Since winning the Formula 1 World Championship in 2016, Nico Rosberg has hung up his racing spurs and become an entrepreneur, backing such ventures as Chargepoint, Lyft and Formula E and co-founding the annual Greentech Festival, which launched last year.

In a recent interview with BBC News thread CEO Secrets, [1] filmed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rosberg explains that his rigorous approach to time management is key to helping him stay on top of his multiple projects.

Noting that time is “our most valuable resource”, Rosberg says that his current focus is “to manage the hell out of time, with super-super discipline”. He stresses: “That comes to all communications: no more freestyle, no more urgent communication – everything’s structured … It’s also about setting deadlines. Every meeting needs to finish at 15 minutes, and not one minute longer than that.”

Rosberg points out that this sort of thinking was ingrained in him throughout his sporting career, “because to have success in sport, discipline is of the essence”. He elaborates: “When it comes to time, I know a thing or two about that, because my success was measured by one-hundredths of seconds – every single time, every single lap.

“Such discipline when it comes to time management has a direct impact also on life balance, and therefore happiness – especially if you use that to compress the working hours and keep more hours for free time, for time with the family [and] friends.”

However, in a separate piece for BBC Worklife, [2] Aeon magazine senior editor Dr Christian Jarrett argues that discipline, ruthless efficiency and better scheduling aren’t the only tools for solving the time-management riddle, noting: “Experts like Tim Pychyl at Carleton University in Canada and his collaborator Fuschia Sirois at the University of Sheffield in the UK have proposed [3] that procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time. The task we’re putting off is making us feel bad – perhaps it’s boring, too difficult or we’re worried about failing – and to make ourselves feel better in the moment, we start doing something else, like watching [YouTube] videos.”

How can leaders create and nurture effective time-management cultures at their organisations that answer both the efficiency-based and emotions-related parts of the equation?

The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Yes, we can all improve our time management in a ruthless pursuit of efficiency, as the parallels that Rosberg draws between enterprise and the motor-racing industry would suggest. And given his sporting pedigree, people are certainly going to pay attention to what Rosberg has to say. But it’s important to remember that he wasn’t the only individual in charge of managing his time – he was surrounded by a dedicated support team that crunched his performance numbers, monitored his fuel use and kept tabs on any mechanical issues that could affect his results.”

She notes: “The majority of us working in organisations don’t have that same level of backup. As individuals, we’re doing the best job we can of managing our own time – and invariably, the things that interfere with those ambitions are emotional obstacles. Procrastination is an interesting area: most of us understand all too clearly what it feels like, and have wondered from time to time why some people are able to drive through the pain of wanting to put something off, while others completely give in to that temptation. I would conjecture that the answer lies squarely in emotional territory – not because you don’t have a great time-management system.”

Cooper explains: “We must bear in mind that a huge source of interference with the progression of our tasks is anything outside our control. And that regularly encompasses our emotional reactions – and related emergency responses – to incidents involving other people. Look at what happened to Labour leadership contender Sir Kier Starmer over the past weekend: forced to put his campaign on hold after his mother-in-law was involved in an accident. [4] It didn’t matter how good his time-management strategy was: when life happens, we often have no other choice than to alter, or indeed scrap, our plans.”

She adds: “Yes, it’s true that we could all be more efficient. But efficiency cannot take the place of the human aspects of our organisations and how we interrelate. If we improve in those areas, have a better grasp of why we procrastinate and come to an honest recognition of the importance of our emotional responses to what goes on around us, then together we will make tangible progress.”

For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on time management

Source refs: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Image of Nico Rosberg (R) with Lewis Hamilton after the 2016 Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix courtesy of Oskar SCHULER, via Shutterstock