Like most CEOs, Jim Estill seeks to maximize every minute of his workday. But what sets him apart from other leaders is his passion for time.
Estill is the chief executive of Nu Horizons Electronics, a $750 million global distributor of electronics in Melville, N.Y., with more than 700 employees. He also has developed training materials and a book on what he calls “Time.”
Estill discusses the subject with Managing People at Work:
MPAW: Why the passion for time management?
Estill: In the early 1980s, I had a business with 20 employees, but I did it all. I didn’t trust them. I was the only person with the keys to the business—I opened and closed it every day. I realized I had to do things differently because I was driven by stress.
MPAW: How did you change?
Estill: I started making lists and organizing my time. But at first I frequently fell off the wagon. Instead of working in priority order, I’d cross off lots of lower-priority items. It takes practice to do it right.
MPAW: What else makes you a strong time manager?
Estill: I do the worst thing, first thing—or the most creative thing that requires my energy. I don’t do e-mail first. That can be hard because there’s a temptation to send e-mail first thing in the morning to show others how early I work.
MPAW: How do you run meetings?
Estill: I’ll say in advance that I’m going to start and end on time. And I don’t go down tributaries; we stick to my detailed agendas. They’re broken down into two- to six-minute increments.
MPAW: Do you ask employees to apply the same time-management practices that you use?
Estill: I have a “top five” list and my executive team does, too. They send me a weekly report of their progress with their top five priorities. They know to make their reports no longer than 24 lines (because my screen holds a maximum of 24 lines).