No-one’s Going to Steal My Time!


No-one’s Going to Steal My Time!

5 minute read | By Garry Crosby | Building New Skills | Published: 23/11/2023


World-Class Productivity Through Ruthless Control of Your Time

In the desert north of Las Vegas lies the world’s most sophisticated training range for military aircrew. Every year, there are a series of exercises there, the motto for which is ‘Train harder than we fight’. The concept is to make the training so challenging that real combat will feel easier by comparison.

Each day, hundreds of aircraft will launch to complete a mission, perhaps to destroy an enemy surface-to-air missile battery. What’s the most important factor in the successful execution of this mission?


Not just the fact that aircraft must be at their appointed checkpoints within a second or two of the planned time, but that every other facet of the mission must be timed to perfection. Everything, from transport from the accommodation, to breakfast, to the time of first briefing, to the refuelling and arming of the aircraft, the carefully choreographed departure of 200 aircraft from one airfield all depends on time.

Fundamentally, our ability to manage ourselves through time, to navigate to those checkpoints, to be where we were supposed to be, within seconds, determined the mission outcome.

And so it is in business; managing yourself precisely through time is an essential component of executive success. Time is your most precious resource, when it’s gone, it’s gone, and you certainly can’t buy any ‘new’ time to use.

Day-to-day external factors may dictate around 25% of your day (demanding boss, anyone?), but that leaves a significant 75% of time that remains under your control. This article takes a comprehensive look at how to strategically manage this substantial portion of time, leading to unparalleled personal productivity.

Time Blocking: Crafting Your Day, Your Way

Time blocking is about more than just filling in a calendar—it’s about strategically planning each day. It means intentionally allocating specific periods for focused work, meetings, and even breaks.

This method helps in creating a structured day where priorities are addressed first, reducing the risk of important tasks being overshadowed by the urgent but less important ones.

Be ruthless – give yourself a block of time to prepare for something important. Give yourself a block of time to stare out of the window and build a strategic plan. Give yourself a block of time so that no-one else can steal it. Own your time.

Disciplined Meetings: Reclaiming Time

In the realm of executive leadership, meetings are a double-edged sword. They can be crucial for collaboration but also potential time-sapping events.

Adopting disciplined meeting practices—like setting clear objectives and sticking to a predefined agenda will help. However, when you learn the discipline to make it clear that you only have the allocated time available, and you will have to leave bang on time – you’ll become known as the executive who does not linger when meetings overrun.

To help build this discipline, point out the time milestones in the meeting – ‘We’re coming up to 15 minutes left – let’s focus on the important outputs.’

Be disciplined – people will soon learn that they cannot control or steal your time.

The Art of Saying No: Strategic Selection

Learning to say no is a critical skill for executives. It involves evaluating requests and opportunities against your strategic priorities and saying no to those that don’t align.

This selective approach is key to maintaining control over your time, allowing you to focus on activities that genuinely drive value and align with your objectives. It’ll be painful at first, but it is probably the number one habit for successful executives – they can say no, politely and professionally, and control their time as a result.

Prioritising High-Value Activities: Focusing on Impact

Identifying and focusing on your high-value activities is a game-changer. This means evaluating the potential return from key tasks and dedicating your time to those with the highest impact. It’s about understanding the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important and prioritising the latter.

To get started with this, draw up a list of your Highest Value Activities – the things were you are at your best and creating maximum value for your team and company. Put these in the calendar first and fit the other activities around them. That way, you know you’ll be contributing the most you can, because you’ve taken control of your time and efforts.

The Pinnacle of Executive Efficiency

Mastering the art of time blocking, disciplined meetings, saying no, and prioritising high-value tasks is the hallmark of a world-class executive. This approach to time management goes beyond personal productivity; it sets a standard of efficiency and focus that can transform an entire organisation.

By taking control of the 75% of your time that’s within your grasp, you set the stage for not just personal success, but for fostering an environment of efficiency and productivity that can elevate your entire team or organisation. This is the essence of world-class productivity: ruthlessly managing your time, focusing on high value activity and building a reputation as someone who is in control of their time.