How Does She Do It? Time Management Secrets from Top Leaders

Are you drowning in email and stuck in back-to-back meetings? Are you not as productive as you could be?

The secret to getting more done in less time is being more strategic about your work hours, says time management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It.

51fxq08yflShe studied the schedules of hundreds of busy, professional women – who earn more than $100,000 per year and have at least one young child living at home – to find out their time-saving tips.

By studying their time diaries over a three-year period, she found ways every woman can make work and life fit together, moment by moment, day by day. By trying different strategies, you can create more time in your workday to embrace new challenges.

Getting More Done in Less Time

At the end of the day, do you wonder where the time went? If you’re on overload from going to meetings, writing emails and attending conferences, learn the useful, real-life strategies of these successful women, who make the most out of their time.

Meetings: From Time Wasted to Time Managed

Meetings can sap the energy out of a workweek, which is why many women have learned to make every meeting count. Here’s what you can try:

Skip a meeting. “Study your weekly schedule and choose a one-hour meeting that does not require your presence,” said Vanderkamp. Are there recurring meetings that can happen less frequently? Or can you send someone in your place? The women she studied make a point to attend meetings only where they can add value.

Send an agenda. Smart meeting facilitators think through what everyone in that meeting will contribute and email them prior to the meeting: Do you want feedback on your presentation? Or do you want participants to bring three new ideas to the table?

Take your meeting for a walk. Look for creative ways to put one-on-one meetings with your team members onto your schedule. By stepping outside or grabbing a quick lunch, you can break up your daily routine and spark fresh conversation. Maureen Sullivan, president of, holds her one-on-ones with team members on the go, as they power walk between the two buildings in New York City where they work.

Email: Don’t Let It Manage You

There is no correlation between having an empty inbox and being successful,” said Vanderkamp. That’s why she advises against investing too much energy in any organizing system aimed at getting to Inbox Zero.

Helen Fox, director of marine science at the World Wildlife Fund, had attempted to keep her inbox empty until she realized it was best to look at other markers of productivity and efficiency: What are my big projects? What are my objectives for the week?

It’s better to realize that any email you haven’t gotten to after a week or so will have either resolved itself or been thrust back upon you by follow-up messages or calls, says Vanderkamp.

Conferences: Don’t Leave Home Without Doing Your Homework

Veteran conferences goers are smart about their approach because they strategize before and during the event, said Vanderkam.

Go with a goal. Figuring out what you hope to get out of the conference before you sign up is key, she says. Is your goal to go home with a solid lead on a new client? Or do you want a sit-down meeting with someone you only know by phone?  You might invite people to a dinner on the first night when there’s not as many formally planned events. That way, no matter what else happens, you meet the people you want to meet.

Hit the halls. Spend less time at the panels, more saying hello to people you can need to connect with. Waiting in line to meet the big name people on the panels is not a productive use of your time. A smarter, lesser-used option is to volunteer with the conference organizing team so you can meet anyone you want, suggests Vanderkamp.

Now that you have some extra time built into your schedule, you’ll be able to use it for whatever’s important to you: advancing your career, playing with your kids, date nights with your partner or even just more sleep.