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Confirmed at last: CFOs can't do it all

Lisa Yoon | Sept. 30, 2011
Between striving to contribute strategic value to the company and running an efficient finance department, the finance chief is the Sisyphus of the C-suite. Just about every company activity involves finance, after all, which can make it seem as if a CFO's work indeed is never done.

Between striving to contribute strategic value to the company and running an efficient finance department, the finance chief is the Sisyphus of the C-suite. Just about every company activity involves finance, after all, which can make it seem as if a CFO's work indeed is never done.

That's why time management is so critically important in finance -- trying to balance the many demands and still be effective as a leader, while stuck in a chain of meetings, obligations, and unfocused activity.

Actually, trying to get it all done is a misguided and impossible exercise, according to Peter Bregman, whose New York-based consultancy Bregman Partners advises C-level executives on leadership issues. (He also blogs for Harvard Business Review.)

In an interview with CFOworld, he offers some advice on determining the right work to get done, based on his new book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (Business Plus, September 2011).

The title of your book refers to your three-step plan for managing one's day: Plan, refocus throughout the day, and review how the day went. How did you arrive at this strategy?

Because I was finding my days frustrating; I wasn't getting done the things I considered to be most important. And in fact, when I thought about it, I realized I didn't really know what the most important things were. I just had a bunch of things I needed to get done, and I was just going down my list, and I found at the end of the day, I hadn't made as much advance in my work as I would have liked to have done. The idea of relying on willpower to get things done is a mistake, because our willpower weakens as the day goes on. I needed a system, some way to make it more likely that I'll get the right things done than less likely.

I looked at a lot of time management books, and I found that most other books on time management are about organizing work, not actually managing time.

It's interesting that you ask the reader to spend time -- albeit only 18 minutes -- in order to manage time. It's the investment of that time that informs one's approach to managing the rest of one's time.

You know what it is: We so resist taking that time that we end up just doing whatever we can get done, and we think we're being efficient.

I'm asking people to take time in order to manage their time better -- and to be explicit about it. We're often not explicit about it, and as a result we think we can get everything done. We think we don't need to be explicit about it. Why waste time managing my time when I'm just going to get everything done.

 

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