By Francis Wade
Wednesday, January 08, 2014.
There's a surprising similarity
between the methods that CEOs and top college students use to manage their
time. A cursory glance at their calendars shows the truth - their days are
packed from morning until evening. Their schedules seem manic because almost
every hour is filled with some kind of activity, including leisure and recovery
time. It's the kind of schedule that makes participants in my programmes recoil
in horror; they can't imagine ever living that way.
And perhaps they shouldn't even try. Their response comes from an old
school of thought: there is only one correct way to manage your time. Their
initial thinking is that they are being told to adopt these techniques for
themselves. My research here at 2Time Labs in Kingston shows a deeper truth:
CEOs and students use these techniques because they push themselves hard.
Missing a key meeting can cause a CEO to make a single multimillion-dollar
mistake that costs hundreds of jobs, while forgetting to study for an exam
might cause a student to fail a course and be forced to drop out altogether.
The combination of their commitment and their environment pushes them to use
practices that are very different from the average person.
Most of us in Jamaica don't live that way, but if you are a professional
who aspires to be an executive, you'll need to learn these techniques. Here are
some pointers to keep in mind as you transition into a hyper-productive
Recapture past glory
My research shows that after graduation, many students gradually become
less productive. The reason? The workplace puts far fewer demands on their time
than college ever did. In fact, the few who continue working hard are told by
their new colleagues to "Take it easy" and "Slow it down".
Their hard-working example makes other employees look bad.
It's to be expected: a young employee without a spouse, kids or a
mortgage can afford to focus on work, and little else.
Most decide to fit in, rather than stand out, just to keep the peace.
Some get bored and slip into laziness. Others seek fulfilment outside of work.
Almost all, however, lose their productive edge and let go of the time
management techniques they used as ultra-busy students.
For the aspiring professional, this is good news - rather than having to
learn something brand new, they are actually returning to forgotten practices.
Become more productive before it's necessary
As a would-be executive, the time comes when you decide that the need to
fit in only leads to mediocrity, and that standing out is actually a good
thing. At that point, it's a smart idea to start practising the technique of
scheduling most activities in a calendar. You'll be favoured: managers love
hyper-productive employees who are skilled at getting things done without
excuses and failures, a strength that can lead to a promotion.
Also, increasing your personal productivity before it's actually a
necessity gives you time to perfect top scheduling skills. By the time a
promotion is announced, you will have already reached the level of productivity
required at the next level in your company.
My in-class research shows that, like most employees around the world,
corporate Jamaicans use their electronic calendars as appointment books: a way
to track meetings with other people. This means that the choice of what to do
next is based on whatever their memory happens to pull up next, or whatever
meeting happens to be scheduled. This haphazard approach doesn't work for long
because it guarantees that bigger, high-stake priorities will rarely get
executed, simply because they haven't been scheduled. Instead, they get buried
each day by lower priority, urgent busy-work.
Here's a simple test. Take a snapshot of your calendar for the upcoming
week and ask yourself: "Does it reflect my highest priorities for the
year?" You can also manually track your time usage for the past week and
ask a similar question: "Did my time usage last week reflect my highest
priorities for the year?" Your answer to these questions may point you in
the direction of an upgrade - a move to scheduling most activities in your
This approach certainly isn't for everyone, but if you aspire to a top
position in your company, you may have to look beyond the immediate example of
others, and towards world-class standards. It may mean ignoring the precedents
set by current executives you work with, who may not be reflecting best
practices. By starting early to hit high standards, you'll place yourself in
Francis Wade is president
of Framework Consulting and author of 'Bill's Im-Perfect Time Management
Adventure'. Email feedback to him at email@example.com