February 20, 2015

How do you slice time?


One of the resolutions I renew every year is to give things the time they deserve.

It started when I was watching one of my favourite movies with my daughter. In the breaks, I flipped to the football. I checked my Blackberry when it buzzed. Work, football, movie, daughter. All got attention, none got enough.

Unlike my learn-the-piano resolution, this one I actively work on. It’s tough. Back to back meetings, fires to put out, email. It’s possible to be impossibly busy but I try to avoid multitasking.

Two hour chunk

In his 1966 classic, The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker advocates organising for blocks of free time, two hours or more, for the real work. You know, getting actual stuff done rather than surfing over a hundred problems without splashing through the surface on any.

My own observation of effective leaders highlights their ability to skip between small stuff and big stuff, to handle interruptions and keep on moving. But if I quiz them, every one has their own way of slowing down and giving total attention for the important stuff.

Drucker’s two how rule works for me. A proper thinking session, a one-to-one, any time I need to chew over something, a kick-off meeting. Short sessions only turn up the obvious. To really get below the surface on problems you have to dive right in, and that takes time. Two hours seems to fit.

Respect the problem

I love a short meeting. Or better, a short email. But when it’s time to understand – the depth of the water, how the wave forms, where and why it breaks, the dangers below the surface – respect the situation, dive in, and give things the time they deserve.

Skippy Strategy: If you could organise the perfect daily schedule, what would it look like? Accepting an ideal day is impossible, which elements would make the biggest difference every day. Try to do it at least once a week.