Getting Time

To Do Anything


Need for control over an inelastic resource - you can always ask for more time to do a job, but as the Taoists say, once this moment has passed, it cannot be called back or repeated. You cannot increase the number of hours in a day.

Need to analyse, allocate priorities, consider others.


Time Analysis

Analyse how you and others [your staff] spend their time. Keep a detailed diary, or, if you do not have time [!] just note the time when you change major tasks. If you are lucky enough, ask your secretary to keep tabs on you for a few days - the longer the better for averages to mean anything. Be careful of stop watches on the staff and people with clipboards spying on them from behind pillars - better to get their cooperation by explaining what you are doing and why.

Look at time spent in DIAB


directly doing the job you are specifically paid to do

ie, producing the end results, be it a product or a service


indirectly doing same - eg, attending meetings about the job, collecting stores for the job


on administrative tasks of a routine nature -filling in forms, attendance books, getting paid !


on barriers - anything not in the categories above, eg, phone calls to friends, chatting to passers-by, toilet calls, cups of tea at the work station

Reallocate priorities if necessary. Each job will vary in the proportions, and each will probably need some share of the latter, but obviously, the bulk of the time should be spent on D. There is an expression that workers who kow they are about to resign, be sacked or move to another area, start the BRD - the Big Run Down. This usually means more time is spent on I, A and B - the problem people are those who start the BRD on Day 1 of the new job and continue for the rest of their time in the company!


Time Allocation

Allocate priorities and do not allocate low priorities to unpleasant tasks.

Use a system, eg, Covey's quadrants:



Shift priorities as the occasion demands - reschedule events as necessary. If an event is cancelled, or shorter than planned, or you have to wait for it to start, use the time wisely. I was once secretary of a senior committee which had a rotating chairman and met in the chairman's office - when it was the new Admiral's turn, he asked me what happened and I said the other three members kept the whole morning free and if business was short, they would sit around and chat. He said If that happens, I will say that you and I are leaving and they can stay in my office as long as they like, but we have other work to do. Needless to say, they were all embarrassed and left - wonder if they went back to their own offices or decided they had set the morning free and would use if for B activities elsewhere?

Be consistent, but be flexible.

Allocate blocks of time for specific events and arrange not to be disturbed for that period of time, especially for knowledge work:

Manual work - that which can be stopped and restarted at any moment

Knowledge work - that which requires time to finish and time to restart

These terms are not related to the type of work, but to the nature of time required for them. Anyone can have some element of knowledge work incorporated in their job, but if they are constantly interrupted whilst trying to complete that element, they will never get it done efficiently.

Let others know how your system operates and what times you have set aside for knowledge work. I have advised people to put a sign on the door saying Do not interrupt till after 3.10pm - if you put 3.00pm, people will still interrupt you, but the odd time makes them think!

Develop short, intermediate, and long term goals - which may change as priorities do, and check progress regularly: use diaries, desk calendars, planners, whyteboards to monitor your success.



Time Savers

Control conversations

Be punctual


Fill up the gaps

Prevent diminishing returns

Stress Management

There is a separate outline on this, but it needs a mention in this context because so much is time related.


Certain amount is essential - adrenalin, competition, ambition, job satisfaction

Too much is unhealthy - ie, unproductive; moral, ethical and efficency issues


Can be over short period, or over a whole career: nb BRD

Aim is to keep first period of excitement - see Maslow et al on motivation.





Converse of above causes - go through each one and ascertain converse is understood

See also problem solving, decision-making

Personal Goals - set priorities, use timetables, keep check