The Essence of Time Management



The essence of time management

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”
Peter F. Drucker

How do you rate on time management? How many times have you said, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day”? Well, you are WRONG! There are 24 equally sized, nicely paced hours in every day.

Enough hours for some to build global corporations and others to run whole countries and even for mothers with Triplets to cope, so let’s face facts... you are just a poor time manager!

In reality, I could explain the essence of time management as a piece of paper and a pencil (yes a task list) but it wouldn’t make for a very interesting article and I couldn’t introduce complex graphs and charts so…

What makes time management poor?

The two main issues with time management are procrastination and spending too much time on the wrong things.

No matter how much we vow to change we’re still procrastinating when we know we can’t afford to, still getting caught in never-ending meetings, allowing ourselves to be interrupted, putting out fires and, in general, managing by crisis.

Most of us don’t have a time management problem — we have a problem prioritising. Remember the pencil and paper?

Without time management we get distracted and eventually lost in a cloud of problems, which hide the important things, and before we know it, the day is over and nothing got done – again.

Things to consider when it comes to time management 

Our work-life balance is and has to be a pendulum. Sometimes we need to give all the time we have to work and other times we need to give more time to our personal lives. Accepting this is the first step to control. If we can’t control what’s going on around us (and most of the time we can’t), then we have to control how we respond.

A revelation to me was the day our CEO entered my office and asked why I had so much work on. I explained that work kept pouring in and he said: “just because someone asks you to do something or even to do something by a set time, you don’t have to”. His advice was to assess importance, relevance and true urgency and if something didn’t fit, using great tact and good manners I was to explain why it was impossible for me to take the work on.

He introduced me to the late Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix which is a fabulous and simple time management tool and once you have used it I assure you it changes everything.

If you are interested you can download images of it and further explanations from Google.

Covey breaks his matrix into four quadrants: 1 to 4 and I have always called them the four “D’s”

Stephan Covey's Time Management Matrix 2 - WCP 2014

  1. Important – and Urgent (Do it now)
  2. Important – Not Urgent (Decide when to do it )
  3. Not Important – Urgent (Delegate)
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent (Dump)

The key is to start to prioritise everything by categorising each task as it arises

The four “D’s” explained 

Do it Now

You MUST deal with these tasks immediately. They need to be put on the top of your to-do list. But YOU don’t have to be the one to deal with all of these. You can delegate them up, down or out as long as you’re confident that those to whom you delegate are capable of handling them.

Decide When How & Who

This is where you want most of your work to be. As a manager, you must be forward-looking to review, plan and build. If you want to stop managing by crisis, you must start moving more of these to the top of your to-do list.


Delegate as much as you can but again delegate them up, down or out as long as you’re confident that those to whom you delegate are capable of handling them.


There are some things that just should not be done at work or handled by you. Its a tough call but one you must make.

If you are an open door person its probably a good idea to try a few weeks with the door closed whilst you are handling numbers 1 and 2. If you explain in advance everyone will understand and in a few weeks you should be able to leave the door open as the message will have got through to everyone by then

Neil Steggall

Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Neil is the CEO of Wardour Capital Partners, leading emerging growth & mid tier advisors. He is also a Non Executive Director of Family Planning Australia and The Australia Asia Business Alliance. Neil is an experienced director & corporate mentor and has chaired or served on numerous board committees including finance & audit, governance, compliance, strategy, acquisition, remuneration & ethics.

Comments (1)
Stephen Parker

Stephen Parker

Neil did you intend another graphic in the centre where it states "(Time Management Matrix 2 - WCP 2014) It feels as though something is missing there. - Great article; I am a fan of your essence series.