What Are You Doing? - Time and How People Waste It

Last Updated: 

February 9, 2024

My Guest today is Paul Holbrook who describes himself as all round optimist and the Creator of The Diary Detox.

Paul is a time rebel, speaker and author who walked away from a 20-year career in the City of London having become frustrated at standing-by watching the toxic effect of people's diaries on themselves and those around them without them realising it. On the way to creating a world of better-led people, Paul stumbled across the Diary Detox®, a business that he now runs.

Having covered a variety of roles within technology and people management, Paul is passionate about improvement. He believes the only thing stopping people getting the most from themselves, is unerring attention to getting the best from everyone and everything around them. It all starts with what's in their diary.

Key Takeaways from Today's Episode of the Podcast:

  • What Are You Doing?: The discussion with Paul Holbrook, creator of Diary Detox, focuses on the importance of managing time effectively to save a day a week in business operations.
  • Deciding to Make a Change: Paul Holbrook's journey from a 20-year career in London to creating Diary Detox was driven by his desire to address the toxic effects of poor time management in the workplace.
  • "I Don't Have Time" - Applying Elements of Diary Detox to Your Business: Diary Detox helps businesses and individuals prioritise tasks effectively, focusing on what truly matters for growth and improvement.
  • Colour is Key: The Diary Detox system categorises tasks into four colors (green, amber, red, and brown) to help individuals and businesses identify and prioritise activities that lead to improvement and growth.
  • Leadership and Management: Differentiating between leadership and management is crucial for small business owners, with leadership focusing on improvement and management ensuring tasks are completed correctly.
  • Managing Your Days: For CEOs and team leaders, prioritising 'green' behaviors or activities that lead to improvement is recommended for the majority of their time, with 'amber' behaviors focused on ensuring smooth operations.

These sections highlight the significance of time management, strategic planning, and the differentiation between leadership and management in enhancing business efficiency and personal productivity.

What we will be discussing today:

  • Time and how people waste it without realising.
  • Management and Leadership and how they're misunderstood.
  • The effect of not being sure where you are going.
  • The effect of not planning time.
  • Reflection on what's really happening.
Want to Close Bigger Deals?

Listen to the full episode:

Robin Waite · #52 - What Are You Doing? - Paul Holbrook

What Are You Doing?

How would you feel if you could save a day a week in your business? The way you manage your time could be the very thing that is holding you back, and that’s what we’re discussing in this podcast episode with Diary Detox creator Paul Holbrook.

Deciding to make a change

Paul’s journey to running Diary Detox began after working in London for over 20 years, and realising how much managers were destroying employees’ lives. After watching this from the sidelines, he decided that enough was enough, and didn’t want to be a part of that culture anymore. He calls himself a ‘time rebel’, because of how he waved goodbye to the establishment and created a movement to bring awareness to management and leadership. When someone does something surprising and makes you question what you’re doing, that is the meaning of a rebel for Paul.

The decision to make a change was also spurred on by him working in a company with hundreds of thousands of workers. On the annual pulse survey, 44% of people said they felt well led, a small number considering the size of the company. Even after investing in management courses, the next survey returned that 34% of people felt well led.

The truth was that the courses were good, but the bosses at the company didn’t think they had time to implement the new management and leadership strategies, without realising that what they were currently doing was bringing them only 44% of workers feeling well-led.

These experiences combined gave Paul the drive to move on and discover the Diary Detox.

“I don’t have time” - Applying elements of Diary Detox to your business

One of the biggest issues whether you are a freelancer, coach, or consultant, is not having enough time. You hear all these experts telling you to work on your brand message, network, constantly show up on social media, and more. This leaves you no time to focus on the bigger aspects of your business, the core of what you do.

You work in your business, rather than on your business.

You may know how to do everything that the courses and books tell you. You may know how to implement those things. The issue is how to not to do the things that are wrong.

This is where Diary Detox comes in.

Colour is key

Based on what people are doing at work everyday, tasks are broken down into one of seven categories. Each category represents one of four colours: green, amber, red and brown.


Thinking, communicating, and improving are categories within the green colour band. These are known as leading behaviours because they are at the core of leadership. You look at what you can do to make things better and talk to people, get feedback, and rethink things. Rather than just you thinking about something, you are communicating about it, and getting different perspectives, which leads to improvement.

The green categories are the areas which will make your business better.


The amber categories are monitoring and directing. Monitoring is checking that things are okay, and directing is giving instructions to solve things if they are not okay. These categories are what keeps things constant and that where you are and what you are doing are right.


Red is not bad. Red is for transactions. For example, if you are a coach, it’s when you are coaching, which isn’t a bad thing. Being transactional means that red also focuses on any of the ‘doing’ side of your business. This also includes areas such as your accounts or posting on social media. It's working in your business.

That feeling of constantly doing things can be hard to step away from, but when you do that very thing, it can bring in more perspective and you can do something which will improve your knowledge to make your business better.


Brown is for the areas where you are wasting your time. These may be things you do both intentionally or accidentally without realising. These are things you need to get rid of.

There are times when this isn’t possible. Travelling for instance is one of those, but only when it is essential. If travel is non-essential, it is brown. If it is essential, then it counts as a doing action, and is seen as red.

You can move activities from one category to another. Travelling time can move to green if you listen to a podcast that will improve your knowledge. If someone is having an issue, rather than doing it for them, which would be red, tell them how to do something, which moves to amber in the directing category. To turn it green, suggest if you weren’t there, how would they try to solve the issue. The majority of time, they come back with the solution that you would use as well. Then that person knows what to do moving forward, and you have essentially coached them.

Using these categories and colour systems turns their diary into a mirror and they can really see where they are spending their time, which then enables them to make improvements.

Leadership and management

Leadership and management are two terms associated with one another, but in reality, they are different. Small business owners are often taking on both roles, so what is the secret to differentiating the two.

Leading, or being a leader, is something that is in a way decided by other people. People see you as a leader because you make something or someone better. Thinking about how to make something better, talking to people about how you make something better and sharing and collaborating on that, and putting all those things into practice to make something better. These are all leading qualities or green qualities.

Managing is linked to amber and red categories. It’s about making sure things are happening the way they should be and if they are not, steering things in the right direction.

A manager though should have qualities of both, which is why it is important to differentiate between leadership, management, and the titles of leader and manager.

A leader really has to have a vision and be able to execute it. They need to have a clear idea of what they want and where they are going. That is why thinking as a green behaviour is so important. It’s being able to think about your vision, strategy, or plan and how to overcome any obstacles.

Managing your days

If you’re a CEO and have a team working for you, Paul suggests that 4 days a week should be spent on green behaviour, as well as 1 day on amber behaviour to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Often people feel guilty about stepping back and working on their business, but it’s taking that step that will help bring out new ideas.

A lot of the time, freelancers and business owners are coming from a background of being managed, of being made to think that red behaviours are the only way to be productive and get results.

In actual fact, taking the time to have an overview of everything provides clarity and you can actually see where your business is at and if you are misusing your time.

Has this got you thinking about how you are managing your time? Could your blocks be based in your diary? Time to get those green behaviours switched on.


Pauls Book:
>>> ‘What are you doing? The uncomfortable truth about how you waste time at work’

How to get hold of Paul:

LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/paulmichaelholbrook/

Website -www.diarydetox.com

About Fearless Business:

Join our amazing community of Coaches, Consultants and Freelancers on Facebook:
>>> www.facebook.com/groups/ChargeMore

And check out the Fearless Business website:
>>> www.fearless.biz

People Also Like to Read...

Don't forget to check out our Case Studies and also how Business Coaching can help your business. If you're ready to talk further and get the full coaching experience you can book a FREE 30-Minute Coaching Session.