I know that last month a certain CEO was 64% effective and certain manufacturing Director was 78% effective.

How effective were you? And how would you know?


For me, there is only one measure of effectiveness: Where you spend your time.


I bet that you are reasonably capable, keen to learn and pretty bright. So, if you are spending time on something you are probably moving it forward. You are having an effect.

And over the years I have noticed that where people spend their time is where change and progress happens. No surprises, but let me state it anyway, if you don’t spend time on something, nothing happens to it. Well, actually, worse than that. If you don’t spend time on something, it gets worse!

Being more effective is a topic that comes up with my clients regularly and I was reminded of it this month when HBR spent 19 long pages giving you this very simple message – effective people use their time effectively. I just boiled down 19 pages in to 6 words for you, I saved you some time right there!

To be fair, the HBR data is really insightful. For example, they observed that CEOs spend 43% of their time on ‘core agenda’ items, 36% on ‘important unfolding developments’ and 21% on ‘have to do’. To be honest with you, I think that’s poor. Those 27 CEOs were not being effective enough. 43% of your time on your top priorities is not enough. In my experience if it’s not over 66% they are wasting time. They were not effective enough.

So how do you spend time on the right things? Here’s some simple and super effective tips:


Step 1: Know your priorities

Write down your top priorities. And top means no more than 4. What are the things that you are measured on? What activities and objectives most closely align with your organisational or team goals? Write them down … and carry them round with you every working minute of every day! Some of you may already have this, but it’s amazing how many of us don’t.


Step 2: Track your time

Next, open up your calendar on your phone, laptop or PC/Mac. Quickly jot down where you spent your time in the last 8 weeks. How much time was spent on your priorities? Are you happy with that? Clue – if you are not spending over 66% of your time on your priorities you have to ask what you are doing with your time. Be brutal with yourself.


Step 3: Colour code your diary

Now look at your diary from today onwards. Decide on a colour code and colour your diary – most apps let you do this. I have a different colour for each of my 4 priorities and then 3 colours for non priority activity, 1 for travel and 1 for personal activities.

So, when I scan my diary I can quickly assess if I have been spending enough time on my priorities, where I am expecting to spend time in coming weeks and then make adjustments in to the future.


I know it sounds simple, but my goodness it is effective. Let me know how it goes.

Simon Cooper


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