Why knowing how to protect your time is the most valuable skill you can learn

Jeff Kindler is passionate about the future of healthcare and in helping leaders navigate an increasingly complex world where health and tech collide to create the most exciting developments in history. As former chairman and CEO of Pfizer, current CEO of Centrexion Therapeutics, a Boston-based biotech company developing non-opioid treatments for pain, and now an Operating Partner at ARTIS Ventures, Jeff is the first to tell you he's made 'many mistakes' throughout his career. An ARTIS Pioneer, Jeff shares with startup CEOs some of the lessons he’s learned about how best to use your most valuable currency–your time.


1. Ruthlessly prioritize your goals and what you focus on.

Identify a very small number—no more than 3 or 4—areas of focus that you commit to for the next period of time (month, quarter, year). These should be matters that are non-delegable, that only you as the leader can execute. At the end of the month, go back to your calendar and track whether you spent most of your time on these matters. If it turns out that you do not, either change the list or change how you spend your time.


2. Cut out as much busy work and low-value activities as possible.

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix (see below) is a great tool for prioritizing tasks. I apply it to everything with one qualifier—avoid even those decisions or activities that are urgent and important unless they simply cannot be delegated. There are matters that only you as the leader can and must resolve, but there are likely far fewer of these than you might initially think. By limiting that number as much as possible, you are ensuring both the best and highest use of your time as well as the best development opportunities for your colleagues. As Warren Buffet has said, “Most really successful people say no to almost everything.”



“Most really successful people say no to almost everything.”


3. Listen deeply and actively.

Truly hear your colleagues, your investors and board members, your customers, and other stakeholders. Have as many unscheduled, no-agenda interactions with your colleagues and others contributing to your mission as you can. Learn to listen actively to the many ways in which different people communicate their ideas and their concerns. Actively seek out different views, backgrounds, and cultures. Stay humble, curious, engaged in the world, and driven to bring the very best out of the people you can bring on your journey.


4. Commit to your personal growth as well as mental and physical well-being.

Spend a large, dedicated amount of your work time listening, reading and learning. The most successful leaders I've known dedicate substantial time every week to reading across a broad range of topics. To grow as a leader requires that you are a constant learner and that you have time to apply your learnings to both the short and the long-term opportunities and challenges your organization faces. Prioritize your mental and physical well-being by staying engaged in all the aspects of life from which you derive joy. Purposefully balance the demands of your job with the needs of your life and the needs of those you love. This, too, must be part of a disciplined approach to how you spend your time.


Purposefully balance the demands of your job with the needs of your life and the needs of those you love.


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Be conscious of the value of both your time, and the time of those around you, as wasting it is a crime that reduces your capabilities and effectiveness.