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How time management affects leadership

Rob Clarke

Rob is the co-founder and CEO of Learning Architects. He supports leaders and organisations to thrive in the future through coaching, development, technology and learning design. He is a Ministry of Education accredited PLD facilitator. He is also a Dad and volunteers as Special Officer - Education for the United Nations Association of NZ.

For more information please visit: or get in touch via +64 21 590 572

Productivity And Leadership

This post explores the question: ‘what is the relationship between productivity and great leadership?’ When the pressures of leadership mount up, your ability as a leader to make better decisions will be tested. In fact, as the pressures on leaders increase, the challenge of solving problems, prioritising and making great decisions also increases. The effectiveness of your time management is put under strain, which in tern can affect the quality of your leadership. Given this, there is a definite relationship between the two.

One of the marks of a great leader is how he or she is able to make great decisions even when under pressure or when times are difficult (eg. during a crisis). Great decisions will keep the learners at the centre of the decision making at all times, so that student learning is continually moved forward. Great decisions create better outcomes for learning, which in turn strengthens the whole organisation; this is a cornerstone of great leadership.

Good Time Management Dilbert

Whether you are a new or a highly experienced leader, having effective personal time management strategies is key to personal and organisational effectiveness. This personal competency will support effective decision making; particularly when the pressures of leadership mount up. Further to this, if your organisation has effective time management strategies then there is a higher likelihood that your organisation will be a high performing one.

My first experience of learning to better manage my time was when I first became a teacher, my wonderful principal Ken Pemberton took the entire staff at Murrays Bay Primary in Auckland, NZ on a time management course led by Franklin Quest. We learnt about the principles behind effective time management and I used that planner religiously to plan my tasks using a lettering and numbering system. Ken knew that personal productivity was linked to organisational effectiveness and I still recall this even 22 plus years later – thanks Ken!

Following are some of the gems I’ve picked up over the years which have helped me, I hope they help you too.

The Eisenhower Matrix

In this excellent post Eric Sheninger explores the connection between time management and how better decisions make better leaders. He draws together these threads using a time management strategy called the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix is an idea credited to former US president Dwight Eisenhower. This strategy helps you to prioritise tasks and activities according to how urgent or important they are.

Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix in a nutshell is:

  1. Do first – urgent and important
  2. Schedule – not urgent but important
  3. Delegate – urgent but less important
  4. Don’t do – not urgent or important (avoid)

The first quadrant Do first has tasks that are important for your life and work and need to be done today or tomorrow at the latest. If you avoid them then there will likely be serious consequences. An example of this might be to write a report for your board or employer, preparing for an exam, or submitting a proposal.

The second quadrant is called Schedule. These tasks are important but less urgent than the Do first quadrant. These tasks should be put in your calendar and acted on soon, so they can be done without becoming urgent. Examples might include: physical fitness, time with your loved one, researching for a holiday, professional reading and reflection, enquiring into your practice, etc.

Highly successful people manage most of their work in the Schedule quadrant. These people reduce their stress by eliminating urgent and important tasks within reasonable timeframes.

The third quadrant is for those tasks you could Delegate because they are less important than others but are still reasonably urgent. As a leader, it is important to keep track of any delegated tasks so you can check back and monitor their progress towards successful completion.

An example of a delegated task might be someone asking you for an impromptu meeting or to help them complete a task that is their responsibility. What do you do when someone interrupts you (even if working on urgent/important tasks)?

The fourth and last quadrant is Don’t Do and consists of tasks that are neither urgent or important. It is there to help you decide on the tasks to avoid and save yourself the pressure!

Here is a short video which explains how this model works:

The Covey Matrix

I have used a similar version of this matrix which is credited to Stephen Covey, from his useful book First Things First as well as the third habit in the seminal book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

This particular version of the same idea takes it a little deeper than the Eisenhower Matrix in that it explores the types of activities within each quadrant (which the above model also does), as well as the sorts of outcomes you might get from focussing on each particular quadrant.

After all, it won’t be how effective you are at managing your time that will determine how your leadership is judged. The results your leadership yields for the betterment of your organisation will be the true marker of your leadership!

Covey shows how quadrant two (i.e. ‘not urgent but important’, or the schedule quadrant in the above model) has the biggest impact on our long term fulfilment and success. Tasks in this quadrant shape vision, build relationships and are usually more focussed on activities that involve planning or capacity-building of some form.

Because Covey links his model of time management to habits, values and personal vision he encourages you to stay focussed on what is truly most important.

Our beliefs shape our behaviour, our behaviour shapes our habits, which in turn shape our character. Some would say that this then creates our destiny. It is the recurring small things that shape a culture in an organisation.

Get some free templates you can use to
help you better manage your time

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