The best time management techniques for leaders

To help you improve your time management skills as a leader, we’ve gathered insights from a variety of professionals, including founders, CEOs, and business coaches. From arranging one-on-one meetings and brainstorming to limiting open-door policy time, discover 11 effective time management strategies these experts swear by in their leadership roles.

Facilitate individual and reflection meetings

Time management can be a challenge for leaders due to their often hectic schedules and the pressure that comes with making responsible decisions. One strategy that I find effective in managing my time is to schedule one-on-one meetings with those who report to me.

After five meeting blocks, I allow a brief pause for reflection. This unusual approach allows me to remain fully engaged during each session and ensure that no individual has been overlooked; second, it gives me the space to evaluate and reset the goal structure before moving on to the next set of meetings.

This strategy helps minimize the risk of burnout/frustration while providing team members with much-needed direct interaction with management.

Julia Kelly, Managing Partner, Rigits

Using the Pomodoro Technique

As a leader and people manager, the key to my workload has been ensuring that the short blocks of time I have between calls and meetings are maximized as much as possible.

I tried many methods – time blocking, checking emails at fixed times, etc. – but I have found using Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique to be the most effective in ensuring my productivity is as high as possible day to day.

The main goal of the technique is to take short bursts of time to work on a set task and then take a break (make a coffee, change context, etc.) before the next quick burst.

I try to use a productivity planner, while allowing myself flexibility, so I don’t get frustrated if a certain day doesn’t go as planned. Working for a fast-paced organization means flexibility is regularly needed.

Rosie Gladden, Marketing Director, ImageX

Apply the “Touch it Once” principle

Touch it Once (TIO) is about handling a task immediately the first time you look at it, so you don’t have to come back to it later. Here’s how it works for me: If I can do a task in 10 minutes or less, I do it right away. If not, I either delegate it to someone else or put it aside for at least a week. I receive a plethora of emails daily, many of which require quick decisions.

If I’m just Bcc, my action is usually no action at all. If I know someone who knows an answer better, I forward an email. My goal is to be useful instead of creating a beautiful but useless email.

This principle helped me hire a very strong developer a year ago. We did not postpone the decision and sent him an offer faster than the others. He proceeded with us exactly for this reason. The TIO principle helps our company win the best talent and the best customers and thrive while others continue to postpone their tasks.

Vladislav Podolyako, Founder and CEO, Folderly

Sequencing schedules and blocking time

Intentionally blocking out personal and team schedules in time, then sequencing them appropriately throughout the week will help you be a more effective leader, avoid the cognitive cost of context switching, and improve the flow of information in your business.

For example: grouping all of your direct reports 1-1 into a single day or block not only helps you mentally stay in the “coaching mode” flow, but, when strategically placed during the week, will make the flow of communication much more efficient.

Let’s say you have an executive meeting on Monday and a larger team meeting on Wednesday. Sandwiching 1-to-1 between these allows you to quickly communicate strategic decisions from the executive meeting to your reports, as well as take challenges from your reports to discuss at the next day’s team meeting, all within 48 hours.

This frees up time later in the week for deeper work and collaboration, avoiding the haphazard patchwork of meetings that thwarts productivity.

Tom Lloyd, Founder and Managing Partner, tllo

Leverage Loom for communication

As a remote company, I’m always looking for tools to help keep the Reimagine Talent team communicative, connected, and engaged.

One of the bottlenecks we encountered early in our startup was excessive team meetings. Over time, there are more thoughtful ways to keep the team informed and move priorities beyond formal meetings.

Loom, the fastest and easiest way to record content to stay connected with teams, has been a revolutionary resource in helping us save time and leverage meetings for brainstorming and strategic planning, which require conversation.

Year-to-date, Loom has helped me save 30 hours off formal meeting hours and expand outlets to communicate with my national team.

Loom is now a central part of our business, also helping to support onboarding, business development and customer success.

Chelsea C. Williams, Founder and CEO, Reimagine Talent Co.

Try the mega-batch technique

I am an advocate of intense focus and minimal distractions. I apply a mega-batch time management technique to filter my daily goals and help my team prioritize tasks.

The strategy stems from the idea that people achieve the best results when they focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task or a set of similar tasks. It helps to fight attention residues, which prevent us from concentrating when we move from one task to another.

To maximize efficiency, I approached setting goals before changing the workflow. I always evaluate my daily plans to set a main goal. Then I break down the goal, come up with a list of minor tasks, organize them into larger logical blocks, and accomplish them without distractions.

Members of my team use the same approach. I maximize overall efficiency by ensuring that the goals we are simultaneously focusing on as a team are not too diverse.

Olga Shapovalova, B2B and Partnerships Director and Strategic Management Expert, Headway EdTech Startup

Adopt protected time slots

Being a leader is like being a juggler in a circus: there’s always a ton to manage! But there’s a secret weapon I have in my leadership toolbox: “protected time blocks.”

Imagine this: special, sacred, untouchable chunks of time, just for the big stuff that really matters. With these powerful blocks, I focus on those crucial, high-impact projects that are truly game changers. Every day, I’m engaged in critical tasks with clients that require clear, unclouded thinking – and that’s precisely where these blockages come into play.

Now you are in a fortress of productivity. No interruptions are allowed. No sudden pop-up meetings, no random pings, just you and the task. It looks good? This is exactly what protected time blocks are. They’re like your superpower hours, ready to take on your top priorities and send them flying out of the park.

I’m involving everyone from my team to my clients to test and join the protected time block party.

Every moment becomes a step towards our great goals.

Cristina Imre, Executive Coach and Business Strategist, Quantum Wins

Prioritize tasks and plan ahead

Prioritizing tasks results in efficiency. The main step is to plan ahead. Separate all tasks into categories based on factors such as urgency and importance. Make sure these tasks are addressed first.

When mapping out tasks that aren’t as difficult or urgent, don’t overlap them, as multitasking can lead to several other errors. Remember to set deadlines for each task. These will ensure that all projects run smoothly.

Ben Richardson, Director, Acuity Training

Match energy levels with task difficulty

By taking on my toughest task when I’m most energetic, it’s much easier to push through and produce high-quality work without burning out. Since for me it happens around 10am or 11am, I will do easier tasks before and after this window, so that I can concentrate my efforts completely.

When you do your easiest work, when you’re tired, you won’t have to fight a tough energetic battle, and doing your hardest work when you’re rested will stimulate critical thinking to help you make those tough decisions.

Marnix Broer, co-founder and CEO, Studocu

Identify time pirates

Leaders are surrounded by multiple “time pirates” who derail the plans they intend to follow throughout the day. This can include emails that repeatedly arrive in the inbox, interruptions the leader suffers for some insignificant reason, and social accounts that bring notifications all day.

I realized that much of what happens around me as a leader can be resolved later, because doing so in the moment usually takes my focus away from priority accomplishments. So I identified my time hijackers to better manage my time, which turned out to be the best strategy to manage my time effectively.

Once identified, I manage them at the time of their resolution and do not take care of them right away to concentrate on the priority accomplishment.

Lou Reverchuk, Co-Founder and CEO, EchoGlobal

Limit open door policy time

Get rid of this open door policy. Assign specific times in your calendar when you are available for general meetings and effectively ensure that your time is protected.

Team members who may have been bothering you with non-urgent matters will find someone else to answer their questions, leaving you to deal with matters that need your attention.

Julia Ngapo, mentor, founder, business and executive coach, Julia Ngapo Business Coaching

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