In a 2011 article, “What is an Effective Manager,” in the Canadian Manager, Mitch McCrimmon argued that we should review ourselves, our own resources, just as we might our financial resources. One of the questions he posed was: “What is the best use of my time today?” Time is a resource of which we rarely have enough. Odd as it may seem, during my senior year in high school decades ago, our English teacher required that we write a letter to Santa. I asked Santa for only one gift: a 28-hour day.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey devoted a chapter to putting first things first and later developed into his book, Putting First Things First. He suggested our activities can be categorized on two dimensions: “urgent—not urgent” and “important—not important,” thus creating a matrix. Using these dimensions, we can classify our activities into one of four areas. So how do we spend our time? How much time do we spend on “not urgent, not important” activities? More importantly, how much do we spend on “important, not urgent." The importance of investing time in the “important but not urgent” is repeated in Clay Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life. This is the quadrant where our relationships often fall and can be too easily neglected.
My favorite, and I think the best, self-study questions for managers come from Henry Mintzberg, his 1975 Harvard Business Review (July-August) article, “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact.” His questions should be in the desk drawer or computer of every manager. Here is an example from Mintzberg’s self-study questions:
12. Do I spend too much time on current, tangible activities? Am I a slave to the action and excitement of my work, so that I am no longer able to concentrate on issues? Do key problems receive the attention they deserve? Should I spend more time reading and probing deeply into certain issues? Could I be more reflective? Should I be?
For me taking the time to reflect on my use of time is difficult. This is probably true for many of us. We are always busy. But reviewing how we use time is probably one of the best uses of our time.
McCrimmon, M. (2011). What is an effective manager. Canadian Manager, Fall. https://www.lead2xl.com/what-is-an-effective-manager
Modified from my blog, 12/13/2012.
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