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Know Thy Time

Published by Scott Becker on
Know Thy Time

It’s the first of five practices in Peter Drucker’s classic leadership and management book, The Effective Executive.

“Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes.”

Of the many resources available to us, time is the most limited. You cannot rent, hire, buy, or obtain more time. Therefore, time is the key resource to be managed for effectiveness.

Drucker’s recommendations boil down to 3 steps:

1. Record Time

You cannot manage your time, without first observing where it goes.

Record how you spend your time using any tool that works for you. This will give you the data you need to optimize where it is spent.

2. Manage Time

Identify unproductive, time wasting activities.

Questions to ask:

  • What would happen if this weren’t done at all?
  • Which activities could be done by someone else just as well or better?
  • Ask others what you do that wastes their time without contributing to their effectiveness?

3. Consolidate Time

Work to carve out the largest possible continuous chunks of time.

To have continuous blocks of time is very important. Small dribs and drabs of time to work on a project will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.

Discretionary time

Discretionary time is that which you have full control over and can use to make real contributions. To be effective, you must estimate the amount of discretionary time you have available by looking at past data, then planning your future days and weeks, blocking out larger continuous chunks for important tasks.


Timeboxing is a technique for consolidating time.

  • Estimate how long each task will take
  • Prioritize each task
  • Starting with the highest priority tasks, block out a fixed box of time in your calendar to push these items forward.

Perpetual Time Management

To remain effective, you must continue to control and manage your time perpetually. Key habits:

  • Keep a continual record of time
  • Set aside a regular time to analyze it once a week or two
  • Look for unproductive wastes of time, or items to delegate
  • Block out larger chunks of time to complete tasks
  • Set deadlines for important activities

In Summary

If you work to build the habits of time tracking and schedule planning, you can accomplish great things in the time you have. Using a tool like Shoutbase can help you become more effective by helping you track time effortlessly.

| Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

What did we miss?

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Scott Becker

Co-founder of Shoutbase and Olio Apps.

LinkedIn: @scottbecker

Twitter: @sbecker

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