The supply of time is completely inelastic. This fact must be a central focus for every manager. The only time you have is passing by now, never to be seen again, nor squirreled away for future use.
To be an effective manager, you must gain control of your time. Without control over your time all other management tasks are impossible. You are carried along by day-to-day pressures. You operate, but don’t manage.
Effective managers learn to: (1) diagnose how their time is consumed, then (2) prune out waste continuously. This allows them to (3) consolidate discretionary blocks of time that can then be used to do important forward looking management work.
The first step toward gaining control of time is to record how it is used. Keep a log for a couple of weeks. Include every work related activity. Track who, what, why, how long, and where. Keep a close eye on every meeting including one-on-one conversations, telephone calls, emails, instant messaging, and so on. Record every activity!
The second step is to analyze your log and prune out all of the wasteful activities. Meetings are by far the most common time wasters, but don’t ignore reports and presentations that you must prepare. You can borrow from the Toyota Production System (aka lean manufacturing in the US and elsewhere) and ask the “Five Why’s”. For example: “Why am I at this meeting?” “No, really, why am I at this meeting?” and so on. Get to the bottom of why this meeting is taking place, the root.
This is not the place for a lengthy discussion of pruning, but here are a couple of ways to look at meetings that will lead you to stop holding some of them.