Four Types of Time for Leaders

Wrist watch on man's left wrist

Recently, I’ve read a lot about personal productivity and I’ve written a few articles about what I’ve learned. One of the issues I’ve been trying to tackle is developing strategic control of my calendar. My initial efforts have been to reduce the frequency and duration of meetings, and eliminate them altogether in some cases. This has helped somewhat, but it is largely a defensive move.

It’s time to go on offense. It’s time to be strategic not only about how I schedule my time, but also in how I define its use.

Dale Burke, in Less is More Leadership, (Harvest House, 2004), described four types of time:

  • Rest Time – Focusing on your health, spirituality, and marriage
  • Results Time – Focusing on the “main things” that advance the mission
  • Response Time – Focusing on cleaning up and following up on things
  • Refocus Time – Focusing on assessing, adjusting, and innovating for the future

Most leaders distinguish three types of time: Rest, Refocus, and Work. (And we have a clue right off the bat that this is not a good model because there isn’t full alliteration in the names!)

Every leader I know is fully aware of the need for and the wisdom of rest time (even though most are not highly successful in taking dedicated rest times). Charles Spurgeon said, “Rest is hard, but it’s worth it.” I agree with Spurgeon and further, we know rest time is imperative because God modeled this principle to us (Genesis 2:3) and codified it as one of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:12).

Similarly, whatever they call it, many (but probably not most) leaders dedicate time to refocusing. They allocate a day or two, and sometimes a full week or two, to refocusing. They evaluate their work, their progress, and their direction to make adjustments and sometimes implement innovations in their strategy for leading. Done well, refocus time should be a regular and frequent activity.

Most leaders put everything else they do in the “work” bucket. This is time spent on any and all activities for the present needs of the organization, the leader’s team, and their own responsibilities. It all needs to get done. It’s all important. It’s all “work.”

Burke’s approach, though, is tremendously insightful in his breaking down that work time into two distinct categories: results time and response time.

Burke said, “Results time is driven by the mission, and your unique role in moving it forward.”1 Whereas response time is “time to take care of important projects that aren’t critical to the mission but still important.”2

Results time is largely strategic.

Response time is largely tactical.

They are both important. There’s no suggestion that response time is “beneath” a leader. Far from it! Much of your response time is focused on the needs of your team members. When a servant leader facilitates and encourages the success and effectiveness of team members, they move the organization forward together.

We could say that a leader’s response time enables others to be successful in their results time.

But you, as a leader, should take care to distinguish between your responsibilities that are results oriented and those that are response oriented and allocate time for both (in addition to rest and refocus time).

Burke offered three foundational guidelines for implementing the four types of time:3

  1. Plan your week in larger chunks of time, preferably half or full days. Depending on your role, your level, and your organizational culture this may be difficult. By planning ahead and blocking time or deciding on a “theme for the day,” you should be able to act on the spirit of this guideline.
  2. Don’t mix the objectives. When you’re in rest time, don’t do any of the other three. When you’re in results time, be careful not to engage in response time…and so on.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Whichever type of time you’re engaged in, it’s important to avoid distractions and not to do any multitasking.

As I’ve considered Burke’s approach, I see great potential for being more proactive with my own calendar. I see a strategy for doing more than merely cutting back on meetings and utilizing time as a leadership strategy.

To begin here are three questions I’m going to explore:

  • Do I rest on a regular basis, at least weekly?
  • When I work, am I making any distinction between results and response time activity?
  • When was the last time I refocused my efforts? When is refocusing next on my calendar?

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Credits
Photo by rawpixel.com. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

Notes:
1: H. Dale Burke, Less is More Leadership, (Harvest House, 2004), p. 202.
2: Ibid., p. 205.
3: Ibid., pp. 197-198.

One thought on “Four Types of Time for Leaders

  1. Scott: This distinction between results time and response time reminds me of the distinction between leadership and management. Both are necessary as you so cogently point out.

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