Time Trade-Off Techniques

To more effectively utilize time in your leadership role, consider the following three ideas: [1]

is able to channel all of their cognitive processing power to a single item.18 Second, focusing on one task and not allowing any interruptions prevents those interruptions from wasting valuable time getting back to the original task. Research has shown that people take on average, 24 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.19 Start blocking out 30-minute chunks of time to dedicate to single tasks.

  • 2. Send fewer e-mails. While it can be difficult to limit the number of e-mails you receive, you do have influence over how many e-mails you send. One company’s total e-mail output dropped by 54 percent over a three-month period after the company’s leaders reduced the number of e-mails they sent out. The company realized a gain of 10,400 man-hours over the course of the year, all started by executives limiting the number of e-mails they sent to others.20
  • 3. Make time trade-offs. Before we can improve on a current state, we need to understand what the current state is. If we’re going to improve our ability to allocate time effectively, then we first need to determine where our time is currently being spent. The following steps will help you improve your time allocation:

Step 1: For a typical week, record how you spend your time in 30-minute increments throughout the day.

Step 2: After the week has elapsed, identify the time categories (e.g., operational meetings, e-mail, teleconferences, customer meetings, etc.). For each category, list the total amount of time invested during the week.

Step 3: Label the time categories and increments of time on the Time Gauge graph (Figure 3.1).

Step 4: Plot the time investments for each category and connect the dots for your current investment.

Step 5: Review the Time Gauge results and then use the Time Trade-Off Matrix to place the investment categories in either the “Eliminate,” “Decrease,” or “Increase” quadrant depending on how you’d like to change that particular category investment. Fill the “Create” quadrant with any new areas you’d like to invest time.

Step 6: Plot the ideal time investments for each category based on the results of the Time Trade-Off Matrix and connect the dots using a dashed line to represent your “ideal” investment.

Step 7: Record the action steps necessary to achieve the ideal time investment.

Figure 3.1 is an example of a Time Gauge for a senior executive. On the x-axis are listed the areas of investment such as operational meetings, teleconferences, and metrics review. On the y-axis is the actual amount of time invested per week into those activities. In this case, very little time is being spent on strategy and solitary planning time,

Time Gauge

Figure 3.1 Time Gauge

Time Trade-Off Matrix

Figure 3.2 Time Trade-Off Matrix

while significant time is being invested in operational meetings and meetings with direct reports.

Once the Time Gauge graph has been developed, you can then determine what modifications, if any, need to be made in how you invest your most important resource, time. Changes in time allocation can be catalyzed using the Time Trade-Off Matrix. The Time TradeOff Matrix examines each area of investment from the Time Gauge and asks you to place the factors with time modifications in the appropriate quadrant. Figure 3.2 represents the Time Trade-Off Matrix for the previous example.

People want more time. What most people really need is more direction and greater discipline in how to use the time they already have.

  • [1] Dedicate chunks of time to a single task. The opposite ofmultitasking is to work on one task at a time—simple in concept,challenging to practice. Dedicating a significant portion of timeto one task can boost productivity in two important ways. First,setting time aside to focus on one thing increases productivityby as much as 65 percent in some studies because the person
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