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Time Management—Increase Your Personal Productivity and Effectiveness Harvard Business School Press–|–Boston, Massachusetts Copyright 2005 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 10–09–08–07–06–05——5–4–3–2–1 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photo- copying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Requests for permission should be directed to [email protected], or mailed to Permissions, Harvard Business School Publishing, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02163. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Harvard business essentials: time management : increase your personal productivity and effectiveness. p. cm.—(Harvard business essentials series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-59139-633-6 1. Time management. 2. Scheduling. I. Title: Time management: increase your personal productivity and effectiveness. II. Harvard Business School. III. Series. HD69.T54H374 2005 650.1'1—dc22 2004016538 The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives Z39.48-1992. Harvard Business Essentials The New Manager’s Guide and Mentor The Harvard Business Essentials series is designed to provide comprehensive advice, personal coaching, background information, and guidance on the most relevant topics in business. Drawing on rich content from Harvard Business School Publishing and other sources, these concise guides are carefully crafted to provide a highly practical resource for readers with all levels of experience, and will prove especially valuable for the new manager. To assure quality and accuracy, each volume is closely reviewed by a specialized content adviser from a world-class business school. Whether you are a new manager seeking to expand your skills or a seasoned professional looking to broaden your knowledge base, these solution-oriented books put re- liable answers at your fingertips. Other books in the series: Finance for Managers Hiring and Keeping the Best People Managing Change and Transition Negotiation Business Communication Managing Projects Large and Small Manager’s Toolkit Crisis Management Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Power, Influence, and Persuasion Strategy About the Subject Adviser MICHAEL ROBERTO is a faculty member in the General Management unit at the Harvard Business School. Professor Roberto’s re- search focuses on strategic decision-making processes and senior management teams. He has published articles based upon his re- search in the Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, Ivey Business Journal, and The Leadership Quarterly. His research has examined how managers make strategic decisions in a timely and efficient manner while simultaneously building the consensus often required to implement decisions effectively. Over the past few years, Professor Roberto has taught in the leadership development programs at a number of firms, including The Home Depot, Mars, Novartis, The World Bank, and Thales. He has also consulted with organizations such as Lockheed Martin, Corporate Executive Board, and Morgan Services. Professor Roberto received an A.B. with honors from Harvard College in 1991. He earned an M.B.A. with High Distinction from Harvard Business School in 1995, graduating as a George F. Baker Scholar. He also received his D.B.A. from the Harvard Business School in 2000. About the Writer RICHARD LUECKE is the writer of many books in the Harvard Business Essentials series. Based in Salem, Massachusetts, Mr. Luecke has authored or developed more than forty books and dozens of articles on a wide range of business subjects. He has an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He can be reached at [email protected]. Introduction Overview Irene looked up from her desk to see her colleagues packing up to go home. It was already 5:00 p.m. At the rate she was going she would be in the office until midnight. Staring down at her to-do list, she sighed in dismay. Three “must-do” tasks remained. What had she been doing all day, and why hadn’t she gotten to these tasks? She reviewed her day. She had spent the morning with Tony, her subordinate, talking about his monthly reports. During lunchtime she had replied to more than twenty e-mail messages. And all afternoon she had been consumed by a customer service request that should have been handled by somebody else. “But I wouldn’t trust someone else to do it well,” she told herself. What was the point of all her to-do lists and careful planning if she wasn’t getting to the work that she really needed to do? Take a minute or two to reflect on your day at work. Was it like Irene’s? Were you able to accomplish everything you had hoped to accomplish, or did you have to carry forward many important tasks from today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s? Did you feel rushed or compelled to cut corners? How about your subordinates? Did they complete all their assignments, or did they also come up short? If you answered yes to these questions, you are in a time squeeze. Either you have too much work for the available time, or you aren’t using your time effectively. In either case you have a time-management problem, and that problem will make your work life less fulfilling, less successful, and more stressful than it should be. Time is a remarkable asset given to princes and paupers in equal measure. Every day contains twenty-four hours: no more and no less. And no matter how much we value it, there is nothing we can do to store it, to slow it down, or to put it into neutral while we prepare to use it. Time, as the saying goes, waits for no man. Time is also a wasting asset. It continually slips away, and we have no power to replenish our supply. The best thing we can do with time is to make the most of it. As Benjamin Franklin observed, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Being time-sensitive people, we have surrounded ourselves with time-saving devices. Indeed, a substantial portion of human activity is dedicated to finding ways to accomplish the same things in less time. And so we have managed to cut travel time between Boston and London from the several weeks required by sailing vessels to eight hours via jet aircraft. We fill our workplaces with high-speed computers and blindingly fast assembly lines, and we concentrate on reducing the process time of doing almost everything. At home we surround ourselves with fast-cooking microwave ovens, heat-and-serve dinners, e-mail, and instant messaging. But despite our efforts to make things happen faster, many of us find that we are always pressed for time. And, in a final irony, we spend a substantial percentage of our time working to pay for our many time-saving devices, such as automobiles capable of speeds up to 110 miles per hour that creep along, bumper-to-bumper, at 20 to 30 miles per hour a good part of the time. As early as the mid-1800s, Henry David Thoreau noted this odd trade-off, proclaiming that he could walk the thirty miles between Concord, Massachusetts, and the town of Fitchburg—and enjoy a country ramble—in less time than it would take to earn the train fare. Humankind has been intensely interested in time and its passing since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. Ancient people noted the sun’s measured progress against the backdrop of the stars and used its movements to demarcate the year. The Mayan priests of Mesoamerica were especially dedicated to time. With remarkable precision they calculated its passing in days and years and used this knowledge to regulate agriculture and the rituals of daily life. Until very recently, the broad sweep of time is what mattered. The seasons and the tipping points of the solar cycle—the solstice and the equinox—were the time measures that commanded people’s attention. Measurement of time within any given day was imprecise and, until recently, of little interest. In his book The Discoverers, historian Daniel Boorstin described how Romans in the fourth century BC divided the day into two parts: before midday and after midday. We continue this division with a.m. (ante meridian) and p.m. (post meridian). This rough demarcation of time was apparently suitable for the pace of life at that time. Eventually, they used sundials and water clocks to mark the hours.[1] The mechanical clockworks developed in Europe during the high Middle Ages added little more precision. Until the fifteenth century they merely tolled the hours. Simply knowing the hour was more than enough precision for most people. No one would say, “I have to deliver groats to the miller at 10:45 tomorrow morning and meet Sven at the salmon weir at 1:35.” Minutes and seconds were of no particular interest; life was not paced to that level of rigorous measurement. Things have changed. In the age of day-planners and personal digital assistant (PDA) schedulers, our working lives are increasingly assembled around fifteen-minute time blocks. We have only so much time for this and so much time for that, and little time to spare. This is a far cry from the lives of our ancestors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who had few laborsaving devices and yet somehow found time to listen to two-hour church sermons, keep diaries, build their own homes, and create beautiful quilts and folk art requiring hundreds of hours of painstaking labor. James Gleick’s interesting book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything casts a sharp eye on our speed-driven culture and its obsession with real time, cycle time, nanoseconds, second-saving technologies, and the human problems of coping with all of them. “Can we stand the strain?” he asks, and he describes the small industry that has grown up around the treatment of “hurry sickness”: mind-body workshops, stress-management seminars, and the growing popularity of meditation.[2] On the business front, consultants George Stalk Jr. and Thomas Hout have given us Competing Against Time, an influential book that tells managers that speed—in customer response, new product development, and internal operations—is as strategically important as capital, differentiation, quality, and innovation. “Time-based competitors,” they write, “are offering greater varieties of products and services, at lower costs and in less time than are their more pedestrian competitors. In so doing they are literally running circles around their slower competition.”[3] Time has likewise taken on greater military importance. Commanders now talk about the importance of “getting inside the enemy’s decision cycle.” In civilian language this means that if you can gather and process information, make a decision, and swing into action while the other side is still trying to understand the battlefield situation, you will have permanently captured the initiative—and the likelihood of victory. Time management—the subject of this book—is a conscious attempt to control and allocate finite time resources. Concern with time and speed is most apparent in the workplace, where it now impinges on the lives of managers, technical professionals, and supervisors to the point of creating a minor industry of time-management seminars, day-planners, PDAs, and scheduling software. Effective time management has many benefits. These include a reduction in wasted time, mitigation of work overloads, and higher levels of personal productivity. Perhaps more important, time management ensures that the most important tasks get done. The need for time management in the workplace is underscored by the frenetic pace of modern managerial life. In his classic article on the work of managers, business scholar Henry Mintzberg tells us, “Study after study has shown that managers work at an unrelenting pace, that their activities are characterized by brevity, variety, and discontinuity, and that they are strongly oriented to action and dislike reflective activities.”[4] They spend almost no time sitting quietly in contemplation of the future. Instead, they are on and off the phone every few minutes, running into and out of meetings, and dealing with problems that appear out of nowhere. The fragmented, rushed, and unplanned life Mintzberg describes is more reactive and spontaneous than planned; it explains, in part, why many managers suffer stress and complain of never having enough time to do their jobs well. Matters don’t appear to get better as we move up the chain of command. As with other managers, the time available to CEOs is highly fragmented. Mintzberg found that the typical CEO allocates his or her time among various stakeholders as follows: Directors 7% Peers 16% Clients, suppliers, associates 20% Independents and others % Subordinates 48% Open table as spreadsheet So how does that compare with your time allocation on the job? Does the following sound familiar? Three long meetings—one a total time waster. At least a dozen phone calls. You’ve prepared for a working lunch with the boss, only to have her cancel at the last minute (“Let’s reschedule for next Tuesday”). Two reports to write. Work on the upcoming presentation to senior management. Simmering conflict between two rival employees to deal with. And it’s already time to start work on next year’s budget. If this sounds like one of your workdays, then your day is like those of most other managers—filled with meetings, fragmented activities, interruptions, brushfires that need extinguishing, and business opportunities to exploit. There is little time to think, to plan, or to visualize the future you hope to create. Handling many tasks would not be a problem except for one hard reality: There are only twenty-four hours in a day. Indeed, finding time to get all the work done is one of the biggest challenges managers face. And as rank-and-file employees are empowered to take greater control over their own operations, they too are facing the same challenge. Time Pressure and Creativity Time is one thing that every creative individual and creative team must have to achieve anything worthwhile. But how much time do they need? Does time pressure enhance or squash creativity? These are important questions for managers as they attempt to meet organizational goals with limited resources. Academics have long studied the connection between time pressure and creativity. In general, these studies point to a curvilinear relationship between the two—that is, to a certain point, pressure helps; but beyond that point, pressure has a negative impact. Researchers Teresa Amabile, Constance Hadley, and Steven Kramer have reached some eye-opening conclusions. They point to instances where ingenuity flourishes under extreme time pressure—just as managers have always believed (or hoped)! They point, for example, to a NASA team that within hours came up with a crude but effective fix for the air filtration system aboard Apollo 13—a creative solution that saved the mission and its crew. On the other hand, these authors point to the Bell Labs teams that felt no such pressure but nevertheless created the transistor and the laser. After studying more than nine thousand daily diary entries of people engaged in projects demanding high levels of creativity, Amabile et al. concluded that time pressure usually kills creativity. “Our study indicates that the more time pressure people feel on a given day,” they write, “the less likely they will be to think creatively.” That’s bad news for companies and managers, but it’s not a lost cause. These researchers noted that time pressure affects creativity in different ways depending on whether the environment allows people to focus on their work, conveys a sense of meaningful urgency about their tasks, or stimulates or undermines creativity in other ways. For example, time pressure is not a creativity killer when people feel that they are on a mission, which is what the NASA crew undoubtedly felt. On the other hand, creative thinking under intense time pressure is less likely when people feel that they are on a treadmill—for example, when they suspect that their work is unimportant and when their work is highly fragmented (a typical manager’s situation). source: Teresa Amabile, Constance Hadley, and Steven Kramer, “Creativity Under the Gun,” Harvard Business Review, August 2002, 56. This book will help you make the most of your time and consequently increase your personal productivity and effectiveness. You’ll learn to identify which jobs are most important—and least important—and deal with them according to their priorities. You’ll learn to appreciate the difference between being efficient and being effective. And you’ll discover how you can focus your time on the most critical tasks while avoiding time wasters. Time management is the discipline of controlling your life through your use of the 168 hours that are available to you every week. Managing that time will force you to be explicit about what you value in your professional and personal life and will help you allocate your efforts accordingly. Mastering time management will help you balance the many pressures on your time and achieve your goals. That balance will help you avoid burnout and stress and will make you more productive at home and in the office. [1]Human innovation in the segmentation of time is nicely described by Daniel J. Boorstin in The Discoverers (New York: Vintage Books, 1985), 26–46. [2]James Gleick, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 15. [3]George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout, Competing Against Time (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 1. [4]Henry Mintzberg, “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact,” Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990: 164, 169. What’s Ahead This book’s treatment of time management is organized around eight chapters and several appendixes. The first three chapters focus on method. Chapter 1 is about workplace goals, the starting point of time management. If you identify and prioritize your goals, you will be off to a good start. Chapter 2 will help you understand how you spend the time at your disposal. As in household budgeting, it’s hard to manage time effectively until you know your spending habits. Are You Caught in the Time Trap? A Self-Test • When you get into an elevator, do you automatically press the “close door” button rather than wait for it to close itself? • Do you regularly recalibrate your wristwatch and clocks to the official time? • Are more than 30 percent of your dinners either carry-out or heat-and-serve? • Do you find yourself “multitasking” at work (e.g., skimming a report while a colleague is making a presentation to your group)? • Are you too busy to take the midday walk you know you need to stay fit and healthy? • Do you eat lunch at your desk while doing work or taking phone calls? • Do you eat in your car while driving? • If someone called with news that your father had been taken to the hospital with chest pains, your first thoughts would be about his welfare and getting right over to see him. Would your second thoughts be about the mess this will cause with your schedule? If you answered yes to any of these questions, draw your own conclusions about the grip that time has on your life. For another self-diagnostic test, go online to the FranklinCovey site and try its Time Assessment Matrix (http://www.franklincovey.com/lifematters/index.html ). Chapter 3, “Scheduling Your Time,” follows naturally and rounds out the discussion of method. It will help you make the most of dayplanners, organizers, PC-based systems, and to- do lists. The next three chapters address time-management challenges you regularly face at work. Chapter 4 describes the most common time robbers of contemporary organizational life: procrastination, travel, meetings, excessive e-mails, and so forth. Here you’ll learn some practical tips for protecting your time from these bandits. Chapter 5 is a primer on delegating. For managers and supervisors, failing to delegate creates a huge time problem; conversely, effective delegating frees up time to plan, coach, and address other managerial functions. Chapter 6 addresses a touchy subject: the time-wasting boss. Bosses are supposed to get results through people, but some of them inadvertently fail in this because they waste the time of their subordinates by giving unclear directions, behaving as bottlenecks in the work flow, and so forth. This chapter will help you cope with the time-wasting boss. Chapter 7 talks about the personal side of time. If you are like many people, you are as time- pressed at home as you are at work— with household chores, commitments to civic and family matters, and relationships, to name only a few. Fortunately, you can apply the methodology described earlier in the book to personal time management. This chapter will show you how. Finally, chapter 8 describes things that companies can do to help people manage their time more effectively, both at work and at home. These approaches include the adoption of technologies that provide the benefits of travel without time wasted on commuting to distant locations. Other techniques include programs to enhance work–life balance and time- management training. Although time management is a personal responsibility, these are institutional arrangements that can help people be more successful in managing their time. Companies can make them happen. The final section of this book contains items that will enhance your time-management skills: • Appendix A contains a number of tools that can help you be more effective at managing your time. All the forms are adapted from Harvard ManageMentor® (HMM ), an online product of Harvard Business School Publishing. • Appendix B explains the use of a work breakdown structure (WBS). Managers use a WBS to deconstruct high-level goals into manageable tasks. This same methodology can be usefully applied to time management. See whether it works for you. • Appendix C is a primer on effective meeting management. Meetings are so much a part of contemporary nonfactory work that everyone—both the people who lead meetings and those who participate in them—should understand good meeting practice. It is one of the best ways to make the most of time in the workplace. • The glossary defines terms unique to time management. If you see a new term printed in italics, that’s your cue that its definition can be found in the glossary. • “For Further Reading” describes a set of books and articles that provide either much more material or unique insights into the topics covered in these chapters. If you’d like to learn more about any of the topics we’ve included in the book, these sources will help you. The content of this book is informed by a number of books, articles, and online publications of Harvard Business School Publishing, in particular, articles in Harvard Business Review, and the Time Management module of HMM. Appendix A, “Useful Implementation Tools,” contains worksheets from that module. Readers can also freely access worksheets, checklists, and interactive tools on the Harvard Business Essentials Web site: www.elearning.hbsp.org/businesstools. The book also draws on a number of other published sources. Susan Alvey, a human resources professional, is owed special thanks for her insights into current time-management training practices. Chapter 1: Use Goals as a Guide—Your Compass to Personal Effectiveness Key Topics Covered in This Chapter • The function of goals • Critical, enabling, and nice-to-have goals • Aligning goals at various levels • Prioritizing your goals • Mastering the dilemma of urgency versus importance • How to break goals into achievable tasks • Developing goals for subordinates and for your unit Overview Goals are the starting point of effective time management. They act as a compass, pointing the way to the things on which you should be concentrating your time. If you identify your goals, you will know what is most important for you to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Goals guide time management by helping you assign priorities to the many things that beg to be done. This chapter will help you set goals and sort them in order of priority. It will also address the vexing problem of differentiating between what is urgent and what is important. Unless you are very careful, you can burn up most of your time on the urgent matters that must be done today even though these activities may do little to advance your goals. Finally, the chapter explains how to decompose goals into actionable tasks.[1] [1]Parts of this chapter have been adapted from the Goals module of Harvard ManageMentor®, an online program of Harvard Business School Publishing. Goal Setting Goal setting is a formal process of defining outcomes worth achieving. When you set goals, you commit to outcomes that you can accomplish personally or through your team. By setting goals and measuring their achievement, you can • focus on what is most important • provide a unified direction for your team • devote less energy to noncritical tasks • avoid time wasters • motivate yourself • boost overall job satisfaction. Goals differ in time frames and importance. Some goals are short- term, and others can be achieved only over months or years. In terms of importance, goals generally fall into one of three categories for individuals, operating units, and entire companies. These categories are critical, enabling, and “nice to have.” Critical Goals Critical goals are essential to your success. They must be accomplished in order for your business or your unit to continue running successfully. For example, for a project manager, a critical goal might be to complete a two-year project on time and within budget. For a high- tech start-up company, achieving profitability within the time frame demanded by key investors might be a critical goal. These critical goals are end points. Enabling Goals Enabling goals create a more desirable business condition or take advantage of a business opportunity. They are important but fill a long- term, rather than immediate, need. In a sense, enabling goals facilitate the achievement of critical goals. They are not end points but bridges that carry us to them. Here is one example: As the head of product development for a consumer goods manufacturer, Calvin has a goal to launch a continuous stream of successful and profitable new products. By agreement with his boss, the chief operating officer, Calvin aims to generate 30 percent of annual corporate revenues from products introduced in the previous five years.This is a critical goal.As an experienced R&D professional, Calvin understands all the planning, market research, and coordination required to turn out a steady stream of customer-pleasing products. Calvin also understands management rule 1: Managers get things done through other people. Consequently, he spends a substantial portion of his time—more than 50 percent—on issues that will make the people in his unit more effective in their work: training, finding the money to send people to scientific conferences, trying to retain the best people, visiting lead users of the company’s products, and so forth.“I cannot always translate these activities into bottom- line results,” he says,“but I know in my bones that they contribute to our mission.” Calvin is talking about enabling goals. For a company, an enabling goal might be the development and implementation of an effective pay-for-performance system. A unit’s enabling goal might be to get the physical space it needs to do its work more efficiently. For a project leader, recruiting five top performers to a project team would be an important enabling goal. In this case, the project’s objective is the critical goal; recruiting competent people to the project team is not a critical goal in itself but an enabler of the critical goal. Nice-to-Have Goals Nice-to-have goals make improvements that enhance your business. They usually involve making activities faster, easier, or more pleasant—for example, a new, easy-to-complete expense-reporting form, a more appealing cafeteria menu, or improved snow removal in the company parking lot. These are nice to have but will not supercharge your organization or its results. Goal Alignment Managers should create a set of cascading goals, beginning with company goals. Unit goals should, in turn, support company goals. Individual goals should then support the goals of the unit. These three levels of goals—company, unit, and individual—should be aligned and communicated to the point that an individual employee can say (without prompting), “Our company’s goal is to ____________. My department’s contribution to that goal is to ____________. And my part in this effort is to ____________.” In their valuable book Alignment, George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky put it this way: Imagine working in an organization where every member, from top management to the newly hired employee shares an understanding of the business, its goals and purpose. Imagine working in a department where everyone knows how he or she contributes to the company’s business strategy. Imagine being on a team whose every member can clearly state the needs of the company’s customers and how the team contributes to satisfying them.[2 ] Does this sound far-fetched—an ideal that sounds good in principle but not possible in practice? It isn’t. Great companies are clear on their goals and on each employee’s contributions to them. For example, Southwest Airlines employees—from flight crews to gate crews to baggage handlers—know that aircraft earn no money when they are sitting on the ground. The employees’ goal is to get Southwest aircraft unloaded, reloaded, and back in the air as quickly and safely as possible. Everyone knows how he or she contributes to that higher goal. Now consider your company. How explicit is management in defining and communicating its highest goals to employees? If you are a manager, how effective are you at spelling out goals to your unit and its individual members? Does each person understand the company’s goals, its strategy for competitive advantage, and his or her part in the grand plan? The point to remember is simply this: If you do a good job of formulating and communicating goals, people will be in an excellent position to make the most of their time at work. Take a minute to think about your personal workplace goals and those of your unit and your subordinates. Chances are that your workplace goals are identified in your official job description. If you lack an up-to-date job description, you and your boss should have mutually agreed on your goals during your most recent performance review. If you don’t have a job description and haven’t had a sit- down discussion with your boss, then shame on your boss. It is the boss’s responsibility to work with every direct report in setting goals. If your boss has been negligent, force the issue. Ask for a meeting to discuss your goals for the year and for the next six months. Reach an accord on which are critical, enabling, or simply nice to have. A mutual understanding of these goals is imperative. Don’t settle for vague thoughts about what you should be accomplishing. To be effective guides to action, goals should have these characteristics: • Written down in specific terms. Avoid vagueness in your goals. Vagueness will complicate your time-management problems. • Time-framed. Does the goal need to be accomplished by the end of the week or the end of the year? • Measurable. If you cannot measure progress toward your goals, you won’t know when you’ve achieved them. • Important. The goals you specify should lead to payoffs that you and the organization value. • Aligned with organizational strategy. Unit goals should support the aims of the organization. Individual goals should support the aims of the unit. • Challenging and yet achievable. Goals should make you stretch. Remember too that what is good for you is good for your subordinates. They too should have critical and enabling goals. And those goals should have each of the characteristics just itemized: written, time-framed, measurable, and so forth. This is especially important when the organization is in a state of change, and when a subordinate is on a rapid trajectory toward workplace mastery. As with you and your boss, the best time to discuss and reach agreement with subordinates on goals is during periodic performance appraisal meetings. Subordinates should be actively engaged in these meetings with you. It is important that they be part of the goal-setting process. After all, they are the ones who will have to pursue whatever goals are selected. As you work with subordinates on goal-setting for the coming six months or year, be sure that he or she (1) has the capacity to undertake the new goals and (2) under- stands their details and importance. Also, depending on the person’s skills, this is the time to create a development plan (coaching, training, etc.) that will help the employee gain the needed capabilities. Review Your Goals Periodically As you work toward your goals, step back periodically and review them. Are they still realistic? Are they still timely? Are they still relevant? If the organizational or external environment has changed and reaching the goal will no longer create value, it is certainly appropriate, and indeed important, that you adapt. Ask yourself, “If I eliminated this goal, would anyone care?” On the other hand, you should not alter goals in reaction to obstacles such as personnel changes or a schedule slippage. When you need to change a goal, be sure to get buy-in from your team, your boss, and other involved groups before proceeding. [2 ]George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, Alignment (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1997), 4–5. Sorting Out Your Goals Can you articulate your goals specifically? Which are critical? Which are enabling? Which are merely nice to have? Make a list of these goals using a worksheet like the one provided in figure 1-1, in which the owner-operator of a retail store has noted his goals for the year. (You’ll find a blank version of this form in figure A-2.) Make a note of which are critical, enabling, and simply nice to have. Figure 1-1: Prioritizing Your Goals Then meditate for a minute or two on the content of the past few working days. Which goals commanded your time? The critical ones? The nice-to-have goals? Or was most of your time spent on activities that were unimportant to you but critical to someone else? If you’re like most people, you will find progress toward your critical and enabling goals being crowded out by things that matter very little. The Urgent-Versus-Important Dilemma One of the things that makes a mess of people’s time allocations is a dilemma we all face: the matter of urgency. By definition, something that is urgent calls for immediate attention or action. But not every critical goal is urgent, and not every urgent matter is critical to your success. In fact, most critical goals are long-term and not momentarily urgent. Helen’s critical goal is to build a retirement nest egg; she has twenty-one years to do it. Roberto is intent on obtaining $500,000 in external financing for his entrepreneurial business (“I can’t expand to a second location without it”). But Roberto doesn’t have to obtain this money immediately; he can continue operating his business at the current level until he finds the capital to expand. Polly is determined to complete her team’s big project on time and on budget (“My boss and I have agreed to make this my top priority for the year”). Polly has intermediate milestones she must meet, but the first one is two months away and therefore cannot be defined as urgent. Unfortunately, mundane but urgent tasks crowd out the time and resources we should allocate toward critical goals. This happens easily whenever our critical goals are long-term—that is, when there is no need to achieve them immediately. You may say, “I have six months to get that done, so I’ll get these annoying, unimportant tasks done right now.” Consider these examples: • Helen’s plan is to put $1,000 into her retirement fund every month, but her car needs some engine work right away. That will eat up this month’s retirement contribution. She reasons, “I’ll try to double up next month if I can afford it.” • Roberto knows that he should be networking with people who can lead him to an investor for his business—a critical goal. There is a luncheon scheduled for local entrepreneurs on Tuesday, and a Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Friday— both excellent networking venues. But there is no time for networking this week (“I have to file my tax return and meet with a contractor about remodeling our retail space”). • Polly cannot meet with her project team for several more days because the CEO has asked her to participate in the human resource department’s all-day seminar on employee development. The boss admires her success in helping subordinates develop their careers and believes she’d make a contribution to the seminar. Polly also has a monthly report deadline to meet. The project team meeting will have to wait. Notice that none of these “urgent” tasks has anything to do with the critical goals of Helen, Roberto, and Polly. Helen’s automobile problem is important. She needs transportation. But building a retirement fund is a high-order goal. Similarly, Roberto has an urgent need to get his taxes filed on time; otherwise, he may be hit with a late fee. But filing on time will not bring him any closer to finding a financier who will invest in his business, and neither will meeting with a remodeling contractor. As for Polly, taking part in the seminar and getting a monthly report done on time may be high on someone else’s lists of important matters, but not on hers. Participating in the seminar is nothing more than a pothole in the road toward completing her big project on time and within budget. There is no escaping a certain number of urgent but unimportant activities. A colleague in another department desperately needs help from you in order to do her work. The person who signs your paycheck insists that you drop everything else and “get a list of our key customers in the southwestern region on my desk by four o’clock this afternoon.” Money talks. The accounting department has lost the receipts you submitted with your last expense report. “Please contact the hotel and the car rental agency and ask for duplicate receipts,” an e-mail says. The accounting department’s problem isn’t a big priority to you—but you do want to be reimbursed for your expenses. The tax authority has sent you a cryptic letter stating that your 2003 income tax return is being examined (“You must respond to this notice by contacting our examiner by noon of 21 May”). From your perspective, these are nothing but time wasters; they eat up time without bringing you closer to your goals, but you don’t have much choice about them. What urgent tasks are you facing this week? Make a list. Then compare that list of urgent tasks to your list of critical and enabling goals. Do you see anything resembling a match? Don’t be surprised if most of the “urgent” issues on your list have nothing to do with your critical and enabling goals. In the absence of serious time management, it’s easy for your days to fill up with urgent but unimportant activities. The same applies to many of the commitments we all make to others in the spirit of helpfulness. “Yes, I’ll help you with that report,” you tell a colleague. “Yes, I’ll volunteer to sell raffle tickets for the school fund- raiser.” Commitments like these keep us busy without necessarily bringing us closer to our higher goals. To be an effective time manager, you must discipline yourself to differentiate between what is urgent and important and what is simply urgent. When you recognize the difference, you’ll know best how to allocate your time. Perhaps the best way to reconcile the urgent-versus-important dilemma is to be conscious of the problem and to be deliberate about which unimportant but urgent task you choose to perform and which you will reject. From Goals to Tasks Recognizing and ranking your goals are essential if you’re serious about making the most of your time. Unfortunately, many critical goals are so overwhelming that we cannot deal with them directly; instead, we must break them into manageable tasks and work on each of those tasks. It’s like the old joke: “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is that you eat an elephant by first carving it into bite-sized pieces. You must do the same with big, big goals. We recommend the following four steps to using goals to manage time: Step 1. Break each goal into a manageable set of tasks. Re- view each goal, and then list all the tasks required to achieve it. See figure 1-2 for an example.

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