Keep Track of Your Time

Managing your most precious resource means documenting and distributing it. Blogger Ed Cohen explains his process.

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way”

— “Time” by Pink Floyd

How do you spend your days? Are they planned or spontaneous? Before moving to India, my time was mostly planned. When I wasn’t attending meetings, I was managing the operations of the learning organization, facilitating sessions or being a brand ambassador.

I moved to India and took up my chief learning officer role there with a rapidly growing technology firm. When I say rapid I mean rapid — we were adding more than 10,000 people a year representing a 50 percent annual growth. With all that growth and all that was happening, my schedule was far less full than I had experienced previously. Quickly, I realized it was important and part of the culture to keep a good portion of my schedule open for impromptu meetings and unplanned visits. If I didn’t, they would disrupt my day and I would not be able to meet my commitments and leave everyone disappointed.

At first, I didn’t know what to do with this “free” time because I was not used to it. After a few highly productive months of actually being able to research and strategize at work during business hours (something that was unheard of previously), I started wondering if I was actually using time effectively.

I divided my time into these categories:

Business operator: Time spent running the business of the business

Strategist: Time spent planning and innovating for the future

Brand ambassador: Time spent marketing, being a thought leader and promoting the learning organization

Facilitator/coach: Time spent conducting programs and developing others

Enterprise leadership: Time spent on leading at the corporate level

Later on, I added a sixth category, personal development.

Over the next month, I tracked my time and found that I was spending most of it in operations (Figure 1).

Track your Time Fig 1
Figure 1

As the CLO, this was not what I was supposed to be doing, but it was the trap I had gotten myself into, too far down into the weeds. Sound familiar?

At the next leadership team meeting, we discussed the optimal time allocation. See what we came up with in Figure 2.

With a desired breakdown of time, we plotted the initiatives needed to reduce my operator time to allow me to create time for the other areas. Each transition leveraged a start/stop/continue approach for myself and the other person. Rather than rush the process, we took our time to ensure a solid handoff.

You may be wondering why it was important to increase the facilitator role from 5 percent to 20 percent. As CLO, this was not expected of me; facilitating and coaching has always been my true passion and purpose. It energizes me for doing the rest of the role. Allocating 20 percent to practicing my profession replenished my energy bank.

If all your time is scheduled days, weeks and months out, then my advice is to block time on your calendar that is “open” so you have time to do the job you were hired to do. Then track your hours to see how you’re spending time now. Decide the optimal allocation of time. Don’t just set goals, launch initiatives to get yourself to optimal. The result: You will be doing your role more effectively, and your team will be able to step up and expand their roles. Excellent development for everyone.

Ed Cohen Figure 2
Figure 2

If you don’t, well then you may find these words from the same song ringing in your ears —

“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say.”

Please ask your questions and share your thoughts and ideas. Let’s continue to make this a space where we can all learn and grow with each other.