Managers spend a great deal of time planning how to best utilize their human and capital resources. Too often neglected in this planning, however, is the consideration of time itself. Inefficient use of time not only impedes an organization’s operation but also disrupts the proper function of managers themselves. Time itself must be treated as a resource in order to avoid this tendency.
Be Mindful of the Mind
No matter your intelligence level, the mind can process only so much data at once. Theorist John Boyd developed the “OODA Loop” to model the way decisions are made: observation, orientation, decision and action. Orientation does not necessarily refer to the physical act of orientation; in this context,orientation refers to preexisting conceptions, which can be products of culture, social class and more.
Consider the average manager’s day: Incessant emails, ineffective meetings and demanding coworkers. These things must be individually observed and conceived before being decided and acted upon. But the cycle is vulnerable to overload; procrastination, frustration and even serious error can all result when too much is required of the limited resources. Acknowledgment of this isn’t weakness but, rather, recognition of human capacity.
Set an Organized Agenda
An agenda without organization might as well be fantasy. A manager should deconstruct goals into their constituent parts, and some goals may have to be extricated entirely. In setting the agenda, the manager may need to decide which aspects must be discarded, which must be conceived anew and which are best delegated into a subordinate’s control sphere.
An important element of agenda setting is recognizing when the organization itself impedes the fulfillment of its goals. Delegation is valuable, but remember that each additional layer of bureaucracy will take a toll on efficiency.
Host Purposeful Meetings
Consider how many meetings your organization currently conducts: How many are crucial? Many companies suffer from “initiative creep,” the accumulation of small plans that add up to substantial inefficiency before anyone is aware of the problem. It’s best to keep meetings to an absolute minimum; rather than hosting multiple short ones per day, think of scheduling only one or two long meetings in a given week.
Limiting meetings introduces an element of psychological scarcity that has two immediate benefits: It mitigates demands on your attention and obliges employees to be far more disciplined in their own professional agendas.
By reconstructing the workday in this manner, managers can improve their operational efficiency and sense of personal satisfaction. When managers cultivate their own time discipline, the organization can benefit from the example they set forth.