The Ancient Wisdom of… Time-management: 7 Key Principles for 2024

Published on

May 9, 2024

Written by

Alison Humphries


Does anyone remember Filofax?

They were often bulging personal organiser “systems” that took the business world by storm in the 1980’s. Executives ‘importance’ (or their sense of their importance?) was symbolised by the size of their Filofax, and big display stands of the various accessory pages you could add to your folder blocked the aisles in WH Smith and all good retailers.


Filofax was a way of making some time management concepts visible. It needed a training course to get optimised benefit, so that you could plan long-term goals and break them down into actions, have notes ready for your 121s, and move every day towards achieving your KPIs.

Of course, they were heavy and became out of date quite quickly. In order to carry around all the information you needed to achieve your goals, they were often adorned with various post-it notes and other bits of paper.

Now, we can access far more information on our phones. But every week I see examples of where recruiters have lost sight of the great principles of time management. And as a result they are achieving less and less, while having more information than ever before.


So let me remind you of the seven key principles – as always, made relevant for recruitment and for 2024 (no more mention of Filofax!):

  1. Understand the difference between urgent and important (remember that matrix? If not, google it). Important = your longer term goals. If something was important, you should schedule it and allow time to do it properly. If it is urgent, do it now but do it quickly. If it keeps happening, automate it.
  2. Start every day with a plan. Do not allow your plan to be dictated by your email inbox, whatsapp messages, etc. DON’T schedule every minute of the day – there has to be some time to deal with urgent matters and to think.
  3. If something lands on your desk but is not in line with your goals, you may have to negotiate. Can it be deferred until it can be scheduled? If not, what can be de-prioritised.
  4. Touch messages only once. Do it, delegate it, dump it or file it.
  5. Make sure every delegate in a meeting needs to be there for the whole meeting. Otherwise break it down into 2 or more meetings. Have an agenda and stick to it. If new matters arise- arrange another meeting. No meeting should last longer than 60 minutes. If you can do it quicker, then do it standing up.
  6. Always ask – is there someone in my organisation who can do this task quicker, better or cheaper than me? If not, can this be trained? (Obviously with the exception of sensitive and confidential stuff). Always aim to work at your highest and best value.
  7. Accept that you don’t achieve goals without doing something about them every week. Or every day if it’s a fitness goal. Record that.


Is it all coming back? Good.

Because most of what we rely on now is designed to do the opposite of good time management. It is designed to distract, lead you down a path of engagement, keep chipping away at your brain, until the next bright shiny thing comes along. Think about your social media, and all that push advertising. It’s hard to get away from, and lots of channels have opened up huge opportunities for recruiters.

But what recruiters need now is NOT more information. It’s more focus.

Looking for an expert within the recruitment industry to help you accelerate your profitable growth, maximise performance and thrive in a dynamic market?

Alison Humphries has been advising recruitment business owners and leaders for over 20 years, with impressive results – including a roster of award-winning clients and a trade sale in excess of £20 million. To find out more about how she can help you lead your recruitment business to success, get in touch today.

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