They say leadership and being an effective CEO is all about time management. Not sure if I have a contrarian view, but when I moved out of media five years back and into my second innings, the one stark reality that hit me was that time is just too precious -- there was so much I wanted to do for the next 20 years.
That's when it also struck me that the days of ‘time management’ -- which means you "manage" your time are passé and will get even more irrelevant. Those who are victims of their day being scheduled from one meet to another, from one travel and call to something else will actually get more ineffective.
The days of being inspired from "The 5-minute manager" are over. Time is not always managed. Let's face it -- the best ideas, the most innovative and disruptive thoughts, solutions to the most complex problems, your burst of renewed energy, your ability to snap out of a bad or negative mood -- all happen in an unstructured and downtime.
But how practical is that?
it's not about being practical. It's a mindset change. It's also about what's more effective in the 21st century. We anyway lead very, very distracted lives -- even in a meet or conversation we are multi-tasking (mobiles and emails). The younger generation and your core consumer/customer is looking at her/his time very differently. So it's essential that your day is broken up between structured time and unstructured time.
Calendared days are not going to allow us to ideate, innovate or re-shape our company. Also, the world has moved from manufacturing to service and almost every activity from banking to the way we consume, think or work needs a strong combination of the calendared day and a lot more of the brainstorm and un-managed time.
Now don't get me wrong -- we do need some structured time everyday and this has no bearing on the fact that every task needs to have its own timelines and accountability.
Work-life balance irrelevant
I first break it up between structured time -- it's all about planning, reviews, finances, collaborative decisions and wherever each meet needs to start and end at a prefixed time because that is the nature of the work. And then there is the other part of the day that needs to be for all unstructured meets -- the ones where we will not achieve the right goals with time-bound meet times.
Talk to anyone creating a product or service or a technology and they will tell you time managed meets are not most conducive -- and this can be in banking, telecom, education and most other sectors where most know that the future of their company rests on how they differently view customers, data and all things digital and preempt trends from here on.
And so for me. the other half of the day is about the unstructured time with colleagues across our businesses. I just made my day longer and into a 12-14 hour day -- but it's fun and I don't need to worry about the work-life balance -- which anyway I think is another jargon phase that will get equally irrelevant as time boundaries criss-cross and more importantly we look at work time as joy at work and as much fun and rewarding.
Well there are three other slots I work on
(a) Curiosity and Learning time -- what we thought was right and relevant a few months back is not and so it's almost critical for the mind and for you as a leader to spend two hours a day on learning (sometimes un-learning) and this has to be with discipline as also it's not just about reading anymore but a mix. For example, I invest a lot of time in having interactive sessions/talks that allow me to get a great pulse on how others think.
(b) Available time: when you are involved in diverse activities and your attention span has to jump sectors and people in any given hour, I find keeping time of being "available" to all my colleagues is very effective as it really helps me practice the Open Door culture and equally allows everyone to feel free to come in and brainstorm -- I have found bad news travels faster, and colleagues feel it's ok to experiment and take risks and yet find me available for that quick word to bounce things or get a value add.
(c) And lastly, my time, which includes the two hours to myself most mornings - an hour of a brisk walk and the next hour with either my trainer or Yoga. Then there is the family time with my wife, daughter/son-in-law, dog, and parents. Zarina and I are both blessed with parents in their mid-90s and you kind of view life and longevity with a different perspective.
We like short holidays - three days max four, close to nature or sea and feel like a Tesla car that just got its batteries charged.