Leading researchers: time management

Both leadership and management take time, so too do managing individual difference and motivating people. Managing people is a time-consuming business.

Although the focus of these resources is leadership and management, there is a third aspect of the PI role that should not be overlooked; the adminstration associated with running your project. 

When thinking about managing your time, it can be helpful to analyse your job into  these three types of task.

Getting the paperwork done Getting people to do things right Getting people to want to do the right things

In time management terms these three types of task are associated with different pressures. Leadership, for instance, seldom feels urgent; administration may well do. People will complain if you don't sign their conference approval forms, you are very unlikely to hear anyone say, "but you haven't led me this week".  However, all three task groups need doing -  though not necessarily always by you.

What you may find is that but the pressures from your colleagues and from the administrative systems that you  need to engage with will pull you toward the urgent tasks, the ones that 'won't wait', and you may end up neglecting the important tasks.

To make time to carry out your leadership responsibilities fully and effectively, you might consider what adminstrative and even management tasks you may be able to delegate to members of your team.  Not only will this free up some of your time, it will give your staff useful experience in broader aspects of the project. There is more guidance about delegating here.


With the ideas from this section in mind, consider your leadership and management role.

Use the traffic lights system below to help you think about what you're going to do more or less of in the future.

traffic light model

And finally, some time management tips:

  • make sure you make time for the things that only you can do
  • look after yourself, you're no use to anyone if you're not fit and well
  • maintain your networks, they make your job much easier
  • operate on the 'good enough is good enough' principle but work out very carefully how good 'good enough' is
  • never say "yes" in the corridor
  • make time for people but don't let them waste your time
  • develop a coaching style of management so that people learn to solve their own problems
  • make time for fun.