Talent Advisory Board — Managing Your 24 Hours Well

March 5, 2024
For February, the shortest month of the year, IW's panel of manufacturing talent experts give advice on time management.

The IndustryWeek Talent Advisory Board offers monthly advice on how its members got to where they are in the manufacturing world. If you have a question for the group, please send it to [email protected].

February is the shortest month of the year, though we got an extra 24 hours in 2024, courtesy of Leap day and Earth’s stubbornly-fractional-orbit. 

February’s question for the Board is about time management: Everybody, from entry-level workers to CEOs, gets the same 24 hours in a day as anybody else. How do you manage your time effectively to get things done and progress professionally?

Becky Morgan — President, Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc.

Prioritization and planning. Twenty-four hours will pass with or without leaning on those processes. Those hours will only be effective when leaning on them. Buttress those with the mantra: “don’t procrastinate!” A plan without execution is wasted time. Oh, and learn how to say no. That’s what prioritization requires.

That may sound like an oversimplification but it’s not. Not easy, but not complicated.

Texting while driving is a common example of confused priorities. Most of us agree safety is the top priority while driving; communication with friends is a lower priority. But what does our behavior show?

Every hour of every day we are demonstrating how we choose to invest that time. With clear priorities and a plan to live those in the next 24 hours, it’s easier to choose wisely. Not easy, but easier.

Bill Good — GE Appliances

In the manufacturing and supply chain business, effective time management is critical as leaders are continuously flooded with multiple time-consuming tasks throughout the day and week. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. At times, the lines get blurred as what doesn’t get done at work carries over to your home life. I have spent over three decades attempting to master “time management” but acknowledge that I am still a work in progress.

As I took on more responsibilities, I had no choice but to improve my approach because there was an even greater need for focus and prioritization. For me, there was no replacement for organization and calendar management to drive a process of prioritization of meetings, decision making, problem solving and team interaction.

Where you can, utilize a lean/continuous improvement mindset. I find lean tools to be equally effective on administrative processes as the manufacturing floor. I also encourage everyone to embrace automation, digital tools and now Chat GPT/AI for repetitive tasks. A few other tips to consider:

  • Calendar Management/To-Do List: Methodically plan your week ahead of time and keep task lists updated.
  • Prioritize: Use the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance.
  • Time Blocking: allocate time for flexibility and unanticipated daily disruptors.
  • Delegate: Empower your team. Push decision making down in the organization to the appropriate level. 
  • Limit Distractions:  Keep focus when you start a new task or lead a meeting.  Derailers can be costly to accomplishing daily tasks.
  • Proper rest: a clear mind improves work quality and time allocation.

Paul Baldassari — Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Flex

A simple way to effectively use your time is by identifying a day’s agenda the evening before. This helps ensure you start your day focused on top priorities rather than getting pulled toward urgent, but less critical requests.

Timothy Noble, President & Managing Partner  — The Avery Point Group, Inc.  

I have always hated the expression that you have to “make the time to do something.” You can’t make time. There are only 24 hours in any day so you can’t make more time. I preferred the expression that you have to “take time to do something,” which implies that you have to take time away from one task or another in order to do something. This means that you have to prioritize what is important to you. That prioritization can change day to day or over time.  I tend to look at my time holistically and sort tasks into important buckets to make sure that I have the right balance when “taking time” to do something. The priorities may change as needed, but I like to look at my time management based on the following buckets:

  • Family, Loved Ones and Friends
  • Sleep, Recharging, Leasure, and Refreshing
  • Self-Development – Professional/Personal, Health and Exercise (Mind and Body)
  • Giving Back, Volunteering, and Contributing
  • Work, Earning, and Financial

However, effective time management is more than just the organization of your time into buckets; it also requires aligning your daily efforts with your overall goals and priorities. By embracing goal setting, time assessment, strategic planning, and the wise use of technology, I have found that you can “take time” each day to achieve what is important to you both personally and professionally. Between these buckets of time, I have found that it is important to Incorporate mindfulness and breaks to sustain my productivity and well-being. As you navigate through your career, adapt and refine your approach to time management in order to make it a powerful tool for achieving a fulfilling balance between work and personal growth.

Carl Livesay — General Manager, Mercury Plastics MD

This was a good question. Early in my career, I was always very busy but often at the end of the day, I failed to complete the most important tasks. I was always very busy working late into the evening and often unable to describe what I accomplished that day. A friend introduced me to the Day-Timer products. I was a fan of the senior pocket size 2 page per day format. Then smartphones came along with the turn of the century.

With smartphones came Gmail, Google Calendar (and alerts) available on both computer and phone platforms. Microsoft quickly followed with the mobile version of Office. Today, my Outlook calendars (personal and business) are kept current and synced automatically between my laptop and my iPhone. Microsoft OneNote is used for logging notes, keeping records, and attaching other documents but the real time saver tool is a spiral scientific notebook from, item PH692001-S. I really like this specific notebook for the size, it lays flat on both sides, it is easy to scan/copy and it has light blue graph paper (for alignment of thoughts) and an engineering/project manager layout.

One of the most important steps is to ask yourself several times a day, “is this the best use of my time right now?” If the answer is no, stop what you are doing and immediately start doing the thing that is the best use of your time at that moment. You will be shocked by the difference that makes in your productivity. I begin each morning reading the news, checking alerts, and reading IndustryWeek’s morning newsletter. (Ed: You can sign up for IndustryWeek’s Morning Headlines newsletter here.) I think of it as breakfast for my head. Next, I write a task list in my spiral notebook, the old fashion way (in ink). Tasks are written and assigned A, B, or C priority. “A” items must be completed personally and cannot be delegated. “B” items can be delegated but must be assigned and tracked. “C” items are everything else. Task status is recorded using the Day-Timer time management method of a series slashes (started), arrows (pushed or delegated), checkmarks (completed) and X’s (deleted) reflecting progress. Notes are scribbled in the notebook as reference points for use later because I scribble much faster than I type. Once or twice a day (usually mid-day and end of day), “A” items are recorded in OneNote along with additional referenced documents like associated emails, pdf documents, links etc. Microsoft makes it easy to connect the dots electronically rather than print and carry the paperwork. OneNote syncs with my iPhone so all relevant information is immediately available and in my shirt pocket. “B” items remain in the notebook and are addressed by others or by me when time allows. “C” items are always delegated or ignored. At the end of the day, I review my notes and the status of each item. “B” items are reviewed to ensure they have been delegated or completed. “C” items are deleted (with an X). Before bedtime, I take a quick look to see if any new A items have surfaced requiring immediate attention, and I review my calendar in Outlook on my iPhone in preparation for the following day.

The next day, the status of the previous days tasks is reviewed, and prioritization begins fresh.

This approach may appear tedious at first, but it is very simple and straight forward. It helps maintain focus on higher priority items, and it helps avoid tasks with little or no return on the investment of time. While I would like to take credit for its creation, it is primarily a slightly modified version of the Day-Timer method. With notebook in hand, and my iPhone in my pocket, everything is always at my fingertips. It bears note that delegated items are reviewed every few days to check status and remove obstacles to success.

Tami Wolownik — Head of People & Organization, North America at Siemens Mobility

With emails, meetings, and growing to-do lists, the 24 hours in a day can go by in the blink of an eye. To manage my time effectively at work, my mantra is: prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.

As a best practice, I always block 30 minutes of time on my calendar at the beginning and end of each day to set the tone for purposeful work. In the morning, this time is dedicated to preparing for the day ahead, finishing any last-minute action items before scheduled calls, and outlining priorities. At the end of each day, I use this time to summarize notes, set up follow up calls, and organize my thoughts. Carving out just this bit of time to prepare and reset makes all the difference for me.

I think we’ve all been there — when emails pile up, it can cause a snowball effect that leads to missing deadlines or having to work extra hours to catch up. That’s why I try to touch emails only once; meaning I take the time to address the topic right away while I’m reading it or set a time on my calendar to deal with/delegate it, instead of leaving it to linger. Trust your team members, as delegation is critical and empowers employees to grow! 

Just as important as those strategies are to my routine, I always make it a point to schedule time for myself and add a dose of happiness into my day. Burn out is a real problem that can take away passion and productivity from work. Setting aside a moment to simply get some fresh air or FaceTime my kids supports my well-being, keeps my ideas fresh, and my energy for work strong.

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