Time Management: A Leadership Imperative (2022)

By Nicole Gravina, Ph.D. and Jessica Nastasi, M.A., BCBA

After years of coaching people in business, we have learned that effective leaders are also effective time managers. Successful leadership strategies (e.g., work sampling, feedback, training) require time from a leader, and if the leader does not have the time available, they miss opportunities to use them. Poor time management is also correlated with higher levels of perceived stress, burnout, poor relationships, and other adverse outcomes (Hafner & Stock, 2010; Haffner et al., 2014; Nonis & Sager, 2013; Peeters & Rutte, 2005).

When we say time management, we do not mean completing a certain amount of tasks during a specific time period. We mean choosing to use our available time purposefully, consistent with our goals and values.

We want to acknowledge that life presents many time management challenges. The first author dramatically changed the way she managed her time after having kids, and again at the onset of COVID-19. After the initial upheaval felt from those life events, employing time management strategies helped her find her footing. As a doctoral student, the second author has worked to stay productive and find time for self-care. Nonetheless, we acknowledge that we possess a set of privileges that allow us the space to make these changes, and that others may face additional barriers to managing their time while also taking care of themselves and their loved ones. We hope that these ideas are useful for individuals who are in a position to employ them.

Time management is an ongoing effort to actively balance demands, goals, and values from each domain of our life. It requires continued attention and adjustment as our context changes.

To help leaders understand why time management is imperative, we do an exercise we call Manager A/Manager B. Manager A is a highly effective and well-like manager and when asked to list how Manager A achieves those outcomes, people list several behaviors such as asking questions, setting clear expectations, and providing feedback. Manager B is an ineffective manager and is disliked by the team and when we ask people to list behaviors Manager B engages in to achieve those outcomes, at least half of the list is a lack of behavior (e.g., never available, no feedback, lack of communication). This exercise drives home the point that if a leader is not taking the time to be Manager A, they are probably Manager B.

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So where should a leader start to become a better time manager? Below we have listed a few tips we provide when supporting leaders working toward improving their time management skills.


When it comes to time management, we can forecast: what we will accomplish, when, and how long it will take. If we can forecast accurately, we can plan accurately. Most people underestimate how long tasks will take and do not account for unexpected events that arise during their week. We can get better at forecasting with practice. Write down 5-10 tasks you plan to complete this week, how long they will take, and when you will do them. Then, take data on whether you completed them, how long they took, and when you did them, and calculate the accuracy of your predictions. Over time, you will become more effective at accurately predicting the time tasks require, and plan accordingly.

Time Management: A Leadership Imperative (1)

Buffer Time

For most leaders, unexpected events arise each week and if their schedule is fully booked, they must cancel or move calendar items to address these events. But, we can plan unexpected activities into our schedules before we know about them. While you are taking data on forecasting, also take data on how much time you spend addressing unexpected events each week. Then, block off time in your calendar to address these events. If no unexpected events occur that week, great! Refer to your to do list and accomplish a few extra tasks. Creating space for unexpected events will allow you to realistically plan your week and prevent unexpected events from derailing your other scheduled meetings and tasks.

Time Management: A Leadership Imperative (2)

Meeting Audit

Most organizations add meetings while failing to remove others. This is how some leaders end up with 80% of their time spent in meetings. Bring your team together for a meeting audit to reduce the time spent in meetings. Removing just one 1-hr meeting from your calendar each week aggregates to a week of work time regained. Here are the questions to ask during a meeting audit:

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Is this meeting necessary?

Does everyone need to be there?

Can it be shorter?

Can it be every other week?

We also recommend ending all meetings 10 min early to allow for transition time to the next meeting. This can help subsequent meetings start on time (Fineup et al., 2013).

Email Management

Most leaders estimate that they spend approximately two hours per day reading and responding to email. They also admit to checking emails as they arrive in their inbox. To reduce the time spent on email, we suggest designating specific times to check and respond to it. It could be a half-hour in the morning and a half-hour at the end of the day. It could be the last few minutes of every hour. Regardless of the schedule you decide, turn it off when you are not checking it to avoid derailing progress on other tasks. Also, when checking email, triage. Emails that require short responses can be responded to right away; others can be immediately moved to a file or deleted. If an email requires a longer response, wait until you have a longer designated time (e.g., end of day) to respond. Finally, some interactions would be more efficient if we discussed the issue in a 5 min phone conversation instead. Do your best to move email discussions to quick phone chats, which have the bonus of reducing miscommunication and improving rapport (Connell et al., 2001).

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Plate Spin

Plate spinning is a common technique in sales. To manage sales, salespeople keep a list of prospects and touch base with them every few months. We think this can be easily adapted to client, research, and project management. The first author plate spins the research projects in her lab. Some projects require regular attention and others are in more passive phases (e.g., under review). The list reminds her to give each project attention and it is also a source of ideas for her to do list. Additionally, a plate spin list serves as a quick reference for monitoring research progress and student activities. The list can be in a document, a digital “sticky”, on a white board, or on paper. We prefer low effort solutions to more complex ones, because we are usually more likely to use and maintain them.

Saying No

We mentioned earlier that time management means using time purposefully. Sometimes, to stay focused on our most important tasks, we have to say no to others. Saying no does not have to mean that the task does not get completed. We could delegate it, we could reimagine it in a way that requires less time and effort, or we could delay it. Saying “no” is easier once we have identified the activities that bring the most value to our work and lives. Setting clear boundaries with our time is necessary to take care of ourselves, our families, our team, and our work. If you have too much on your plate at work, we suggest that you make a list of all of your required duties. Then, rank order those duties in terms of the value they add to the organization and whether you are the person with the best skill set to complete those tasks. Ask yourself:

Is this task really necessary?

Does this task need to take this much time or occur this often?

Can someone else do this task?

Can this task be delayed?

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These are just a few of the exercises we suggest to leaders working on improving their time management. We believe time management is a journey and the skills and strategies that work for you now, might need adaptation when your job or life circumstances change in the future. Using time management strategies can help us endure the more challenging times, and thrive once they pass.


Bond, M. J., & Feather, N. T. (1988). Some correlates of structure and purpose in the use of time.Journal of personality and social psychology,55(2), 321. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.55.2.321

Connell, J. B., Mendelsohn, G. A., Robins, R. W., & Canny, J. (2001, September). Effects of communication medium on interpersonal perceptions. InProceedings of the 2001 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work(pp. 117-124). https://doi.org/10.1145/500286.500305

Fineup, D., Luiselli, J., Joy, M., Smyth, D., & Stein, R. (2013). Functional assessment and intervention for organizational behavior change: Improving the timeliness of staff meetings at a human service organization. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 33, 252-262. https://doi.org/10.1080/01608061.2013.843435

Häfner, A., & Stock, A. (2010). Time management training and perceived control of time at work.The Journal of Psychology,144(5), 429-447. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2010.496647

Häfner, A., Stock, A., Pinneker, L., & Ströhle, S. (2014). Stress prevention through a time management training intervention: An experimental study.Educational Psychology,34(3), 403-416. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2013.785065

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Nonis, S. A., & Sager, J. K. (2003). Coping strategy profiles used by salespeople: Their relationships with personal characteristics and work outcomes.Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 23(2), 139–150. https://doi.org/10.1080/08853134.2003.10748994

Peeters, M. A. G., & Rutte, C. G. (2005). Time Management Behavior as a Moderator for the Job Demand-Control Interaction.Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(1), 64-75. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1076-8998.10.1.64


Why is time management important in leadership? ›

Leadership Essentials: Time Management

By taking ownership of your time you can improve the quality and quantity of the work you do, achieve your goals and reduce stress, improve the efficiency of your organisation, and have more time to do what you want to do.

How does time management affect leadership? ›

Effective time management leads to effective leadership. Build in weekly time for one-on-ones with your team, sometimes to work with them on development and sometimes to listen about what they want to share. Incorporate huddles into your schedule. They can be a huge value-add, short touchpoint with your team members.

Why defining leadership is imperative? ›

Why does a definition of leadership matter? An incomplete definition will produce piecemeal leadership development programs with a misguided focus and poor impact. While organizations get plenty of leadership advice, they lack a way to cut through the clutter.

What are 5 examples of imperative? ›

Examples of Imperative Sentence
  • Bring me a glass of water.
  • Don't ever touch my phone.
  • Give me a pen and a pencil.
  • Play with intensity and courage.
  • Remember me when we are parted.
  • Never forget the person who loves you.
  • Take a step and don't move.
  • Don't be excited about everything without reason.

What are the important benefits of time management? ›

The benefits of time management include greater clarity, greater capability, and greater confidence. When you are clear on the best use of your time, you become more focused and productive. Good time management helps you achieve bigger goals, reduces procrastination, and increases productivity.

Why is time management important in leadership Quora? ›

Time management is crucial because it enables you to accomplish more in less time hence increasing your efficiency. The fact that every single person on Earth gets the same amount of time, makes time management even valuable.

What is the effective time management? ›

Effective time management means getting more of the important work done in a day. In fact, effective time management is even more important than efficient use of our time. Of course, the best time managers are both effective and efficient..

What are the 3 principles of time management? ›

Here are a few tips and techniques you can apply to get more done and feel more productive using the three P's of time management: Planning, Prioritizing and Performing.

What are the 5 principles of time management? ›

12 Most Effective Time Management Principles
  • Determine what is urgent.
  • Don't over commit.
  • Have a plan for your time.
  • Allow time for the unexpected.
  • Handle things once.
  • Create realistic deadlines.
  • Set goals for yourself and your time.
  • Develop routines.

What are the imperatives for success? ›

To have sustained success in the world of work, you must perfect these four things: First, think deeply and have a point of view. Second, plan the work and work the plan. Third, do not hand over your power to anyone. Fourth, stay in balance.

What did Einstein say about leadership? ›

Albert Einstein once said, "The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity … out of discord, harmony … and out of difficulty, opportunity." Being a leader is no easy task -- it takes hard work, courage and risk-taking.

What are the 7 principles of leadership? ›

Seven leadership principles to follow
  • Belief in the purpose.
  • Taking full responsibility.
  • The ability to move on and forgive.
  • Humility.
  • Optimistic and realistic.
  • Value others' opinions, confidence in your own.
  • Self-acceptance.
10 Jun 2019

What are the 4 principles of leadership? ›

This theory is what he refers to as values-based leadership, which is comprised of four principles:
  • Self-reflection.
  • A balanced perspective.
  • True self-confidence.
  • Genuine humility.
10 Nov 2015

What are the 4 leadership behaviors? ›

The 4 Leadership Behaviors that Really Matter
  • Solving problems effectively. The process that precedes decision-making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation. ...
  • Seeking different perspectives. ...
  • Supporting others.

What are 20 examples of imperative? ›

How do we use an imperative sentence?
example contextpositivenegative
airplanePlease remain seated until the seatbelt sign is off.Do not smoke in the toilets.
hotelKindly help yourself to fruit.Please don't forget your belongings.
friendsPlease be waiting when we arrive.Don't be late!
3 more rows

What are the three types of imperatives? ›

The imperative mood in English is generally used to give an order, to prompt someone to do something, to give a warning or to give instructions. There are several distinguishable forms of the imperative in English: affirmative, negative, and exhortative, as well as the more cordial ways of expressing an order.

What are the 3 forms of the imperative? ›

There are three forms of the imperative: tu, nous and vous. For all verbs, the imperative is formed by taking the corresponding forms of the present indicative, but without subject pronouns. The lack of a subject pronoun is what identifies the imperative mood.

How should a leader spend their time? ›

Your time should now shift from accomplishing tasks to strategizing and planning. Your task is now to coordinate others, remove roadblocks, advocate and influence — whether it's on behalf of your team, company or industry. You should also be spending time developing and mentoring others.

Does time management have any effect on handling difficult situations as a leader? ›

Not only is poor time management affecting a manager's personal productivity… It is impacting their staff, their teams and the organization as a whole. This entire problem is exacerbated by the world we live in today.

What are the five reasons why time management skills are important? ›

Here are the top ten reasons.
  • Reason #1. It improves your self-discipline. ...
  • Reason #2. It improves the quality of your work. ...
  • Reason #3. Winding down is essential. ...
  • Reason #4. It reduces stress. ...
  • Reason #5. It opens up new possibilities. ...
  • Reason #6. It helps your personal relationships. ...
  • Reason #7. ...
  • Reason #8.

What are the objectives of time management? ›

Time Management: A set of common sense skills that help you use your time productively and learn to:
  • Determine which things you do are important and which can be dropped.
  • Use your time in the most effective way possible.
  • Control distractions that waste time.
  • Give yourself more quality time to relax and enjoy life.

What is the importance of time management essay? ›

Time management is important as it helps us achieve our goals and targets in the most efficient and effective manner. Furthermore, it is one of the key skills to personal and professional success. Hence, every successful individual, from an entrepreneur to a doctor utilizes time in the most productive manner.

What are 10 benefits of time management? ›

Top 10 Benefits of Time Management Skills
  • Decreased Stress. Increment in Productivity. Positive reputation. Get energetic all day. Fulfill your daily goals. Improved focus. Improved decision-making skills. Reach your goals. Improve the quality. Build self-discipline.
  • Conclusion.
20 Jun 2022

What are the 4 types of time management? ›

The 4 Ds are: Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop). Placing a task or project into one of these categories helps you manage your limited time more effectively and stay focused on what matters most to you.

How do you balance your time management? ›

Here are some time-tested tips for managing your time.
  1. Start each day with a plan. Spend the first 30 minutes of each day, determining how you will spend the rest of it. ...
  2. Maintain a closed list. ...
  3. Try the POSEC Method. ...
  4. Minimize distractions. ...
  5. Pay attention to where your time is going. ...
  6. Delegate!

What are the two golden rules of time management? ›

Lorena Prime's Tips for Time Management: 6 Golden Rules for better time management
  • Be open to change. This is key. ...
  • Consider time the same as money. ...
  • Prioritize as if you're going on vacation. ...
  • Think about consequences. ...
  • Take care of what bothers you the most. ...
  • Use the T.A.R.

What are the 10 golden rules of time management? ›

The solution is time management.
  • Start your day right. ...
  • Have a plan for what you want to accomplish. ...
  • Break tasks into reasonable units. ...
  • Prioritize tasks and refuse inessential tasks. ...
  • Delegate if possible. ...
  • Plan time for meals, exercising, and socializing. ...
  • Follow a big push with relaxation. ...
  • Practice the 10-minute rule.
2 Aug 2016

What are the four pillars of time management? ›

The four pillars of productivity
  • Task management – a way to collect and organize all the stuff you have to do.
  • Prioritization – a way to decide what you do first.
  • Time management – a way to structure your day so that you get the most important things done.
  • Focus – a way to reduce distractions and accomplish your goals.
18 Nov 2019

Is time management a core value? ›

Having time management as one of your core values, means you're more able to work to a definitive timeline. This is because your core values are important to you and so you'll prioritize whatever it is you want to get done.

What are the basic concepts of time management? ›

Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between different activities. Get it right, and you'll end up working smarter, not harder, to get more done in less time – even when time is tight and pressures are high. The highest achievers manage their time exceptionally well.

Why are the processes of management so imperative? ›

The Importance of Process Management System

With business processes systematically implemented, you reduce time wasted on repetitive tasks and minimize errors due to human inefficiency. It also prevents the loss of data and missed steps within a process.

What are the 3 important keys for an effective leader? ›

Three key qualities of an effective leader
  • Strong Character. Leaders with strong character earn the respect of their peers. ...
  • Committed, Swift Decision Making. ...
  • Available When You Need Them. ...
  • Additional Resources.

What is the most important principle of management? ›

14 Management Principles Every Manager Should Know
  • Division of Labor.
  • Party of Authority and Responsibility.
  • Discipline.
  • Unit of Command.
  • Unity of Direction.
  • Subordination of Individual Interest.
  • Remuneration.
  • Degree of Centralization.
17 Jul 2018

What are examples of positive imperatives? ›

A positive imperative sentence asks one to do something. For example: Close the door. Call me when you get back.

What are key imperatives? ›

1 extremely urgent or important; essential. 2 peremptory or authoritative. an imperative tone of voice.

What are 4 uses of the imperative? ›

to give an order.
  • Go away.
  • Stop that.
  • Keep quiet.

What does Elon Musk say about leadership? ›

“I don't create companies for the sake of creating companies, but to get things done.” Elon Musk's leadership style, transformational leadership, focuses on creating real positive change in the world. This type of leader is action-oriented.

What did Aristotle said about leadership? ›

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle concludes that the role of the leader is to create the environment in which all members of an organization have the opportunity to realize their own potential.

What did Peter Drucker said about leadership? ›

Peter Drucker defined leadership in this way: "Leadership is the lifting of a man's vision to higher sights, the raising of a man's performance to a higher standard, the building of a man's personality beyond its normal limitations."

What are the types of imperatives? ›

2 Types of Imperative Sentences

Positive imperative sentences: These sentences use affirmative verbs to address the subject. For example, “Pick up some bread from the store.” 2. Negative imperative sentences: These sentences tell the subject to not do something.

What are the 6 imperatives? ›

Martin & Nakayama (2011) identify the six imperative categories as peace, demographic, economic, technological, self-awareness, and ethical.

What are four imperatives? ›

Imperative sentences are one of the four sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamative).
Imperative Sentence (command)
verb...give a commandStop!

What are examples of strategic imperatives? ›

A Strategic Imperative, simply put, is a clearly defined outcome essential to achieve growth goals. For example, it could be a basis for product uniqueness (e.g., a defensible patent). Or it could be distribution leverage (e.g., an exclusive arrangement with a respected retailer).

What is an imperative sentence give three examples? ›

Here are some examples of imperative sentences: Remember to pick up the dry cleaning today. Tell me if I should go to Hawaii or Alaska for my summer vacation. Leave the book under my doormat.

What is the synonym for imperative? ›

Some common synonyms of imperative are domineering, imperious, masterful, and peremptory. While all these words mean "tending to impose one's will on others," imperative implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate. an imperative appeal for assistance.

How do you use imperative in a sentence? ›

Imperative sentence example
  1. It's imperative to your success. ...
  2. Water is imperative for survival. ...
  3. It's imperative to restrict everything that makes his stomach upset. ...
  4. It's imperative you see me at the earliest opportunity. ...
  5. It was imperative that everyone understood the rules so that this would not happen again.

What are imperative 7 sentences? ›

Next, take a look at the verb in these sentences. Typically, imperative sentences begin with verbs that issue a command.
Identifying Imperative Sentences
  • Preheat the oven. ...
  • Use oil in the pan. ...
  • Don't eat all the cookies. ...
  • Stop feeding the dog from the table. ...
  • Come out with us tonight.

What is imperative process? ›

Imperative procedures mean that the supervisor has to find his or her own solutions. This creates flexibility for complex or unforeseen problems, but also requires a lot of know-how and bears the risk of 'abusing' the system – for example for functions similar to specialist processes for which it is not intended.

What are direct imperatives? ›

Note: we can make 'Close the door' into a request by adding 'Please' first: 'Please, close the door. ' An imperative is base verb (present simple verb). Above, 'close' is the verb. Imperatives are direct.

What is a good strategic imperative? ›

A strategic imperative is a business goal, objective or target that has the highest priority. Businesses often engage in strategic planning that evaluates the entire business and sets out a plan of action. This type of planning helps businesses better manage current and future operations.

What are imperative goals? ›

Imperative goals are those goals that must be met to achieve a game's ultimate goal (e.g. to win, complete, play as long as possible).

What are moral imperatives examples? ›

When we listen to the sea, we know what our moral imperatives are. Enrich the poor. Cure the Sick. Feed the Hungry.


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