Viewing entries tagged
Time Management


Will people pay attention now that HBR has validated it?

I've been preaching for years now that companies should pay more attention to how much time they regularly squander. Whether we're talking about confusing communication, inefficient meetings, or unimportant initiatives, organizations waste enormous amounts of time on non-value added activities. Most companies don't seem to really care as long as this waste doesn't hit the bottom line (and it doesn't, since managers are on salary, not hourly wages). The same companies that will argue the need for a corporate jet to keep their senior team maximally productive (Down time at airports? The horror!), will tolerate the rest of the company spending 300,000 hours per year supporting one weekly executive team meeting. Disappointingly, even companies engaged in lean transformations seem not to care much about the waste of time. I've met many people from nearly every functional silo in these firms over the past five years, and they all complain about email overload, meeting gridlock, and other pointless activities. And yet their firms accept this waste as either unimportant or unavoidable, a fact of nature along the lines of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. They'd never accept a similar waste of time and attention on the plant floor, of course, because people are working on the clock, and because they can measure material utilization down to the penny. Muda of time? No problem. Muda of metal? No way.

But perhaps there's hope. The May issue of HBR features Your Scarcest Resource, an article that quantifies some of the cost of poorly managed time, and suggests strategies to reduce the organizational waste. There are no Copernican insights here -- the ideas are as gob-smackingly obvious as most time management ideas. (Start meetings on time, and end them early if they're not productive. Standardize the decision-making process. Etc.) -- but it's a good article. But just maybe the HBR imprimatur will at least get management to start turning their lean lenses on the waste of this most precious, and non-renewable, resource.

If you decide to take it on, feel free to call me. I wrote the book on it.




How lean improves individual productivity

I'm a rabid believer that lean concepts and tools can improve personal productivity enormously -- hell, I (literally) wrote the book on that. But it's nice to see validation from the go-go world of internet startups. Bill Trenchard, founder of LiveOps and now partner at First Round Capital, just published a piece that supports my argument. He believes that 70% of a tech CEO's time is spent sub-optimally, and his countermeasures come straight out of the lean playbook.

Creating Standard Work: Bill suggests identifying the core processes -- which are often repetitive -- that drive the company, and creating standard work around them.

For anything you do more than three times, write down your process in detail. Build playbooks that you can hand off to someone else, so they can execute something exactly the way you would. Never get held up by people asking what the next step is or whom they should ask about a process.

This is how Uber in particular scaled so quickly. They’ve grown to over 70 cities and they’ve killed it in all of them. How did they do it? With a playbook. They have a list of the things they do in every single city when they launch, with slight regional adjustments. They have practiced this method and tested it and wrote it all down. So now they just execute, like turning a key.

The startups that I have seen succeed the most at scaling are the ones who have systematized their common actions and core procedures early, and made a habit of it as they grew.

Reducing the Waste of Over-processing: Bill takes on the always thorny issue of managing email and sees stupendous over-processing waste in the way we read and re-read our messages:

Think about postal mail for a second. Do you pick your letters up, look at each one and then put them back down only to pick them up and put them down again and again? This is the definition of insanity. Yet that’s exactly what most of us do with our email.... If you can respond to or act on any email in under two minutes, just do it immediately. If it’s going to require more than two minutes, move it into your task manager to process later. When you do this, you have the ability to prioritize tasks and emails in relation to each other, and your inbox no longer owns your time.

Improving Flow: The psychological research is unanimous on this point -- multitasking doesn't work. Email interruptions, whether self-inflicted or from someone sending you a message, kill your ability to create psychological flow. How to improve the situation? Like me, Bill recommends doing it in chunks to avoid fragmenting your attention:

I recommend the batch route. It lets you focus on email when you need to, and give other tasks the attention they deserve. Constant context-switching makes you mediocre at everything.

Go and See, and Leader Standard Work: Using daily standup meetings (or something similar) as part of leader standard work so that you can identify and solve obstacles quickly is critical in the factory and in the office. Cribbing from both the agile software and lean playbooks, Bill goes to the gemba:

[One of the most productive CEOs I know] circulates the office, stopping to talk to his team members one-on-one or in small groups throughout the day. He asks them:

  • What’s holding you back from getting more done?
  • What are your blockers? Are there any bottlenecks or barriers I can remove for you?
  • What resources or processes would let you move as fast as you want to?

Get the answers to these questions and get it done for your team. If you want them to model speed, you need to model speed yourself. Give them the help they need to do their best work in record time. Responsiveness is key.

Bill's post is a good reminder that lean concepts are not just applicable to factory -- or office -- processes. They're applicable to the way that you, as an individual, work. You can remove waste, improve quality, and increase the value you create in the time you spend at the office. It's the only truly non-replaceable resource. Use it wisely.



Here's why productivity tools waste your time.

Yesterday's WSJ article, "How Productivity Tools Can Waste Your Time" highlights an uncomfortable fact: the infinitely expanding universe of systems, apps, books, and gizmos doesn't seem to be making people more productive.

An explosion in technology aimed at helping people manage their time and tasks may actually be making it harder.

New productivity products "have skyrocketed in the last couple of years. There is way too much out there to make sense of it all," says Whitson Gordon of Los Angeles, editor in chief of Lifehacker, a website on using technology to be more productive.

Speaking as a guy who has published his own time management book last year (A Factory of One), I can say with confidence -- and some degree of knowledge -- that most people love my ideas, but they struggle to actually implement them. As a result, they wallow in the same quagmire of email overload, metastasizing to-do lists, and behind-schedule projects as those who haven't read my book.

The failure of most people to implement classic time management ideas begs for a root cause analysis. I see two causes. First, there's the failure of self-discipline. As the WSJ article puts it,

Improving your productivity isn't about searching for a better app or finding the right software. "Ultimately it comes down to managing yourself."

If people struggle to diet, or exercise, or quit smoking, why should it be any easier for them to shed their lousy time management habits? The self-discipline required is formidable -- and most people, frankly, don't have it.

Second, and perhaps more important, is our work environment. You can try to establish new, more productive behaviors, but the ugly truth is that you'll get steamrolled by the bureaucratic inertia of your organization. Let's say that you vow, in Julie Morgenstern's words, to "never check email in the morning." (Pretty much every productivity coach recommends that.) Sounds great. But that resolution will last only until your boss chews you out for missing a critical email that she sent at 8:15am. The same holds true for running better meetings, for throwing out old/obsolete files, etc. If your work environment punishes you for productive behavior, you'll go back to the old ways of working.

So, before you download new apps or buy new books, consider whether or not you're disciplined enough to actually implement the ideas, and figure out how to get your company (or at least your boss) to change expectations.



Don't use training to fix performance problems.

Leave it to Google to bring a robust, problem-solving mindset to HR. In a recent NYTimes interview, Karen May, Google's VP for people development dismisses the reflexive approach to training that so many companies have:

Don’t use training to fix performance problems. If you’ve got a performance problem, there is a process to go through to figure out what’s causing it. Maybe the person doesn’t have the knowledge or skill or capability. Or is it motivation, or something about relationships within the work environment? Or lack of clarity about expectations? Training is the right solution only if the person doesn’t have the capability. But what I have seen in other places is sort of a knee-jerk reaction by managers to put someone in a training class if somebody isn’t performing well.

Having spent more than my fair share of time delivering training classes on time management, I can say with confidence that she's on the money. More often than I like to admit, my training classes were failures, if you measure success by sustained behavioral change. The failure wasn't due to quality of my teaching skills or the content. (At least, I don't think so!) Rather, it was due to root causes that were beyond my ability, or the ability of the participants, to fix.

As I've written before, time management problems are really just manifestations of dysfunction in one or more of the following areas: strategy; priorities; internal systems and processes; corporate cultural expectations; or individual skills. Training addresses the last area only -- but usually, the time management problem has its root cause in one of the other areas.

Remember: the performance problem you're seeing is more than likely just a symptom. And just as you'd look for root causes of defects in a manufacturing or administrative, process, you should look for root causes of "defects" in human performance. After all, your organization, and the people within it, are infinitely more complex than the products or services you provide. It only makes sense that any performance problems require at least a similarly probing analysis, rather than the simplistic fix of training.


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What does your calendar say about you?

In contrast to instant messaging, text messaging, or email, communication time through traditional (snail) mail is measured in days and weeks. You'd think that too much time spent in that world would lead to a lack of sensitivity to how long things take and where time goes. (It flies, of course.) And yet Moya Green, the CEO of Britain's state-owned Royal Mail, can track the way she spends her time with a degree of precision that most businesspeople can't match.

In a McKinsey interview last month, Green demonstrates that she's cognizant of exactly where she invests her time and attention:

McKinsey: How do you strike a balance between the many demands on your time, particularly when driving change?

Moya Greene: I try to think about my agenda as divided into big blocks of time that I actively monitor. I recently did a diary analysis, which showed I spend roughly 15 percent of my time managing and understanding our employees. Another 25 percent of my time last year was devoted to changing the fundamentals of the company. . . . Next, I spent 15 percent of my time seeking to change the conversation inside Royal Mail so that we put the customer much closer to the heart of what we talk about and do. . . . A further 10 percent was taken up with what I call strategic realignment, helping people understand that we're going to make our money in future in parcels and packets, in media, and by selling our data assets in a more commercial way. That left 35 percent for everything else: organization, recruitment, managing the board, and crisis management.

I've worked with many senior leaders, and I seldom see this kind of clarity about how they spend their time. They always have a clear idea of where they want to focus their attention, but they rarely take the time to actually do a diary analysis to see whether they're acting on their intentions. In lean terms, they're excellent at the Plan-Do phases of the PDCA cycle, but not so good on the Check-Adjust phases. As a result, they have a very difficult time assessing their role in the organization's successes and failures -- did they spend too much time on a strategic initiative? Not enough time? Were there other issues? Who knows?

I've written about this topic before, of course, but I think Tom Peters says it best: you are your calendar:

"There is only one asset that you have and that asset is your time.

[Imagine you're a boss of a distribution center and] you say that this is the year of extraordinary attention to quality. Then at the end of the first month, I sit down with you and we go through your monthly calendar day-by-day and hour-by-hour. And we discover that with all the meetings that occur and all the surprises that come up in the course of that month you spent 6 hours directly on the quality issue.

Well, guess what: quality is not your top priority.

The calendar never, ever, ever lies.

If you say something is a priority, then it must be quantitatively reflected in the calendar.”

Can you analyze your calendar? What does it say about you?

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Nick Saban and the (lean) Crimson Tide

If you told a football coach that he could learn from Toyota's lean manufacturing methods, he'd probably tell you that a football team isn't a factory -- and then he'd have an offensive lineman throw you out of his office. But it you told that to NIck Saban, University of Alabama football head coach, he'd probably agree.

A new Fortune Magazine article on Saban describes how his "Process" has led to remarkable success in college football: 48-6 in his last 54 games and two national championships in the past three years. Recognizing that his time and attention is the critical, non-renewable resource that he brings to his work, Saban drives out inefficiency -- no matter how small -- wherever he can:

As he sits down at a small table in his expansive wood-paneled corner office, the coach grabs what looks like a garage-door opener and presses the button. Across the room, the door to his office softly whooshes shut. Boom! Nick Saban just saved three seconds. Multiply that enough times and you have a couple of extra months, or years, to recruit more high school stars.

Then there's lunch itself. He has it down to a science -- another in a series of small efficiency measures. Every day, Saban sits at this very table and works through his lunch hour while eating the same exact meal: a salad of iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped with turkey slices and fat-free honey Dijon dressing. No time wasted studying a menu.

What are these examples except eliminating non-value added activities (getting up to open and close a door, or thinking about what to eat) through the use of technology and standard work? (Bob Pozen at the Harvard Business School approaches breakfast, lunch, and even dressing for work the same way.) Saban even standardizes the overall flow of his work, reserving his mornings and afternoons for core football-related work, and scheduling meetings for the middle of the day. This is a classic time management trick, of course -- doing the most important work first.

Above all, Saban focuses on process rather than results. He believes that doing things the right way will inevitably lead to the right outcomes:

What really separates Saban from the crowd is his organizational modus operandi. In Tuscaloosa they call it the Process. It's an approach he implemented first in turnarounds at Michigan State and LSU and seems to have perfected at Alabama. He has a plan for everything. He has a detailed program for his players to follow, and he's highly regimented. Above all, Saban keeps his players and coaches focused on execution -- yes, another word for process -- rather than results.

And of course, by creating standard work for the innumerable tasks comprising the football program, Saban creates the time and mental bandwidth to engage in kaizen and improve the process:

"When you have a system, you kind of get in a routine of what's important," says Saban. "And then you spend a lot more time on thinking of things that would make it better."

Make no mistake: I'm not saying that Saban runs a "lean" program that adheres to all of the principles outlined by Toyota. I'm arguing that the disciplined focus on identifying value and waste, and the creation of standard work, can be applied to any field of activity, from manufacturing cars to running a football program to writing software. The key is to standardize the non-creative part of the job, so that there's more time and energy available for the creative components.




The absurdity of the 40 hour workweek

Hopefully you read Jason Fried's (co-founder and CEO of 37signals) OpEd in Sunday's NYTimes. If you haven't, read it now. Go ahead. I'll wait. Jason advocates (compellingly) for the value of taking time off from work -- not simply to promote the squishy concept of "work-life balance" or to improve employee morale, but to improve productivity:

From May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less....The benefits of a six-month schedule with three-day weekends are obvious. But there’s one surprising effect of the changed schedule: better work gets done in four days than in five. When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.

This result is no surprise if you're familiar with Parkinson's Law. As I've pointed out before, this approach is similar to Toyota's policy of continually reducing the resources available in order to drive improvements in their production processes.

Jason's experience at 37signals also reminds me of what Leslie Perlow discovered at Boston Consulting Group -- that eliminating the "always on" ethic drives the creation of more efficient work habits:

When people are “always on,” responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to explore whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; to the contrary, people just work harder and longer, without considering how they could work better.

Ultimately, this ties into the frequent disconnect between "deliverables" and "value," something I've been thinking about a lot recently. Even if you're not a plumber or a lawyer, there's a tendency to focus on the amount of time you spend on a project and what the output is. But the first step in adopting a lean mindset is to identify the value of your work -- and that value is determined by what the customer wants. The customer doesn't care how many hours you work; the customer only cares whether or not you deliver the product or service that she wants.

Jason Fried has asked his programmers to deliver products that the company's customers want, irrespective of the time they spend in the office. If they can do it in 32 hours per week, great. He's overthrown the tyranny of the 40 hour workweek by decoupling the link between office time (deliverable) and meeting the customers' needs (value).

There's a huge difference between deliverables and value. Between effort and results. That's a lesson that we can all learn from.



What will you be judged on?

Tony Blair recently told the Stanford Graduate School of Business that one of the most important things he learned during his time in office was the need to set a schedule that's aligned with one's real priorities. He related a memorable story about his first meeting with President Bill Clinton in 1996. Clinton said that he wanted to talk to him about a critical issue. Blair expected some extraordinary piece of geopolitical insight, but instead, as he relates it,

Clinton said to me, "I'm going to talk to you about something really important: scheduling. You will find that one of the hardest things when you get into government is finding the time to think strategically. . . . The system will take you over, and you'll be in meetings from 8 in the morning to 10 at night, and you'll think you're immentsely busy, but actually the tactics and strategy have all gotten mixed together."

I've opined on this issue before, but it's got more clout when you hear it from Tony Blair. In fact, he goes on to say that he did an analysis for one president on how he used his time, and found that less than 5% of his time was spent on his priorities.

Blair's not naive. He knows that crises erupt, and that it's the leader's job to deal with it. But he points out that those crises are seldom what's really important in securing the long-term success and reputation of the government:

If you're not careful, something happens -- there's some crisis, and you spend time dealing with it. You lose your strategic grip on what's going to determine whether you're a successful government or not. Now these crises are real; you've got to deal with them. But actually, when you then judge a government -- you know, when I think of the things that I lost sleep on, some of the crises that suddenly came -- foot and mouth disease, we had a fuel strike -- nowadays, nobody even remembers these things.

These lessons are as true for you and your executive team as they are for a prime minister and his government. Think about the crises that you've dealt with -- an angry customer (or customers), a problem with product profit margins, negotiations with a logistics company, whatever. Sure, they're all important to your organization. But we're not talking the BP oil spill, the Challenger explosion, or the TEPCO Fukushima nuclear meltdown. We're talking about crises that, if they consume your day, will inevitably lead to sub-optimal performance and long-term decline.

When "the system takes over" and your time is consumed by daily tactical issues, you don't have the space for the essential act of thinking. Blair says that

you've got to create the space to be thinking strategically all the time. One of the things I always ask is, 'Where's your thinking time?'"

John Donahoe, CEO of Ebay, adheres to the same precept. He says

I take days away. . . . I find that very hard to do in the office or in a familiar environment. I find that if I don’t schedule a little bit of structured time away, where there’s no interruption, that it’s very hard to get the kind of thinking time and reflection time that I think is so important.

Here's the challenge for you: build some of this thinking time into your week or month. Make it part of your standard work. It's easy to be lulled into the safety of immediate action, particularly when a crisis hits. But thinking time is critical to ensuring that the actions you take are actually of value, and are spent on the activities that posterity will actually judge you for.

Donahoe knows that. Blair knows that. You should know it too.



Sowing the seeds of our own demise

Leslie Perlow, author of the seminal study on "time famine," is at it again, this time with a new book called Sleeping with your Smartphone. The book is based on experiments that she did with the Boston Consulting Group (and which I described in an earlier blog post) to reduce the need -- or the perceived need -- to be "always on." In a new HBR blog post, Perlow points out that

accepting the pressure to be "on" — usually stemming from some seemingly legitimate reason, such as requests from clients or customers or teammates in different time zones — in turn makes us accommodate the pressure even more. We begin adjusting to such demands, adapting the technology we use, altering our daily schedules, the way we work, even the way we live our lives and interact with our family and friends, to be better able to meet the increased demands on our time. Once our colleagues experience our increased responsiveness, their requests on our time expand. Already "on," we accept these increased demands, while those who don't risk being evaluated as "less committed" to their work.

She calls this the "cycle of responsiveness (although I'd probably call it the "vicious cycle of responsiveness"), in which our willingness to respond to increased requests simply leads to increased demands. Like ocean waves gradually wearing away a sand castle, these demands end up eroding any vestige of time that we can unambiguously arrogate for ourselves.

From a lean perspective, there are two major problems with this cycle of responsiveness. First, there's the waste of overproduction. I've argued before that if the only thing you're providing your customers is a fast response, you'll soon be replaced by someone cheaper in Shenzen or Mumbai. Your job is to provide real value -- value which most of the time doesn't need to be delivered within 12 minutes of receipt of the email. In other words, being "on" all the time isn't necessarily what your customer needs. Yes, your customer may appreciate it, but that doesn't mean that they need it. And that, from a lean perspective, is overproduction.

Second, the cycle of responsiveness prevents (or at least impairs) the ability to do kaizen and reflection. If you're always "on" and responding to customers, you never have the time to stop, to reflect, to figure out how to improve your processes and systems. You end up racing faster and faster in a desperate attempt to stay in the same place on the treadmill, like George Jetson.

Perlow provides valuable suggestions for how to break the cycle. Check them out here.



Emails & meetings, signifying nothing.

I've been wondering recently why people are so busy at work. Is work really that much more demanding than it was 20, 60, or 100 years ago? Are customer demands that much more onerous? Lean thinkers spend a lot of time trying to reduce the amount of waste in a process -- an admirable goal, to be sure. But sometimes the root cause of waste lies less in the process, and more in the mindset of the people working within the process.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Tim Kreider writes about the self-imposed "busyness" that afflicts so many people. They’re busy, he argues, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence. (To his credit, he points out that people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs don't complain about being busy. Those people are tired.)

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

In my own consulting, I see an awful lot of activity that really doesn't need to be done. One client spends his time -- everyday -- creating elaborate 50-100 slide PowerPoint decks for his boss. Wouldn't a single page document, or even a meeting, be a more efficient way of communicating the ideas? I've seen HR professionals crafting policies and procedure manuals that are so verbose, turgid, and unnecessarily complex that it's a wonder they have time for any real, value-added work. I've seen engineers attending meetings from 9am-5pm, but are only relevant to them for the 30 minutes from 1-1:30pm. And I haven't even mentioned the often pointless trolling through the email inbox that consumes so much of modern work life. How much of this activity is really necessary or value-added?

Tim writes,

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

Me, too.


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Busy, not burned-out

I was gratified to read some of the recommendations in Joann Lublin's article, "Making Sure 'Busy' Doesn't Lead to Burnout" in the Wall Street Journal last week. Turns out that a lot of people are championing the ideas that I've been preaching about for awhile:

For some time-starved managers, keeping a detailed calendar often makes more sense than making daily to-do lists.

This advice echoes my argument that to-do lists don't work because they agglomerate items with disparate urgencies and complexities, and they don't provide any context: how long will the tasks take, and how much time do you really have available.

The article also recommends that people

prepare a weekly plan for tackling tasks tracked by their boss, such as regular revenue reports—and scheduling of daily items that eventually will land them in trouble if not completed.

This advice, of course, is nothing more than my suggestion to use the calendar as kanban, which enables you to automatically "pull" work forward at the right time -- and to do so automatically, without the cognitive burden of having to remember to do something at a certain time.

The article also points out the danger of taking on too many problems that aren't your own:

Consider [urgency addict] Liz Bishop. In January 2011, the senior vice president of Heffernan Insurance Brokers in Petaluma, Calif., was juggling 280 emails a day and often distracted by colleagues' crises. "I love solving problems,'' Ms. Bishop says. "That's emotional cookies for me." Meanwhile, her customer revenue had plunged 50% during the recession, and Ms. Bishop, whose clients were mainly in the construction industry, found herself without time to bring in new clients.

This situation reminds me of Jamie Flinchbaugh's advice that our direct reports' problems are not our problems:

Your problem is why is the preventive maintenance program not working that allowed all those pieces of equipment to go down in the first place. Or why are your customers not seeing the value proposition. Or do we have a planning problem or an execution problem that allows so many projects to get behind schedule. You have unique problems, and until you understand that fact, and work on the appropriate problems for your role, little progress can be made.

There are no Copernican insights here, which is both good and bad: you don't have to spend money, buy new equipment, or hire new people. On the other hand, you have to  use your calendar assiduously, delegate appropriately, and learn to address system-level issues.

Nothing new -- but not necessarily easy to do.

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First, think.

I heard it again from a client this week: "I don't have enough time to work on that." Well, let me be perhaps not the first, but certainly not the last, to call bullshit on that complaint.

There's always enough time to do what's really important to you. If your child got hit by a bus and you needed to take her to the hospital, you'd somehow find the time to do it, because it's more important than preparing your 93-slide Powerpoint deck on which color white to put into the product line next year. (And if the hospital isn't more important than your Powerpoint, then please stop reading now and go back to your well-worn copy of Mein Kampf.)

No, the issue is how you choose to allocate your attention. It's a matter of identifying what's most important. And ironically, that identification takes time.

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed four CEOs about time management. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, talked about the value of getting away from daily problem solving and walling off time to think:

Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting. And during that thinking time, you're not only thinking strategically, thinking proactively, thinking longer-term, but you're literally thinking about what is urgent versus important, and trying to strike that right balance.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft (not surprisingly) takes a more analytical approach: he actually builds a spreadsheet with a time budget for the year.

I budget how much time I'm going to be out of Seattle and in Seattle. I budget what I'm spending my time on -- customers, partners, etc.... I schedule formal meetings and my free time.... I'm not saying when they're going to happen, but I budget all this stuff. I try to make sure that I feel comfortable that I have enough time to...think, to investigate, to learn more, but I have to budget my time.... I give the budget allocation to my administrative assistants, they lay it all out and then anybody who asks for time, they say, '"Steve, this is in budget, it's not in budget, how do you want us to handle it?"

How do you find enough time to do the important stuff? First, make time to decide what's important. And if you don't have time to do that, you don't belong in your job.