“What are the three most important things I need to do today?” and give reports time budgets

An interview in the New York Times, Sept. 27, 2009 at BU2, of Larry Kellner, CEO of Continental Airlines, has some of the usual CEO-talk that urges general counsel to do such things as hire good people, listen a lot, encourage quiet people to contribute, don’t slay the carrier of bad news, and give direct, immediate feedback.

I paid renewed attention to two of his time management practices. Kellner said that he ranks the three tasks he most needs to accomplish in a day and then works on them. Tough to do, for sure, but the gist of the idea can help over-taxed general counsel sort out the important from everything else.

Second, Kellner gives each of his direct reports “a budget of X number of days of my time.” He lets them schedule their time as his availability allows but not exceed the allotted hours (I wonder how many hours his general counsel got). Of course, the exigencies of business sometimes over-ride on such a discipline, but a general counsel might try these two techniques that allow him or her to focus on value-added responsibilities.

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