Great leaders have control over their time.

In any organisation, it’s easy for things to get busy. Leaders can get caught up in the busy-ness, as their calendars fill up and their focus turns to ‘whatever’s next’ rather than what’s important. It’s crucial to take a step back from the chaos of the everyday and look at your calendar to see the big picture. 

Red flags in leadership time management 

Poor time management can creep into leadership so slowly that we don’t notice it – you might not even think that you need to take stock of how you’re organising your time. Consider these four markers to understand if you’re in control of your time: 

  • You are frequently asking to reschedule pre-booked, regular meetings in favour of something that has ‘popped up’. Urgent situations arise, but they shouldn’t become the norm. 
  • When you reschedule meetings, it can take weeks – or months – to find an opening to touch base again. 
  • Your days regularly consist of 90% (or more) meetings. 
  • You often begin a meeting feeling as though you needed more time to prepare. 

These aren’t the only markers, but if they’re happening, it might be time to step back and take stock. Working hours are limited each day. Leaders need to make sure they’re making the most of the time they have and using it effectively. Anything less means that time is wasted. Remember that teams look to leadership for behaviour examples. If you’re inefficient at managing your time, your team will be too. 

Leadership is busy – so what can you do? 

According to a Harvard Business Review study, leaders spend 72% of their time in meetings. There’s no pretending that leadership roles don’t demand a lot of time, but this means that your time management should be up to scratch. 

  1. Take stock of your calendar – what’s happening at the moment? Can you see any of the above red flags appearing in your workday? Where do you feel like your time management process is letting you down at the moment? Print out your week and step away from your inbox so you can have a clear mind as you look at the calendar.

  2. Uncover the priorities – there are some things that should be a staple in your week. This could be a regular team meeting, one-on-ones, meeting onsite with clients or partners, or taking time to walk around the office and engage with your team in informal ways. You know what matters in your leadership and what you want to do more of. Make time for these things and ensure they’re scheduled in so that everything else can fit around them.

    You might have heard of the ‘pickle jar’ or the ‘jar of rocks’ theories. This step is similar to these ideas – the important things go in first and everything else filters in where there’s space.

  3. Communicate (and enforce!) your boundaries – all this taking stock is worthless if your priorities are going to be bulldozed tomorrow by ‘urgent’ meetings that are scheduled with little consideration. If you’re fortunate enough to have an assistant or support person, make sure they’re aware of the ‘priority’ events in your calendar so that they don’t reschedule. Show your team that you stick to your commitments by standing by your scheduled appointments. Clarify any meeting requests to understand the level of urgency.

    This step can be the most difficult part of the process. Many people might be frustrated at first at the perceived lack of availability but ultimately, you will be solidifying boundaries, setting a great example for your team, showing up for your team and gaining more control over your week. After a few weeks of communicating your priorities and expectations, your colleagues will understand the way you work and adjust. 

As the year progresses, it’s only natural that your calendar will start to fill up. It’s important to feel in control and to be focusing your attention on the things that really matter in your leadership. 

If you need support to improve your time management skills, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.