“Creative 53% Teaching 28% Other 19% ... That, he explains, is a running tally of how he’s spending his time ... These aren’t ballpark guesstimates. Mr. Collins, who is 51, keeps a stopwatch with three separate timers in his pocket at all times, stopping and starting them as he switches activities.” - 2009 NYT piece on Jim Collins
It is week three of my blank-page life. I’ve never had fewer places I have to be. So what am I doing? One big theme has been how I manage time itself. Having a clear, unobstructed calendar to shape has lent itself to experimenting with some time management ideas that I think would translate back to work. So below is not only what I'm filling my weeks with, but how.
"Making Time" is the number one obstacle to learning. I saw it again and again with people at M5 that just couldn't show up to do the work needed move their careers ahead. But when something is really important - like a family member in the hospital - somehow we manage to keep everything going. I often think of getting off the cardio-machine in the gym when it hurts, but I don't, because I already did the work of getting my butt on the thing. There's a lot to be said for showing up where and when you want to, and it isn't always easy. So, to try and make sure I'm controlling my time during this period of limitless distraction, I baked a pie chart.
After a few weeks of this system, I decided to only calendar time I was physically present at an activity. Travel time and unscheduled time becomes "other" which has run about 25% of the hours. Much of this in-between time is useful for things like checking email, but I'm less likely to get into a deep productive flow, so I'm leaving it as other. Better logistics might reduce travel time and "other," and lower this number. An assistant might manage to this metric, and get 5 or 10% more time out of a week ...
Then, I split the pie between the categories that are my priorities now. For September, I had five:
I've played with other systems for organizing priorities, and had my team use several. Verne Harnish's "top three" system in the Rockefeller Habits is a good one, and underscores what I learned here - that you really can only get 1-2 sizable things done in a week. After three cycles, there’s less than an hour a week overhead to the system. I think an assistant could leverage this to have it take only a few strategic minutes a week. Maybe some purpose-built software integrated to google calendar could help too.
There are lots of other important dimensions to productivity. I’ve really liked using Evernote to manage the tasks and projects, and David Allen’s “getting things done” system. I've had a clear, written goal for each month and week under each area. Putting timing on each step really helps. Beyond factors like my mood, how organized I am for a task, my capacity to do something fast, even my health. Maybe more on those aspects of productivity another time. So many CEO blogs out there on this topic! Check out fellow YPO CEO Jim Estill, or Michael Hyatt. I guess people who've been a CEO can get a bit obsessed with topic. Once you find yourself the biggest bottleneck to a company's growth and success, things like learning and productivity smack you in the face.