How Leaders Are Wasting Their Time – And What They Can Do About It

Jun 2, 2023

In the fast-paced world of business, time is the one resource you can't buy more of. It's finite, precious, and often squandered. This is especially true for leaders – the individuals tasked with steering their organizations towards success. They're expected to make decisions, strategize, inspire their teams, and much more. Yet, so many leaders are unknowingly wasting their time on unproductive tasks and inefficient processes.

Consider this: the typical executive spends only 3 hours a month discussing strategy, often in meetings that lack focus and aren't structured to produce concrete decisions. The implications are grave. The price of misused executive time is high, resulting in delayed strategic decisions, overlooked waste, increased costs, missed new product and business development opportunities, and suboptimal long-term investments.

So, how can leaders stop wasting their time and start leveraging it to maximize their impact and drive their organizations forward? The key lies in efficient and effective time management.

The Effects of Inefficient Time Management

Time management is more than just a personal productivity tool. It's a strategic imperative that has profound effects on an organization's performance and outcomes. When leaders misuse their time, the repercussions reverberate throughout the entire organization.

One of the biggest culprits of wasted time is unfocused and unstructured meetings. These meetings often devolve into diffuse discussions that are not designed to result in any decision. Instead of driving the company forward, these discussions create stagnation, leading to wasted time and resources. The resulting decision paralysis can be detrimental, causing harmful cost reductions and missed opportunities.

Beyond meetings, inefficient time management can manifest in various forms. For instance, leaders might spend excessive time on low-impact activities or get caught in the minutiae, neglecting strategic priorities. They might also fall prey to interruptions and distractions, which not only disrupt their flow of work but also cause stress and burnout.

The cost of these inefficiencies is high. Delayed strategic decisions can lead to significant missed opportunities. Overlooked waste and high costs can erode the company's bottom line. Poor long-term investments can jeopardize the company's future. Furthermore, when leaders are constantly strapped for time, they might neglect critical activities like coaching their teams, innovating, and building relationships, which are essential for long-term success.

In the face of these challenges, it's clear that leaders need to take a hard look at how they're spending their time and seek ways to manage it more effectively. In the next section, we'll explore some techniques that efficient companies use to make the most of their leaders' time. Stay tuned!

7 Techniques of Efficient Companies

Effective time management is not merely a personal responsibility—it's a strategic imperative that influences the entire organization. So how do efficient companies manage to make the best use of their executives' time? They employ specific, strategic techniques that allow their leaders to focus on what truly matters. Let's explore these seven techniques:

1. Keeping Strategy Meetings Separate from Operational Meetings

Efficient companies understand the importance of focus in meetings. They know that strategic discussions require a different mindset and approach than operational ones. This clear separation allows the company's executives to dedicate their full attention to the task at hand, be it defining the company's long-term goals or managing day-to-day operations.

2. Using Written Communications to Explore Issues Before Meetings

Efficient companies recognize the value of preparation prior to meetings. They utilize written communications, such as comprehensive memos or succinct briefs, to provide an overview of the central discussion points. This strategy guarantees that participants arrive equipped with a clear understanding of the agenda, which in turn, transforms meetings into more concentrated, productive, and time-efficient interactions.

Incorporating asynchronous communication tools such as and Slack into this process can be a game-changer. These platforms allow for seamless collaboration and alignment on meeting objectives, well before the actual meeting. Consequently, this encourages a more effective use of time during the meeting itself. By adopting such strategies, leaders can foster an environment that values preparation, clarity, and efficiency, ultimately amplifying overall productivity.

3. Ranking Agenda Items Based on Their Potential Value for the Company

Efficient companies approach meeting agendas with a strategic lens, ranking items based on their potential to drive value for the organization. Acknowledging that all agenda items do not hold equal weight, these companies direct their primary attention towards those with the highest potential impact. This methodology ensures optimal use of limited meeting time, fostering an environment where priority is given to value-driven discussions. revolutionize this process with its intelligent prioritization features, aids teams in identifying and focusing on the most influential agenda items. By streamlining the prioritization process, empowers teams to discuss the most pressing matters, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency and productivity of meetings.

4. Quickly Moving Issues On and Off the Agenda While Keeping a Clear Implementation Timetable

Efficient companies are dynamic and decisive when it comes to managing their meeting agendas. They are quick to add new, relevant issues to the agenda and equally swift in removing items that have been addressed or are no longer relevant. Moreover, they maintain a clear implementation timetable for decisions made during meetings, ensuring that ideas and strategies are translated into action.

5. Considering All Viable Alternatives Before Deciding on a Course of Action

Before making a decision, efficient companies explore all viable alternatives. They foster an environment where differing opinions and options are welcomed and considered. This comprehensive approach ensures that they make the best possible decisions, taking into account various perspectives and options.

6. Using a Common Language and Methodology for Decision-Making

To streamline their decision-making process, efficient companies use a common language and methodology. This shared understanding helps prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications, making decision-making faster and more effective.

7. Insisting on Sticking to Decisions Once They Are Made

Once a decision is made, efficient companies commit to it. They understand that constant changes can lead to confusion, wasted time, and reduced productivity. Therefore, unless there is a significant reason to change the course, they insist on sticking to their decisions.

These seven techniques are integral to how efficient companies manage their leaders' time. However, the journey to efficient time management does not end here. In the next section, we will look at common time wasters for leaders and suggest some practical hacks to address them. Stay tuned!

Common Time Wasters for Leaders and Solutions

While efficient companies can provide a framework for effective time management, individual leaders also face unique challenges that can impede productivity. Let's examine some of the most common time wasters for leaders and explore practical solutions to these problems.

1. Unnecessary Meetings

It is all too easy for leaders to find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of meetings that yield little value. To combat this, consider implementing a technique from Carey Nieuwhof: schedule less time for meetings and hold them less frequently. This not only frees up more time for more important tasks but also ensures that the meetings that do take place are truly necessary and productive(

2. Inefficient Email Usage

Email is a necessary evil in the world of business, but it can quickly become a time sink if not managed effectively. One potential solution is to batch process your emails, responding to multiple messages in one go rather than continually checking and replying throughout the day. Alternatively, consider saving non-urgent questions for face-to-face meetings rather than resorting to email(

3. Conversations Without a Purpose

Conversations can be a significant time drain, especially when they lack a clear purpose. When someone tries to engage you in a lengthy, unproductive conversation, be polite but firm. Explain that you're on your way to get something done, and then go do it. This can turn a potential 20-minute distraction into a two-minute interaction**1**.

4. Unclear Priorities

If you're unclear on your priorities, you'll inevitably end up wasting time on less important tasks. To avoid this, make a list of your key tasks for each day and tackle these tasks first. This ensures that your most important work always gets done(

5. Blending Personal and Work Time

The boundary between work and personal time can often become blurred, leading to inefficiencies and burnout. It's important to clearly delineate work time from personal time. As Nieuwhof suggests, "Work when you work, play when you play"(


In a world where time is the most precious resource, effective time management is crucial for any leader. By understanding common time wasters and implementing strategies to overcome them, leaders can make the most of their time and lead their organizations to greater success.

Remember, time management is not about squeezing as many tasks into your day as possible. It's about simplifying how you work, getting things done faster, and doing things better. By mastering these skills, you can improve your productivity, reduce stress, and create a balance between your work and personal life.

It's your time, make it count!

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