Time Management: Learning from Lynda Cardwell

The Harvard Business Review HBR) stands out like a fountainhead of universal wisdom, applicable across contexts, and by anyone in the world. For all college students and graduates, it contains pearls of wisdom. Some practical tips on Time Management, from an HBR article, is sought to be discussed in this article.


Competitive Advantage. Core Competence. Organizational Cultures. Blue Ocean Strategy. HR as a Business Partner. Take any such Management concept that has tremendous implications for one's career. The Harvard Business Review(HBR) would have carried many articles on such subjects. The print version copes are worth preserving for a lifetime by any Management Student. For all students, Time Management is vital. It is extremely vital for college students as well. Based on inputs from an HBR article "Making the Most of Slow Time" (August 2014 to January 2015. page 24 to 26, by Lynda Cardwell, four action points on Time Management are sought to be discussed with appropriate examples from the Indian context. These examples will provide insight into how the four action points are applicable in any person's career.

Only the main phrases are quoted as such to drive home the point of the other. Extrapolation of each of the four action points in the Indian Context is drawn from my own experience and experiences of several professionals that I know of. The four action points are a) Urgent and important tasks b) Not urgent but important tasks c) Urgent but not-important tasks and d) Not-urgent and not-important tasks.

Urgent and important tasks

"Examples include dealing with a product recall or completing due diligence before an acquisition can be approved") (page 24).

Simple. These are the most important "do it now" tasks. For an MBA(HR) student or even a student of commerce, economics, and business administration at the undergraduate level, it is so urgent to gather all data about the latest developments in the Indian context. The most important piece of knowledge pertains to the implications of the new labour code, which has now become law. For example, in the new scheme of things, there are bound to be several complications regarding the growing incidence of contract labour in the Indian industry.

For the practicing HR Manager, if there is a settlement coming up for closure over the next year, doing all the spadework to make the labour agree to Management's terms ( this is the actual real-world industrial relations role), has to happen on an everyday basis. For a marketing executive working with the dealers and working for an FMCG organization, manufacturing and selling a wide range of ready to cook masala powders that housewives use so routinely in every urban household, getting feedback and conveying that to Top Management on every competitor product that eats into the market share of the company, is a "do it now" task that cannot be postponed at all. Crucial decisions on changing and tinkering with the product mix of one's organization can and will happen only based on the feedback obtained directly from the housewives, who are the end customers. It should be noted that housewives do not have time on their hands and they hence use such products. It is a very dynamic market, with hundreds of small local brands and the likes of ITC in certain product categories as well. As an executive or a Manager, you must spend quality time on such urgent "do it now" tasks. If you are a senior executive, chasing each of your subordinates to concentrate on such vital tasks is key to your success.

Not urgent but important tasks

"Examples include developing key business relationships and drafting a plan for how your company will respond to the changes you foresee taking place in your industry 18 months down the road". (page 24). Take the example of an HR Manager who is tasked with building a climate of more productive relationships among the families of employees. The time given to him is twelve months. The important tasks would be to identify some self-help groups or entrepreneurial opportunities to supplement the incomes of the wives ( particularly those who are somewhat skilled or can be taught some skills but are not graduates). There should be a time limit for each of such tasks, and his mandate is never over without the involvement of the employees in the entire exercise. This is a strategy of some industry groups, as the spin-off in terms of good organizational cultures, happens as a matter of routine.

Similarly, let us take the example of a Finance Manager who has a mandate of reducing production cost by 15% over five months. He cannot do it alone. He can of course exercise control over key suppliers, and he could extend the credit period by one month, and this could increase the cash flow. He can and should coordinate with production managers to reduce the cost of rejection at various levels and advise the concerned people to provide more result-oriented on-the-job training that can go a long way in reducing rejection cost. It should be noted that each of these tasks is important, but not classified as "do it now" tasks.

Urgent but not-important tasks

"Examples of these tasks are taking impromptu phone calls from sales reps or fielding a request from a subordinate to help make arrangements for next week's unit party". A real-world example in an HR Manager's role would be to make all arrangements to celebrate the Ayuda Pooja in the factory, but this task would be split into several sub-tasks and the subordinates would be empowered to do all the work. The HR Manager would not make much interest in it; the more urgent tasks, for example, meeting with the local inspector-of-factories to sort out the pending problems associated with the last report of the Government official.

Not-urgent and not-important tasks

"Examples are browsing the internet or gossiping around the office cooler". As an executive, you can understand how we often spend time on such useless tasks. It is not even a task. It is sheer past-time. I have come across so many Senior Managers who probe deep into the personal lives of some executive or the other ( even at senior levels) and encourage all gossip, even during office hours. As much as 24 minutes would be lost in the wasteful conversation that would not add any value at all. After all, one's personal life is deeply personal and only he or she can and should have control over it. His or her official life should in no way be influenced by it. However, when things go out of control and the executive brings up personal issues for seeking official help, that by itself will still fall under this category. The baby steps that any Management would take would be spread out over even six months.

As an executive, if you get to see such conversations it will be good if you can keep away from them. Even if you are an MBA student and you observe some romance developing between two of your classmates, you should never take any time off to discuss it. It is a sheer waste of time. Only if your help is sought to sort out any issue, you may do it, without any harm to your studies and far outside your working hours at any point in time.


Given the complexities of our organizational and personal lives and even those of any student at any college, gaining intimate knowledge of real-world situations would always enable one to learn how to use time very effectively and become more effective. Only when it becomes a habit, effective time management cannot happen at all. Each of the aforesaid examples would highlight the areas that need attention and also will hopefully throw insights on how to manage such situations at any point in time during one's career.


Author: Umesh17 Dec 2020 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

The author has presented some good guidelines and tips, in this article, for effective time management in the Indian context.
Time is the essence of everything and time wasted is equivalent to opportunities lost. Many companies give a thrust on time management and encourage their employees to do things in time and work as per the schedule and also reward them for it.
Good time management comes with discipline and order. Even if one employee does some mistake the ripple effect goes through whole the organisation and the consequential loss is much more than that is discernible at the first instance.

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