60. Time Management Funnel

1 June 2024
How can I manage my time more effectively?

Key Definitions

In most countries an official working week is 40 hours, but few managers are able to squeeze all their activities into this limited timeframe. Most managers end up laboring longer hours and even then their work isn’t finished, but they run out of time, energy and/or attention.

Time management is the process of consciously allocating time as a scarce resource, investing it into activities that will give the most attractive returns, while not overspending time on work, to the detriment of one’s family, friends, health, and other endeavors.

Conceptual Model

The Time Management Funnel gives an overview of the three steps that can be taken to limit the amount of time that managers need to invest in work. The assumption is that managers have fewer hours available than demanded, so they need to filter and squeeze activities to fit within their “time budget”. Demands for time will come from the external and organizational conditions surrounding managers but will also depend on their specific ambitions (strategic and operational goals). Managers should start by limiting their long list of potential activities, by filtering out the low value drains on time. Then they should limit their short list, by prioritizing the highest value ones. Finally, they should limit task time, by working more efficiently.

Key Elements

The five parts of the time management funnel are the following:

  1. To first way to limit the long list of activities is to delegate as many tasks as possible to others and then limit the amount of “vertical” control needed to ensure that this work is carried out correctly. This means making sure that colleagues are hired, trained, and retained who are capable of taking on significant responsibilities independently, and then going through the Empowerment Cycle (see model 21) to quickly build their autonomy.
  2. The second timesaver is to limit the complexity of the organization by reducing the number of interfaces and alignments. This can be done by creating small separate teams with the freedom to run end-to-end processes independently, instead of having large teams that need a lot of internal coordination, that in turn need to coordinate with other teams. All forms of “horizontal” alignment burn through management time at a high rate.
  3. Streamline. The third way to compress the long list is to limit the number of steps and stakeholders in decision-making processes. Each extra cook in the kitchen increases the amount of discussion time needed exponentially, while each extra quality check creates additional bureaucracy. By streamlining decision-making to a few people and a few steps, 80% quality can be achieved in only 20% of the regular time, which is usually good enough.
  4. Prioritize. Even if the long list of potential tasks is reduced to a much shorter one, it is still important to rank the remaining tasks and focus on the key ones. In the Fruits & Nuts Matrix (model 26) this prioritizing was done along two dimensions, first distinguishing which activities will have the highest impact, and then identifying how much effort each activity will require. The low hanging fruit (high impact, low effort) should usually be done first.
  5. Accelerate. Finally, it is also important to use time efficiently, by speeding up activity execution. Important ways to accelerate include not overengineering an outcome (avoiding perfectionism in favor of “good enough”) yet getting most things right the first time around (avoiding constant repair work). Also, not multi-tasking (focus on one task at a time) yet being quick at switching to a next task (redirecting focus).

Key Insights

  • Time is a scarce resource. Managers deliberate extensively about how to spend their money but spend their time casually, as if it is endless. Yet, time is a scarce resource that can only be spent once. In practice, managers end up stealing time from their private lives to plug the holes in their work “time budgets”, often damaging their relationships and health.
  • Time management requires conscious spending. To avoid overspending time on work activities, managers need to intentionally manage their time budget. They need to be frugal, by choosing what not to do (limiting activities), and they need to be efficient, by doing the things they have chosen in less time (limiting time per activity).
  • Time management requires a three-step funnel. Limiting time spending starts with reducing demand. This is called limiting the long list and is achieved by empowering others (to limit the time needed for control), simplifying the organization (to limit the time needed for alignment) and streamlining decision-making processes (to limit the time needed for agreement). The second step in the funnel is to limit the short list, by prioritizing the remaining time demands. The third step is to limit task time, by working more efficiently, speeding up the execution of the highest priority activities.
  • Time management can be helped by lower ambitions. The time management funnel helps to invest time wisely, but “step 0” can be to ask whether the investment goals make sense in the first place. Lowering ambitions to a more feasible level is the easiest way to live within the available time budget. Your ambitions might create more stress than stretch.
  • Time management requires a time investment. Ironically, managers often feel they don’t have the time to consciously manage their time. But you need to invest time to save time.



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Publication Schedule

June 2024
Time Management Funnel

May 2024
Digitalization Staircase

April 2024
Leadership Circle Map

March 2024
MOVING Mission Framework

February 2024
BOLD Vision Framework

January 2024
Duty of Care Feedback Model

December 2023
Best Practice Sharing Modes

November 2023
Stakeholder Stance Map

October 2023
Status Snakes & Ladders

September 2023
Customer-Centricity Circle

August 2023
Activity System Dial

July 2023
New Pyramid Principle

June 2023  
Cultural Fabric Model

May 2023       
Corporate Strategy Framework

April 2023  
Ambition Radar Screen

March 2023
Resistance to Change Typology

February 2023   
5I Innovation Pipeline

January 2023     
Thinking Directions Framework

December 2022      
Corporate Management Styles

November 2022     
Strategic Action Model 

October 2022
Psychological Safety Compass

September 2022
The Tree of Power    

August 2022
Value Proposition Dial

July 2022
Sustainable You Model

June 2022
Change Manager’s Toolbox

May 2022
Corporate Value Creation Model

April 2022
Organizational System Map

March 2022
Creativity X-Factor

February 2022
Strategic Alignment Model

January 2022
Market System Map

December 2021
Team Building Cycle

November 2021
Disciplined Dialogue Model

Oktober 2021
Strategy Hourglass

September 2021
Powerhouse Framework

August 2021
Fruits & Nuts Matrix

July 2021
Everest Model of Change

June 2021
Followership Cycle

May 2021
Knowledge Sharing Bridges

April 2021
Innovation Box

March 2021
Empowerment Cycle

February 2021
Digital Distribution Model Dial

January 2021
Digital Product Model Dial

December 2020
4C Leadership Levers

November 2020
Rebound Model of Resilience

October 2020
Strategic Bets Framework

September 2020
Storytelling Scripts

August 2020
7I Roles of the Corporate Center

July 2020
Strategy Development Cycle

June 2020
Rising Star Framework

May 2020
The Control Panel

April 2020
Strategic Agility Model

March 2020
Leadership Fairness Framework

February 2020
11C Synergy Model

January 2020
Competition Tornado

December 2019
Confidence Quotient

November 2019
House of Engagement

October 2019
Revenue Model Framework

September 2019
Interaction Pressure Gauge

August 2019
Digital Platform Map

July 2019
Mind the Gap Model


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