As a leadership coach, I have the opportunity to learn a lot about the different challenges that executives face in today’s business world. Some of those challenges include:

• Business growth constrained by tight capital availability and more stringent capital restrictions

• Uncertainty in the tax and regulatory environment

• Flat economy (at least very slow growth) makes it more of a risk to setting challenging growth objectives

• Aging workforce causing leaders to lead the transition from more experienced, competent people to those that will be the future of the organization

• Lack of time and overbooked calendar with pressure to achieve objectives, lead corporate initiatives, develop self/others professionally and have a reasonable work/life balance.

The Time Challenge

Most executives and senior managers struggle with not having enough time in the day for everything. They have advanced to a senior position in their organization yet they often are not in control of what they accomplish because of the following reasons:

• Their focus can no longer just be on their discipline, function or area of expertise. They need to be able to deal with issues related to technology, people, compliance, etc.

• Technology makes them more available 24/7 so they are always on the job. It is also more difficult to filter the more important from the less important

• Internal and external regulatory efforts cause every policy, decision and action to be analyzed for possible scrutiny at a later time

• The typical organization is flatter with less of a pyramid of people supporting that leader

• Workaholic executives are no longer encouraged. They are expected to be high achievers while making time for their family life and for personal interests

My clients are lucky to have me as their coach. I have developed a breakthrough, unique answer to this common executive/management time challenge. It is a “can’t miss” recipe for becoming a more successful leader. I really shouldn’t share it with you for free but my wealth is much less important than being able to change the business world for the better. The following are my 3 secret strategies. I will warn you that not all of these strategies have been tested as much as others so there will be an element of risk in some of these approaches. But if you are the only one in your organization that is using one of these breakthrough approaches, imagine the advantage you will have on the corporate ladder. You only need one of these strategies to work for you. Read all the strategies and see which one is best suited for you.

Goodfriend’s 3 Secret Strategies for Leaders – The Time Challenge

Secret Strategy #1 – Time Travel

Next time you are feeling overloaded and stressed that you have too much to do in the time you have, just go forward in time. How many times have you said, “I don’t have time for that. I will get to that later.” Just go forward in time and get your work done at that later time. Then go back to your current time and you won’t feel stressed any more since you know the work has been done. In the movie, Back to the Future, Marty McFly traveled from 1985 to the future in Dr. Brown’s DeLorean utilizing 1.1 gigawatts of electricity to power the flux capacitor to travel both to the past and the future. Unfortunately, this was a movie and won’t help you. Based on my research of time travel, I learned that the closer you can get to the speed of light, the more time slows as compared to distance. If time slows, you can get more done. More importantly, you won’t have a backlog of things that you have to put off when you get back to your current time on Earth.

Marty McFly also went back to the past to 1955 in the DeLorean. To travel backward in time, you will need to be able to go faster than the speed of light. If you haven’t figured out how to go that fast, you could also consider going through a wormhole which is something like a time tunnel in space. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking believes theses worm holes exist today in the quantum foam, which is the fabric of the universe. Unfortunately, this quantum foam is so small it is not visible to the naked eye. But if you can enlarge and stabilize one of these wormholes, you could travel back in time to get work done so it will already be accomplished by the time you return to your present time and then you can cross it off your “to-do list.”

Secret Strategy #2 – Clone Yourself

How many times have you heard people say, “I wish I could be in two places at one time”? Well, human cloning can help you do that. Imagine what you could accomplish. For me, I could be coaching an executive, facilitating an offsite meeting and helping a leadership team become more effective at working together as a team – all at the same time. More importantly, while I am serving those clients, I would also be giving a presentation to a professional association, having lunch with a prospective client and working with my favorite charitable organization. Luckily, none of that would be taking away from my family time. My family would never even notice when I was playing baseball in the Houston Hardball League instead of going shopping or working on projects around the house.

The first successful animal cloning experiment was with Dolly the sheep. Dolly was born in 1996 and died in 2003 (learn more about how Dolly was cloned). This may not be a solution for you being overloaded at work since this is reproductive cloning so if you are 40 years old, you would have to wait 40 years for your clone to grow up to help you and by then you probably won’t have a need for your clone(s). In addition, there are many ethical and moral issues associated with human cloning so you may not want to try this at home.

Secret Strategy #3 – Prioritization

I know you’re thinking, “Prioritization is so yesterday.” Yes, it has as much excitement as the strategy for dealing with a head cold -- get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. I realize it doesn’t have the potential that Time Travel and Cloning Yourself does. With Time Travel and Cloning, everything gets done, when it needs to be done. With prioritization, you decide what gets done now or at all. . .and what doesn’t.

Prioritization, however, is not an experiment. It is a proven approach. As of a point in time, an executive or senior manager can make choices as to what they decide to spend their limited time on. When it comes down to it, choices have to be based on urgency and importance. In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he shared a 4-box prioritization matrix that differentiates activities as follows:

• Urgent and Important – The “Crisis” Quadrant. Activities in this quadrant generally take precedence over all other activities. It might be a client complaint that needs a response right away or a business opportunity that may only be available for a limited time. It could be a safety issue at your refinery or a family emergency.

• Important and Not Urgent – The “Investment” Quadrant. Activities in this quadrant are high value and important but may not require an immediate/urgent response or action. This could be a strategic planning session or having lunch with one of your well performing direct reports to discuss their ongoing professional development.

• Urgent and Not Important – The “Deception” Quadrant. Activities in this quadrant are said to be urgent but really are not that important. Checking your email continuously might feel urgent or answering the phone when it rings might feel urgent. It might feel urgent if a direct report requests an impromptu meeting with you. If too many activities are in this quadrant, then an executive/leader should consider delegating more authority or responsibilities to direct reports. Maybe your administrative assistant can filter your email or your phone calls for you.

• Not Urgent and Not Important – The “Waste” Quadrant. These activities may be fun or worthwhile if you have the time but clearly not urgent or important. It might be working on a crossword puzzle while you are on an airplane or checking your Facebook. Everyone needs distractions from pressure so if it’s important to your personal well-being, then put it in Quadrant II as an Investment.

The following is a Prioritization Matrix that has examples for me in each quadrant:

This type of matrix, like the above can be used like above as a prioritization framework – to help guide your focus on what activities are more important. Or maybe you can classify your everyday task list according to these quadrants – 4 quadrant “to-do” list (a prioritization planner). You could list all your specific activities for a time period and prioritize them based on the quadrant. Priorities are in the eye of the beholder so an Investment activity for me might be a Deception or Waste activity for you. A doctor on call would not see checking a Blackberry as Deception. Probably more of a Crisis activity. An activity also may be an Investment today and a Crisis tomorrow. Writing my Goodfriend Insights article like this one may be an Investment activity right now but during the downturn of 2009, it may have been more of a Crisis activity.

Prioritization is as of a point in time. Since our priorities are constantly changing, a leader must review his/her Prioritization Matrix either daily or at least weekly. The goal of prioritization is reduce or delay activities that are Quadrants III (Deception) and IV (Waste) and use that time for Quadrants I (Crisis) and II (Investment). “Crisis” usually gets the time it needs so “Deception” and “Waste” are usually stealing needed time from “Investment” activities.

Recommendations for a Leader

• Develop a Prioritization Matrix like the above – a framework that classifies your major buckets of time by quadrant. Review this framework weekly, making any changes as necessary. Consider whether you wish to commit to the discipline of a Prioritization Planner (categorizing each specific activity on a daily basis) into the quadrants.

• Track Quadrant III and IV activity time and set a goal to reduce this by 30 minutes to an hour per day.

• Share your Prioritization Matrix with your direct reports along with your Quandrant III/IV reduction goals. Discuss where greater delegation of authority and responsibility would be a step in the right direction.

*   *   *

Irrespective of my breakthrough Secret Strategies, there are still only 24 hours in a day. If Time Travel and Human Cloning are not viable options for you, then Prioritization is your best bet. You will have to acknowledge to yourself and others that you just can’t do it all. Important activities needs to be your focus (both urgent and not urgent). Your goal should be the proper balance of Important activities – work, investing time in making things better in the future, family time and leisure/recreational. Resist Quadrant III/IV activities and learn to say “no.” A proper balance is not only attainable. It is a life gift to yourself.

Goodfriend & Associates helps leaders and leadership teams increase their strategic advantage. Mike Goodfriend helps organizations improve business performance through achieving higher levels of competitive advantage, teamwork/alignment, leadership competency and excellence/customer satisfaction. He is an executive coach, meeting facilitator, and teamwork engineer. Since 1989, he has been helping organizations/functions become more successful. Mike Goodfriend can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email at


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 ©Michael R. Goodfriend, Goodfriend & Associates, Inc., 2012

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