Time Efficiency TIps

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Most of the executives I work with want to use their time more efficiently. In recent coaching sessions, I shared two tips that I thought I’d share with you.

  1. Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants.

In his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey proposes people analyze time spent by two dimensions, Urgency and Importance. Using the chart below, the goal of an effective executive is to spend most of his/her time in Quadrant 2 – handling important issues, which through planning are being done before they become urgent – and not, as many executives do, in Quadrant 1, where urgency requires fire-fighting.

quad1 quad2

The most effective use of this quadrant system, however, isn’t as a planning device, but as a communication device. In other words, after teaching everyone who reports to you about the quadrants, post it on your door, and as people come to ask you a question, first ask “which quadrant are you in?†You’ll discover that people start internalizing the system and stop interrupting you unless it’s truly an urgent issue.  One CEO adopted the system, and reported that before using it, an average of over 20 people who interrupt during the day; once adopted, the number dropped by two-thirds, with the positive benefits of his accomplishing more each day and staff having more confidence in their own abilities!

  1. Donald Rumsfeld’s Tips for Effective Meetings.

Donald Rumsfeld has served as a member of the Cabinet for a few US Presidents as Secretary of Stste and Defense. In his current book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life, he shares some tips for effective use of meeting time. They include:

  • Stand while you work, it keeps people from lingering. (He used a stand-up desk!)
  • Start and end meetings on time. Consider how much time is wasted by starting a meeting of 20 people 15 minutes late: 20 times 15 means wasted 5 hours of time.
  • Pay attention to who really needs to be in the meeting and invite only them.
  • Make sure people come prepared; if not, cancel the meeting.
  • Encourage everyone to give their views even if it ruffles feathers. (Remember, GroupThink, which described the meeting process which led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco at the beginning of Kennedy’s presidency, is the result of having no one challenge the thought process.)

At the end of the meeting, summarize salient point and take-a-ways making sure that all participants know precisely what actions you intend to be taken and by whom.