How Many Empty Calories Are on Your Calendar?

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

When my colleagues and I work with large companies on their reinvention initiatives, we often find ourselves dealing with executives who have very full schedules. They seem perpetually pressed for time.

And so, when we encounter leaders with more flexible workdays, we’re very interested in learning what they do differently. As Peter Drucker advised, “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

Drucker truly understood the value of time, noting that “one cannot rent, hire, buy or otherwise obtain more time.” In other words, time is a fleeting resource, and so we must focus on the quality of the results that we achieve in exchange for tapping it. Effective time management is not about being busy; it’s about getting the right outcomes.

Indeed, the most successful executives that we’ve observed manage their time by focusing on outputs, not inputs. They are particularly good at a handful of key things:

  • They don’t command and control, but choose and coach great people and give them the space to spread their wings.
  • They use meetings to help drive results, not simply to be informed.
  • Their not-to-do list is every bit as big as their to-do list.
  • They are servant leaders, not ego-driven.
  • They build upon strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses.

We have seen over and over again how these productive leaders create high-energy environments where their employees aren’t merely filling their days with busywork. In turn, their organizations do a superior job of accomplishing the right things at the right moments for the right reasons. By eliminating the empty calories, these exemplary executives create a culture of, as Drucker put it, “managing for results.”

We can all learn from these leaders by distinguishing what possibly could be done versus what actually needs to be achieved—and by realizing that some things may not need to be tackled in the first place. As Drucker reminded us, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Cynthia Bailey