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Our mission is to help leaders in multiple sectors develop a deeper understanding of the global economy. Our flagship business publication has been defining and informing the senior-management agenda since 1964. Improving the fit between the priorities of managers, their direct reports, and their supervisors—all the way up to the CEO—is a good place to start. The biggest and most destructive myth in time management is that you can get everything done if only you follow the right system, use the right to-do list, or process your tasks in the right way. If this problem bedevils salespeople in organizations like Todd’s, imagine its impact on senior executives. We don’t often place organizational problems (such as weak alignment between the priorities of a company’s strategy or poor collaboration among the senior team) in the domain of time management, which is generally seen as an issue for individuals. But in this case, the simplest solution may be the most powerful because most behavior-change challenges are simply about how people are spending their time. Once you’ve defined your six boxes, populate them with the tasks from your overflowing to-do list.
Clarifying priorities for daily action at the most senior levels of the organization is particularly important precisely because the most senior jobs are often the most complex and scattered.
Step three: use these to-do lists to manage your employees more closely, without micromanaging. In short, “management by six-box to-do list” encourages organizational transparency and strategic alignment. This is particularly useful in matrixed organizations, where people often have multiple dotted-line relationships to multiple managers, and in global organizations with cross-border lines of command that can be convoluted, resulting in friction between regional priorities, local management, and business-unit prerogatives.2 2. In such instances, confusion increases, along with the complexity of the management structure. The six-box to-do list clarifies this confusion by putting everything on paper and ensuring alignment—not just top down, but across the hierarchy as well.
Many organizations use MBOs (management by objectives), but those objectives are rarely looked at outside the annual performance review (or, in some cases, quarterly) and never translated into daily tasks. Peter Bregman is the author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (Business Plus, September 2011) and the CEO of Bregman Partners, which advises CEOs and their leadership teams.
January 2013 – To stop wasting a finite resource, companies should tackle time problems systematically rather than leave them to individuals. July 2012 – A Harvard Business School professor reflects on what she has learned from senior executives about the unique value that strategic leaders can bring to their companies. January 2012 – Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees in four avoidable ways. Create a profile to get full access to our articles and reports, including those by McKinsey Quarterly and the McKinsey Global Institute, and to subscribe to our newsletters and email alerts.


As the chart below suggests, the way that the change is managed can impact the degree to which performance is impacted.  By using a prescriptive methodology, organizations can minimize the amount of performance loss and reduce the amount of time to reach the new, more efficient “new” status quo. Organizational Development ArticlesIntra-team dynamics – Why do we eat our own during organizational change? A simple hierarchy or organizational structure, in 3d figures, representing various management levels. The scope, complexity, and ambiguity of senior leaders’ roles not only create near-infinite permutations of priorities but also make it more difficult to get real-time performance or productivity feedback.
That’s precisely where individual time management and organizational time management need to intersect.
Divide a piece of paper into six boxes, five labeled with one of your areas of focus and the sixth labeled “the other 5 percent.” That other-5-percent box is like sugar—a little might be OK, but no more than 5 percent of your day should involve activities that don’t fit into your five areas of annual focus. If there are tasks—and there will be—that don’t fit into one of your areas of focus, put them in the other-5-percent box. In one quick glance, you can look at their priorities, as well as the actions that they’re taking to move those top-five areas of focus forward.
It also empowers executives, managers, and employees alike to push back when they’re asked to do too much work that distracts them from the areas of strategic focus.
Each employee has her own six boxes—and if one dotted-line manager wants her to focus on something outside her top five, that becomes immediately evident and gets resolved at the level where it should get resolved: between the managers themselves. If a CEO is going to drive a strategy though an organization, the organization needs to build its daily actions around that strategy. Global companies should groom local highfliers—and actively encourage more managers to leave home.
In this interview, Don Tapscott explains why blockchains, the technology underpinning the cryptocurrency, have the potential to revolutionize the world economy. We live in a time when the uninterrupted stream of information and communication, combined with our unceasing accessibility, means that we could work every single hour of the day and night and still not keep up.
Is it any wonder that only 52 percent of 1,500 executives McKinsey surveyed said that the way they spent their time largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities? In addition, time management seems too simplistic a solution to a complex organizational challenge. When I first started using a six-box to-do list, half of my tasks fell outside my top five. If they’re doing the wrong things, you can spot that immediately and guide them appropriately. They form the structure of each person’s to-do list and translate, directly, into time spent on the job—which is the difference between getting something done versus simply declaring its importance. When people start doling out tasks that are not in the areas of focus, there’s a structure to bring the distraction into the open, to discuss it, and to make an intentional decision as to whether it’s worth accepting or resisting.


Tensions rise, along with passive-aggressive resistance and plain old procrastination due to overwhelming work demands. Remember, the McKinsey survey found that only 52 percent of executives spent their time in ways that largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities. For that reason, choosing what we are going to ignore may well represent the most important, most strategic time-management decision of all. That’s why they resisted segmenting their markets or measuring the potential of each prospect before planning a visit: they didn’t want to miss any opportunities.
That changed within a day of using this to-do list as I learned to dismiss and delete the things that were distracting me from my strategic focus. So it is the job of the CEO—together with the board of directors—to identify just a few things that will take the highest priority for the entire organization. And if they’re doing the right things, you can acknowledge them for that and help them succeed. This approach takes the normal goal-setting process one step further, creating a much higher likelihood of follow through.
The six-box to-do list should increase that percentage.At first, when Todd started using the six-box to-do list, everyone got nervous. He wanted people to be more strategic about which prospects to visit versus which simply to call. Each day, managers and employees are connecting their day-to-day tasks with the organization’s priorities. Finally, he wanted them to be more courageous about pursuing “stretch” prospects where the odds of success were low but the rewards would be high—and more willing to ignore prospects whose accounts weren’t likely to be particularly profitable.
The real source of discomfort was that Todd’s direct reports began to discard much of what they had previously planned to do.It didn’t take long for them to gain confidence—and pleasure—in limiting their efforts to those most likely to pay off. Your top five should come from your supervisor’s top five and so on, with every person’s top five ultimately traceable back to the CEO’s. That focus recently enabled one of Todd’s salespeople to make the largest, most profitable single sale that his division of the century-old company has ever made—without working weekends. If instead of spending 95 percent of your time on your top five, you spend 80 percent of your time on your top ten, you lose focus and things start falling through the cracks.



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