Book excerpt: Commitments and time management

The book I’m writing, The Five-Day Turnaround, is written as a narrative, first-person story, and throughout I share tips and tricks on how the main character, Will, manages his time as a leader and CEO. Yes, Will is basically me, so these strategies are tools that I’ve honed over the years to help me be more successful.

Below is an unedited passage from the book, focusing on how to think about time management and commitments.

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Several months back I was talking with another CEO in town about time management, and I reflected on how well I thought he handled his time. He seemed to do so much, yet appeared calm and attentive whenever I saw him.

“So what’s your process for time management, Kevin?” I asked. “You run a company, you seem to be involved with several nonprofits in town, you have, what, four children, and based on what I see on Instagram you’re coaching one of their soccer teams…I don’t know how you do it! I have only one child, far less commitments on the nonprofit side, and somehow I feel like I’m always under water.”

He smiled and said, “I assure you it only appears that I do more than anyone else. I’ve always believed that if you’re not the architect of your own time, someone else will be. The key is that I have become clear on the fact that there are three main areas of my life that are the most important to me: family, my company, and doing good.”

He then asked to use my notebook – I always have my notebook with me – and he drew a Venn Diagram.

He then said, “I try not to do anything that doesn’t fit within those three buckets. And ideally, things I spend time on fit into at least two of them, with a homerun being something that fits into the very center.”

I thought about that for a minute and said, “That makes sense. So where does something like your personal health fit into that? How do you make time to exercise?” I asked this knowing that he was an active runner.

“Great question,” he said. “There are things like exercise, eating well, even meditation, that actually help me with each of these buckets. For example, I’m a more active, better father when I’m healthier. And when my mind is right, I’m able to be more successful building my company. So you just have to figure out if something fits into your overall plan. Otherwise, you have to get really good at saying ‘No’.”

“What kinds of things do you say, ‘No’, to?” I asked.

“All kinds of things! Let’s see, just this past weekend I passed up going on a terrific golf trip with my buddies. I just couldn’t justify the time away from the family. And I get asked to be on all kinds of nonprofit boards, as I’m sure you do as well, and even though that would fit in the “Do Good” bucket, I almost always have to decline unless I feel I can make a huge impact.”

I started thinking about all the things I was committed to and how hard I find it to say ‘No’ to anyone, about anything!

Ever since that conversation, I’ve worked to slim down my commitments and make sure the things I’m most focused on right now, which are actually the very same things Kevin outlined, were given the highest priority. And while the work I was doing with Matt certainly fell into the “My company” bucket, it was pulling an extraordinary amount of time at the moment.