Other People’s Time: OPT-in Management

Other People’s Money, OPM, is the often maligned method to fund a small business. But to Get Things Done a leader must not only manage the money — the budget, but get things done through people: management.

What is the First Rule In Management?

The good manager does not manage his time. He does not really manage his people.

He manages Other Peoples’ Time.


Nothing should sit on your desk

And Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling will follow.

Keep the ball rolling.
No paper should rest on your desk

The manager manages other peoples’ time — as well as other company assets — talent and treasure.

I would submit that managers worry less about managing their own time; their own “to do lists” and focus on the subordinate’s time.

So where does OPT-in start?

The Manager’s Desk.

Piles of paper are decisions not made. You, Gentle Small Business Manager, run your small business with your experience, wisdom and judgment. Start with your workspace.

Think of your desk as a pyramid with the apex pointing up. Paper does not rest on your desk.

Paper is never allowed in horizontal file piles.

Whenever a memo or an email attachment comes to you, it will slide off — back to whoever carried it in. It will have your signature on it, an action to be taken (by someone else), filed or destroyed (by someone else). You will not let it rest on your desk — even as you think about.

Do, Delegate or Destroy. Don’t put that memo on the corner of your desk.

However, Bill Allison at the Amazing Time Management Secrets offers caution on a clean desk:

A cluttered desk (or a house with toys strewn all over) is not necessarily a sign that a person is a poor manager of time. It could be a sign of a person who understands the difference between doing things right and doing the right things.

Are you spending your short life doing things right or are you doing the right things for this season of your life?

There’s a tension either way. Which tension are you currently choosing?

Paper should breeze off your desk

I would submit that the small business owner manage with a clean desk. An empty inbox. Not Paper; not electronic.

Your Business Blogger recommends the Biblical reminder that, Today has enough trouble of its own. Do not carry today’s worries — today’s paper — on your work space for tomorrow.

This should be a professional trend with small business owners: Do not let the sun set on a piece of paper on your desk. Or an email in your inbox.


Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

9 Reactions
  1. Excellent reminder (as I stare at the piles that accumulated while I was on vacation). It was just the guilt trip I needed.

  2. Mary, thank you for you kind words — sorry about the guilt, however effective.

    But you raise an interesting point: tasks and paper and stuff to do that accumlates while (we all are) on vacation.

    You have probably hit on the reason why North American small business owners never take vacations. Or take them reluctantly.

    Thanks for your comment!


  3. I disagree- I believe there is an “aura” to management, and part of that is conveying the notion to your employees that you are “busy” and cannot answer them right on time all the time. This teaches your employees to learn to make decisions themselves without your help, and is a method of empowering your inferiors. This can be beneficial as it takes a lot of your back as it lets other people sweat the small stuff and you can focus on the bigger picture.

  4. Thought provoking, but more appropriate for the Fortune 500 manager than the small business manager. Though I would love to delegate…I’m it in my small business. So if it needs destroying: I shred it…If it needs purchasing: I order it…If it needs doing: I do it…If it needs delegating: ???

    The biggest difference and the hardest difference between working for a company, with staff, and working for myself, has been the paper that does accumulate, because I am trying to do the right things!

    Thank you though, for the reminder to take care of things right away whenever possible.

  5. Hi Anita —

    LOVED this post! It’s a good back-to-the-basics reminder to all of us to keep an organized desk to be more productive.

    LOVE the pics, too. Are they stock photos, or did you — or someone else you know — take them? They fit perfectly with the post!

    p.s. Hope you’re enjoying your vacation in the sunshine.

    p.p.s.Can’t wait to see the finished product from Anna 🙂

  6. Lynne, thank you for your kinds words about the pictures.

    They are actually a part of my Penta-Posse; two of my five children.

    The two-year old is Baby Boo. The little girl is The Dancer.

    Charmaine and I use them shamelessly to visualize a point of a story. Such as:


    The photos may certainly be used with attribution to Small Business Trends.

    Thanks again,

  7. Dan, there certainly is an art to presenting the leader’s image of productivity and motivating employees and teaching employees, and teaching people is terribly time consuming –tactically – but the best strategic use of time, as your comment suggests.

    And I particularly appreciate your reference to employees as “inferiors” rather than merely “subordinates.” This may be the first step truly effective management. See


    to see one of my business cards.


  8. Melinda, you are so right. Most small business owners have to wear a number of hats, and in the early stages, do everything.

    I recommend delegation to (expensive) staff for tasks that don’t require your unique skill level. For example, see


    But all this depends on what you love to do. I hire — outsource — those tasks that someone else can do cheaper than I can do. See

    Who can do a job faster, better, cheaper than you? If your time is worth a dollar a minute, $60/hour or $100k/year, you should be hiring a CPA who can do your books for $35/hr.

    Simply, I hire a woman and her team to clean my house. I’m not good at it; don’t like it; forbit Charmaine to spend her time on toilets. The opportunity cost delta demands that I do my work and pay others to do other tasks. And we all are the richer. And, incidentally, the cleaning lady drives a newer truck than I do…

    But if your skill set does not provide the cash flow, or can compete for substantial fees, you may very well be laboring for love — only.

    Which I would support, whole-heartily. I would support “starving artists” and struggling actors and volunteers for non-profits. I love to support start-up businesses with advice and service on boards.

    But the small business owner’s decisions must be implemented with good business judgement as well as love.

    Please let us know how we can help you and your small business more!


  9. Jack,
    I just found my way back here after a very busy summer both business and pleasure.

    It’s an interesting proposition for the small business person: cash flow vs profitability. I think for some initial time (which varies) many of us struggle with both and that is when nothing but hard work and long hours get us off the ground.

    The fun time begins when the cash flow is good enough that we can start hiring out those things which someone else can do more efficiently and at a lower “cost.”

    The good news is…I’ve hired a housekeeper and am thinking about a temp/part time book keeper. You give good food for though because I don’t enjoy either and though I can do both, neither are my forte!

    In a way it is easy when you start because you know you have to do everything because there is neither cash flow nor profitability. This middle time is hard because there is cash flow, but not yet profit…I’m looking forward to turning the corner and am turning my attention now to focus on becoming profitable…if I can just keep the cash flow coming.