Six questions to help managers get control of their time

As I scour today’s management literature, I’m struck by how much of it relates to personal productivity. We’re seeking secrets to working smarter. Getting more done. Becoming more effective. Learning when and how to say “no.”

Here’s the problem: We’re searching for a perfect answer in an imperfect world. I’m convinced there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all solution for gaining greater control of our time, output, stress and success.

Our time management strategies need to take into account our formal and informal responsibilities, workplace cultures, bosses, technology, training and our personal strengths, styles and quirks — not to mention the vast array of skills and needs of people who report to us.

That’s why I spend a lot of time coaching people in our seminars and workshops, so I can ask them targeted questions about their individual situations and help them discover solutions.

What I offer now is a bit more impersonal, but it’s a quick series of questions for you, just like the ones I’d ask face-to-face. You’re busy, so I’ve kept the list short.

Consider this a two-minute drill. Read the questions, jot an answer — then decide what your next steps will be.

Six Questions to Help You Get Control of Your Time

1. Which of my many tasks can or should be done by only me?

2. What do my bosses and my best people need most from me?

3. What duties, if I delay doing them, will cause significant problems for others?

4. What are my worst time-wasting temptations?

5. What skill have I put off learning that is holding me back?

6. Is there something I should keep doing, even if it isn’t the most efficient, because it gives me pure joy?

Since I’m not able to go over your responses with you, try this: Identify a colleague whose judgment you respect and trust. Invest another 15 minutes in a conversation with that person. Share your answers and your next steps. Invite that person to ask you a few more good questions and then to keep an eye on your progress.

If you have a little more time to spare, listen to this podcast in which I explain the importance of each question. (You can also download the entire “What Great Bosses Know” podcast series on ITunes U, and play it at your convenience.  You know, in all that free time you now have.)

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.