The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker is a a classic. Written 40+ years ago, and still enormously relevant. You can find pdf online for free or buy it used at Amazon for $2 (affiliate link). A steal.
Great quotes from Drucker (shown in blue italics) on the subject of time:
Time is THE most valuable resource.
- Effective executives know that time is the limiting factor. . . .Of the other major resources, money is actually quite plentiful. . . People – the third limiting resource – one can hire, though one can rarely hire enough good people. But one cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time.
Thoughtful management takes time.
- The manager who thinks that he can discuss the plans, directions, and performance of one of his subordinates in fifteen minutes – and many managers believe this – is just deceiving himself. If one wants to get to the point of having an impact, one need probably at least an hour and usually much more. To spend a few minutes with people is simply not productive. If one wants to get anything across, one has to spend a fairly large quantum of time.
Stop doing low/no-value things. Just say “no”.
- Which of the activities on my time log could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better?
- An enormous amount of the work being done by executives is work that can easily be done by others, and therefore should be done by others.
- In fact, there is not much risk that an executive will cut back too much. We usually tend to overrate rather than underrate our importance and to conclude that far too many things can only be done by ourselves. Even very effective executives still do a great many unnecessary, unproductive things.
Overstaffing = time wasted.
- Time-wastes often result from overstaffing.
- Much more common is the work force that is too big for effectiveness, the work force that spends, therefore, an increasing amount of time “interacting” rather than working.
- In a lean organization people have room to move without colliding with one another and can do their work without having to explain it all the time.
Meetings are a lagging indicator of dysfunction.
- If executives in an organization spend more than a fairly small part of their time in meeting, it is a sure sign of malorganization.
Small blocks of time are useless.
- Even one quarter of the working day, if consolidated in large time units, is usually enough to get the important things done. But even three quarters of the working day are useless if they are only available as 15 minutes here and half an hour there.
After 23 years in the corporate world, I will say all of this is brutally true. Time is squandered, and we let process overtake deep, patient, measured thinking. Too often, we try to legislate, adjudicate, and optimize our time – rather than making clear decisions on what is worth our time and not. This book was written in 1967, and he talks about problems which have only gotten worse with technology:
- Needlessly inviting unnecessary people to meetings – think about conference call invites
- Splitting up our time into useless small blocks – think about the endless distractions of email, IM
- Being pulled in multiple directions – think about the 24/7 demands on a global CEO
As Bain talks about all the time, we need to fight complexity with simplicity, not with more complexity. How well do you manage your time? Are you as deliberate as you would like to be? In control? Happy?