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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Mastering the Clock

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #164

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"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."

- Stephen Covey

Being a leader means more than overseeing others; it necessitates being a master of time. The ability to manage time effectively sets successful leaders apart from those who always seem to be playing catch-up. Despite having only 24 hours in a day like everyone else, successful leaders are able to make the most of their time by prioritizing tasks and being intentional with their time management.

The Essence of Time Management

Time management is about more than just filling every second with tasks. It involves aligning daily actions with long-term goals and visions. This alignment is crucial for leaders to stay on track and focused amid the chaos of numerous responsibilities and unforeseen obstacles. Understanding this approach, Dr. Michael Snell, a former school superintendent, current Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Principals Association, and author of “Clockwork: Time-Saving Routines and Tested Strategies for Success,” offers valuable advice. His strategies serve as a framework for reclaiming time and improving leadership efficiency.

Three Pillars of Effective Time Management

Prioritize Ruthlessly:

Effective leaders recognize the significance of prioritizing essential tasks. They utilize methods such as the Eisenhower Matrix and Pareto Principle to distinguish between urgent and important responsibilities and delegate less critical tasks when feasible.

Time Blocking and Scheduling:

To maximize your day, try using time blocking to organize your schedule. This technique involves setting aside designated blocks of time for specific tasks, increasing concentration, and preventing multitasking, which can decrease productivity.

Invest in Self-Management:

Strong self-management skills are crucial for effective time management. Establish daily routines that promote discipline and mindfulness and adjust based on feedback and results.

Navigating Common Time Management Pitfalls

Many leaders unknowingly fall into time management traps such as micromanaging, overcommitting, and procrastinating, which can severely impact productivity and morale.


Constantly overseeing and controlling every aspect of a project damages trust and hinders creativity. Effective leaders should be able to delegate tasks and encourage team members to take ownership and initiative.


Spreading leaders too thin can result in a decrease in the quality of work. Recognizing one's capabilities and establishing practical limitations is vital to ensure success.


Procrastination can hinder progress but can be overcome by breaking tasks into smaller, manageable pieces, establishing clear deadlines, and identifying the root causes of avoidance.


By mastering these tactics, leaders can increase their productivity and foster a climate of effectiveness and motivation among their teams. Successful time management involves more than simply trying to keep up with time; it is about purposefully and accurately molding it to one's advantage.

Action Steps

Audit Your Time:

For seven days, carefully monitor how you spend your time. Analyze which tasks and activities align with your priorities and which do not, making it easier to make any necessary changes to your routine.

Implement Time Blocking:

Set aside designated time slots for different tasks. Sticking to these blocks of time can significantly increase efficiency and output.

Practice Effective Delegation:

Determine which responsibilities can be assigned to others. This will allow you to focus on important tasks and allow team members to hone their skills.

Becoming a master of time means not chasing after time, but instead shaping it with intention. By carefully choosing what tasks to prioritize, creating a structured schedule, and practicing self-control, leaders can turn the chaos of to-do lists into the clarity of completed goals.


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