why deadlines work.”

Get Your Priorities in Order

A long time ago, Tobak began classifying his to-do list according to priority. “A”= Time critical. “B”= Important. “C”= Everything else.

Start by working on your As. When those are completed, go to your Bs.

After awhile, he says, “you learn that you never get to the Cs. And you know what? It never matters.”

Say “No” Often, “Maybe” Never

It’s not easy saying “no” to people, but when you do, amazingly enough, life goes on.

Tobak offers a quick, helpful guide about what to say no to: “If it’s not a goal, a priority, important, or fun, say no.”

“Maybe” should never be part of your lexicon, he adds. Saying “maybe” to someone’s request is “just being controlling and self-important.”

Mute Your Devices

We’re only human. When we hear an email chime or some other alert from our phone or laptop, we stop whatever we’re doing to find out what’s going on. “Ignore that tug to respond right away to every request,” Tobak says.

(A more productive approach is simply setting aside a small chunk of your daily time to attend to email messages.)

“Also, never answer a call unless you’re expecting it or have time for it. Even if it’s your boss.”

Work from Home

Look at your schedule. Do you find your time mostly taken up by meetings? Maybe that’s why it seems you can never get anything done. Tobak does much of his work at home, “a lot of my strategizing and thinking, too.”

You make your own choices, and set your own priorities. If you turn away from all the distractions of daily life, it turns out “you have way more control than you realize.”

How do you cope with personal productivity drain?

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