We are in the business of working on behalf of our clients to connect them with effective executives. But what are the ways that one can become an effective executive? Much has to do with effective time management and not only doing things right, but doing the right things in the right order.
Here are three ways of organizing your life to become more effective:
1. Stephen Covey’s Four Boxes
In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey uses a two-by-two matrix to differentiate activities according to their importance and urgency. This is critical to time management!
We allocate our time every day among activities in these four categories. It is easy to see how we can waste time and become ineffective by wallowing in the red zone of the Not Important and Not Urgent. It is also easy to see how other people’s priorities can supersede ours, or other seemingly Urgent but Not Important activities in the yellow zone can take us off course. Activities in the blue zone are Urgent AND Important, so we can’t really avoid those and they must be attended to immediately. The phrase “I was too busy bailing to fix the leak in the boat!” comes to mind.
The beauty of Covey’s representation of time management comes through with the realization that by devoting most of our time to activities in the green Important but Not Urgent zone, we are making everything run better. We are “sharpening the saw” to use Covey’s example of the efficient lumberjack and eliminating the number of activities that will require our attention in the blue Urgent and Important zone. There will be fewer emergencies because of good planning and good time management procedures. This is almost counter-intuitive for many executives who feel that they should be fighting fires and leading the troops in battle. In fact, however, the most effective action is calm and deliberate work done well before there is any chance of fire or war breaking out in the first place.
This is a complicated way to express a simple idea and comes from the manufacturing planning and scheduling environment. It has been shown that if you have a variety of possible activities to be accomplished, your goal should be to minimize the average time that any one “job” sits in the queue waiting to be processed WITHOUT exceeding a certain time limit for any job. Some of these activities are small and perhaps trivial, whereas others will take a large time commitment and may be very important.
In order to attain the shortest average time for job processing, you should process jobs in order of how long it will take to complete them, with the shortest jobs being attended to first. However, if strictly applied, this rule would mean that jobs requiring longer processing time may be delayed for an unacceptable amount of time. Therefore a second rule must be applied such that no job can sit in the queue without being attended to for more than “x” days. In this way, the simple “shortest processing time first” rule is “truncated” when any job reaches the maximum waiting time in the queue and then that oldest job becomes the top priority. This approach to time management and job processing is equally applicable to an office environment (e.g. your Inbox) as it is to the manufacturing floor.
Note: This combination of rules assumes that all jobs are of equal importance, which is likely not true. Therefore this approach must be used in combination with Covey’s boxes above. Some “red zone” Not Urgent and Not Important activities, while short, should never be done at all.
Many tasks are not that important but must be done eventually. There never seems to be enough time to spend an hour to sort out those files or clean up your office.
One way to get these types of jobs done without hardly noticing that you did them is by “nibbling” at them. Every time you return to your office after a trip to the washroom or from lunch or from getting a coffee, sort out one more file. It will take perhaps a minute or two, and after a few days, your pile of sorting will be gone and you won’t remember having spent any significant amount of time doing it. It’s magic!
Effective executives are disciplined. They develop habits and rules to guide them. They get stuff done!
Kathbern Management is an executive search consultancy based in Toronto, helping companies find the executives and senior managers who not only have the experience and credentials to fulfil their responsibilities, but also have the emotional and “fit” requirements that will enable them to be successful in a particular environment. We simplify the process and, through our deep research, are able to bring more and better candidates forward than would ever be possible through a do-it-yourself passive advertising campaign.
Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search.