How to Track your Time and Priorities in 15 Minutes

To be an effective CEO or manager, you must know and control your time and priorities.

This means you must track your time and priorities.

You need to do it. And, you need the managers who report to you to also do this. (Which means you have to assign this task to them.)

How about the inevitable push-back: “I don’t have time”?

How to Assign the Task

Make it simple. You can do this assignment in under 15 minutes. Once you do it, you can assign it with a clear conscience.

  1. List the major tasks my time goes into
  2. Add an estimate of weekly time I spend on each
  3. Rearrange the list from highest priority to lowest, based on value to the organization
  4. Report this in an email – don’t use a spreadsheet or keep a time diary (this time)

Sample Output of this Assignment

Here’s a sample outcome of the Time Usage assignment (you would only share the third one, but I’m showing all three stages).

List Major Tasks

First, list the major tasks my time goes into:
  • Status Reporting, Time Tracking
  • Calling and Outreach on behalf of Clients (CJS, CS)
  • Direct Client Service (calls, visits, webinars)
  • Travel (on business)
  • Email and Phone Calls
  • 1:1s and Team Meetings
  • Committees – Meetings
  • Committees – Prep Work
  • Video Creation
  • Networking
  • New Business Development
Notice how I’m not breaking this out by project or client? That might be good, or it might be a mistake. No way to tell yet.

Add Time Estimates

Second, the same list but with time estimates from looking at my calendar. I add in additional things at this stage as I remember them:
  • Status Reporting, Time Tracking (1.5 hrs)
  • Calling and Outreach on behalf of Clients (CJS, CS) (5 hrs)
  • Direct Client Service (calls, visits, webinars) (9 hrs)
  • Travel (on business) (2 hrs)
  • Email and Phone Calls (10 hrs)
  • 1:1s and Team Meetings (4.5 hrs)
  • Committees – Meetings & Prep Work (5 hrs)
  • Video Creation (3 hrs)
  • Networking (1 hr)
  • New Business Development (3 hrs)
Note that I’m a hair over 40 hrs, which is plausible for me and my role. It could easily be under 30 on weeks where my time is so chopped up that I can’t do anything useful for long stretches. This happens.

Organize by Value

Third, the same list as in step #2 but rearranged from most impactful to least. Here too things may swim into my consciousness. If so, I’ll add them:
  • New Business Development (3 hrs)
  • Networking (1 hr)
  • Direct Client Service (calls, visits, webinars) (9 hrs)
  • Calling and Outreach on behalf of Clients (CJS, CS) (5 hrs)
  • 1:1s and Team Meetings (4.5 hrs)
  • Video Creation (3 hrs)
  • Committees – Meetings & Prep Work (5 hrs)
  • Email and Phone Calls (10 hrs)
  • Status Reporting, Time Tracking (1.5 hrs)
  • Travel (on business) (2 hrs)
Clearly my “unavoidable waste” activities should be at the end — you can’t NOT do these, but if you could somehow avoid them, nobody would complain.
Also clearly, my value-creation activities should be at or near the top.
In a second pass at this on a future date, I would likely divide this differently by adding in info on the different clients or projects. Or, I could just make a separate list of projects, again prioritized.
Use this list to help yourself save time on low-value activities that can be (a) dropped, (b) delegated or (c) compressed to take less time, often but not always at lower quality.
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