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Why Leaders Don’t Manage Their Time

Time management is a key management skill or competency. A lot of people would classify it as an essential life skill. So why don’t leaders manage their time?

What Time Management Really Is 

Sometimes you’ll see clever people say you can’t manage time. They’re right, of course. Time just keeps ticking regardless of what we do.

When we use the word “time management”, what we really mean is “managing oneself against a schedule or timeline.” In order to do this, you have to keep a schedule or do some planning in advance about how you will spend your time.

Track Your Time

Peter Drucker in his management classic The Effective Executive shared that executives don’t usually start with planning or scheduling tasks. They start by finding out where their time is actually spent.

When a leader spends their time wastefully, unproductively or ineffectively, it has an impact throughout the organization.

There are all kinds of apps and schedulers and trackers for leaders to use today to observe where their time is going. Any leader who can’t account for their use of time isn’t paying attention. The first priority is to expand your self awareness of time use.

What Leaders Can Manage

A leader chooses every day how they will use their time. What will they pay attention to? Which things can wait? (or safely be ignored)

In other words, a leader chooses their priorities and commitments. You assign a priority to important things and learn to discriminate (or delegate) urgent tasks.

Smart leaders set up systems that over time let fewer “urgent” situations develop and instead give more attention to what is truly important. 

Leaders set priorities by their own example. That is why they manage priorities instead of focusing on simple managing time.

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