You’re in good company.

You're not the only one who struggles with time management.

The Wall Street Journal's Theory & Practice column last week highlighted several executives who didn't quite live up to their resolutions to better manage time in 2007.

Mike Durney, the CFO of Dice Holdings, wanted to handle work related to the company's London office in the morning so that staff over there didn't have to work into the evenings.  Unfortunately, morning meetings sometimes got in the way, forcing him to call or email London later.  His new approach for 2008? Schedule his work: setting aside blocks of time for email and investor calls.  He also vows to turn off his email alerts so that he doesn't get pulled into email when he's not supposed to.

Nortel Networks CEO Mike Zafirovski failed to start and finish internal meetings on time.  He blames "aggressive agendas" and a relatively new management team, and wants to do better in 2008.  He thinks he did better with his resolution to keep his inbox down to a maximum of 99 unanswered messages.

David Joys, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, regrets breaking his resolution to avoid working on weekends so that he could spend more time at his vacation home.

It would be easy to criticize these three for failing to meet their goals.  (I do have serious issues with Zafirovski's arbitrary number of 99 unread emails: if he can keep his unread quantity down to 99, why not 59 or 19 or 9?  And why is it okay to tolerate the risk that there's something really important in that pile of 99?  I'm guessing he feels that anything really important will pop up again in another email, or a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting.  So why not just delete all of the unread messages anyway?)  But rather than criticize these executives' failings, I think it's better to celebrate their efforts to improve.

Durney vows to stop living in his inbox and instead live in his calendar by scheduling his work.  Zafirovski wants to reduce Nortel's internal email traffic.  And Joys wants to be a real person with a balanced life.  All three are objectively assessing their time management performance and setting goals for improvement.  Presumably they have strategies and tactics to help them achieve these goals.

What are you going to do differently this year?  Where did you fall short?  How are you going to improve?

2 Responses

  1. Tim Walker says:

    Where did I fall short? Responding to urgency rather than importance.

    How am I improving? Dealing with business in this order:

    1. Important & unfinished (i.e. it’s already underway / already an “open loop”).

    2. Important & new.

    3. Everything else.

    Which, now that I write it that way, seems like a really nice formula.

  2. dan says:

    And the magic word is… “important.” Identifying what’s important really isn’t that hard – it only necessitates that we take the time to process the stuff that comes in. Processing, thinking, assessing – that’s the key.

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