Walpole Careers | The luxury of time management

Time has never been a luxury. Creating and using it judiciously is and has always been critical to a company’s success, says Diane Metcalfe.

Time, or rather lack of it, is a consistent theme in coaching even at the most senior levels in organisations. It goes hand in hand with trying to do more with often fewer resources which inevitably results in cognitive overload. Cognitive overload impairs the quality of our decision making and our productivity and so a vicious cycle begins impacting individual, team and organisational performance.

Of course, every executive’s situation is different and so, therefore, is their coaching agenda.  Yet, while there are many internal and external contributing factors to be considered, there are some very simple behaviours senior executives can first model and then introduce to their teams.

The following four deceptively simple steps – supported by neuroscience – are designed to reduce cognitive overload, give us clarity on where best to put our attention and focus and, in turn, free up time.


Write your to-do list. By writing everything down you will create more space in your brain. Often, when you do this, more “to-do’s” will come to mind. Write them down.


Review your to-do list against three criteria.

  1. Which do you enjoy doing?
  2. Which will “move the dial” and make a noticeable impact on your business priorities and desired outcomes?
  3. Which are important to someone else? (If it’s important to your Chairman, it’s probably important to you.)

Now eliminate the rest. They might be nice to do but simply aren’t important.


What can you build once and use many times? There are numerous opportunities to automate or develop systems and templates to minimize time and effort in the future.


It is important to consider “situational leadership” to assess the confidence and competence of your direct reports to decide the most effective approach, e.g. instruction, directive coaching, non-directive coaching, delegation or empowerment. Regardless of the approach, the point is to ensure you and your teams are using your time and available people resources effectively. Of course, at senior levels in organisations, you will need to consider whether you have the right team/s in place and/or development agendas for your organisations to succeed.

Clients invariably find this a liberating discipline that frees up precious time for what matters most both professionally and personally. Just like any change in habit though, it takes time and commitment for it to become automatic but imagine what you, your team and your organisation would be like if you were all able to focus on what mattered.

Diane Metcalfe is an independent accredited Executive Coach with extensive business experience and understanding of leadership and performance challenges specific to the Luxury sector, Creative Industries and Private Equity. She works with leaders to optimise individual, team and, ultimately, organisational performance. She also acts as a Business Mentor and Board Advisor.