Your most valuable asset – Time

As a CIO  I have access to many resources and one of the main jobs I have is to allocate those resources in an optimal way.  There is one resource that is finite and there os no real way to manage it – Time.  There is only 24 hours in a day and all managers must strive to use each of those hours optimally.  My calendar is the trusted system I use to optimize the use of those hours.  As Peter Drucker said “Your calendar should represent your priorities.”

When I review my calendar in my Weekly Review I first take the “big picture” approach and scan the next couple of months in month view.  This gives me the high-level view of what is ahead in the next few months.  Typically events that are marked as “All Day” events pop out – things like anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, travel, conferences, and holidays.  This sets a context to what time is available to accomplish the stuff you need to do.

Then, I switch to the weekly view to take in the next several weeks in more detail.  As Peter Drucker said the week is the unit of time that connects us to our upcoming work.  At this view, I can see exactly what commitments I already have and how much discretionary time I have available.  This level of review also gives me a sense of if the upcoming week is a “normal” week with “normal” meetings and rhythms or not.

Once I have completed this review I sit down with my assistant and we review the calendar together.  We look at the non-negotionable mandatory items starting with my Weekly Review which is critical for me to be in control and totally effective.  Ideally, it would be the first thing I do Monday morning but if that can’t happen for whatever reason, that is okay but it should happen ASAP.  So, if she has to reschedule it because I have been overtaken by events (OBE) then that is fine but she must make it a priority for me to get this done as early in the week as possible.

The next mandatory item is my Daily Review and Sync.  This is the next most critical part of keeping in control.  Each day I need to scan my Next Actions to see what I want or need to accomplish that day.  For those items that I want to accomplish before I go home, I tag them as “Today.”  The Daily Review and Sync consists of scheduling 30 minutes where the first 15 minutes is reserved for reviewing my next actions and the second 15 minutes is reserved for my assistant and I to sync about upcoming calendar items and any associated time necessary for projects next actions.

The next mandatory calendar item is to scheduling Inbox Processing.  Processing my physical Inbox and my email Inbox is critical to my GTD system.  My assistant needs to ensure that I have three 30 minute blocks of time dedicated to processing both my physical inbox on my desk for things like POs, Invoices, Expense Reports, etc. and my email inbox. The timing of these half hour processing blocks is not critical other than they should be spaced out throughout the day so I can respond to important things in a timely manner.  Therefore, they are “moveable” calendar items but they must be rescheduled as my goal is to have both inboxes processed to zero before I leave every day.  When scheduling these processing times it is critical to be aware of the context of the day – do I have a dinner or some evening event that will cause me to leave work at a certain time?  If so, she must work backwards and make sure I have enough time to process to zero before I leave work.

The final mandatory scheduling item is 1:1’s with my direct reports. Weekly 1:1s with my direct reports is critical to keeping in touch with the people who are responsible for executing on my vision for IT.  Therefore, they need to happen every week.  It is important for for my assistant to be proactive with their assistants to reschedule their 1:1 if either they or I am going to be unable to make their 1:1 for whatever reason.

Now that I have all my mandatory items scheduled, I move on to my priorities.  My calendar should reflect my priorities.  We all have bosses or other VIPS who always get priority in meetings and calls.  Beyond those requests, and assuming I have completed my Weekly Review, I will have Next Actions for all my projects and my assistant will need to schedule time to work on these. At CAA we have a corporate culture that requires we return colleagues calls first so all internal calls must be returned first and I have to make time to do that ASAP.

Another priority is moving my projects forward.  I especially want to focus on “big projects” like IT Staff Meeting presentations, Company Staff Meeting presentations, Budget, Vision, etc. where there is a hard deadline.  Together with my asistant, we need to identify the deadline and understand all the work necessary to meet the deadline and schedule appropriately.  Working backwards, with appropriate slack for when OBE happens, we need to set aside appropriate time for me to do the work.

When people ask for my time they need to go thru my assistant and she has the authority to schedule these requests without asking me if they are consistent with my priorities .   If it is not clearly consistent with my priorities then she must gather the information necessary for both of us to determine if the request rises to the level of being added to my calendar.  The default answer will be no to requests and the requester will have to give my assistant the information about the request like the agenda or why they need me and not someone else like their direct supervisor.

Calendar management is critical for executives to be successful in today’s always on world.

About Michael Keithley

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