Kim Sluter
By Kim Sluter on November 30, 2016

Take the First Flight Out: Time Management Tips for the Real World

Leadership Team Initiatives.  Annual budgets. Department Strategy Wheels. Company Vision Statements. Tactical Objectives.  High level business planning is no longer a fourth quarter task.  Effective leadership teams are business planning 365 days while still executing the blocking and tackling of their day jobs.   The New Year is looming, all the achievements of 2016 will be history and the sales button resets to 0.  Are you and your leadership team ready?


When managing your time try taking the first flight out.  When traveling, I almost always take the first flight out in the morning for this simple reason –the plane is at the gate.  It came in last night.  The onus is on me to just show up. Same with the gym - I’m a “5am-er.”  My house is asleep.  My car is exactly where I left it.  Again, I just have to show up.  This strategy of “taking the first flight” helps me achieve my professional and personal goals.  This productivity tip is not a new concept. Stephen Covey published the first edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People back in 1989.  2016 technology has changed the pace of the game but the principle of scheduling “the big rocks” or most important tasks first is still fundamental.

Strategic planning is priority one.  The strategic plan is on the critical path to success.  It will drive your quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily activities.  Schedule regular strategic planning first. Put it in your Outlook calendar and mark it private so it’s respected by you and your peers.  If you wait until Q4 to start your planning you’ve lost the ability to be nimble.  As with any goal to experience real improvement throughout the year you have to identify the plan, implement the plan, measure and analyze the results and then continuously evaluate and modify as necessary.  A strategic plan cannot be tucked away in a drawer.  It is a living document.  All activities in your professional calendar should tie back to your company vision, business/departmental strategic plans and budgets.  Well known procrastinator, Tim Urban produced a TED Talk on the minds of procrastinators.   By changing just a few habits regarding the way we view time we can improve productivity, efficiency and overall time value management which translates into business dollars.  

Weekly Planning: the tactical outcomes of the Strategic Planning.  NEC_To_do_list.jpgDo carve out 30-60 mins at the end of the work week or Sunday nights at home.  (Choose anytime but Monday mornings so that you start Mondays with a productivity plan in place). During this weekly session identify the activities for the week and schedule all the hard starts/stops for internal meetings, external meetings, travel time and any “must do” tasks with deadlines.  Arrange the remaining tasks on a “time based” to do list in columns according to the time required to execute the task.  I keep lists for 15 minute, 30 minute, 60 minute and 2 hour+ time slots.   Throughout the week as I come across pockets of time I work off of the appropriate time list.   It’s just like staying at a hotel.  The concierge will ask you how much time you have before he/she recommends an activity.   Ask yourself how much time you have and then start and complete a task off the corresponding list.   

Flexibility.  Keep empty time slots in your calendar. Stress occurs when we accept more work than our ability.  Keeping flexible time in your calendar will help reduce stress.   One of my first professional mentors had a saying “Expect the unexpected.”  As I type this blog post my 5 year old is sleeping with 14 stitches on his face (He is OK).  In addition to being traumatized,  I just spent a couple of hours figuring out refunds and cancelations on flights, conference registrations, a car rental, hotel stay and meetings with prospects and clients, etc.   This time was not on my schedule.  On the upside by canceling the business trip I just freed up 4 work days in my New England Construction office.  It’s looking like my 2+ hour list should get a real dent in it and I can definitely prioritize extra time to meet the needs of a recovering kiddo.  Moral of this story:  there will always be a professional or personal need that will require immediate attention.  Focus on the emergency while leveraging any found time to keep your goals on track.  

Planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time you spend on specific activities will increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness.  In the world of Time Management the flight path always starts with planning – just schedule it. 

Published by Kim Sluter November 30, 2016
Kim Sluter