Effective Time Management for Leaders
Countless things can distract business owners and leaders from their primary roles. Often this is to drive sales and push their company forward. To succeed, however, you must manage and...
Countless things can distract business owners and leaders from their primary roles. Often this is to drive sales and push their company forward.
To succeed, however, you must manage and guard your time well. The key is not only getting everything done but also avoiding burnout and feeling satisfied and accomplished at the end of the day.
1. Pick your rubber balls and glass balls.
Taking on multiple tasks at once can be detrimental to your productivity and health. Because of that, priorities are critical. And, to prioritize, you need to think in terms of rubber and glass balls.
When you drop a glass ball on your team or business, you will suffer long-term consequences. You should take care of these ones by yourself if you don't want them broken.
Rubber balls, on the other hand, can be handled later or even delegated. Because they bounce, dropping them isn't a big deal.
With this analogy, you're able to identify which tasks should be included in your schedule when you make this comparison.
Taking that into consideration, which tasks are you going to drop today?
2. Organize tasks in the correct order.
Everyone tends to fall into the same trap, whether in a leadership position or not. They are wasting time picking low-hanging fruit. While answering emails, organizing computer files, and cleaning your desk might feel productive, they might not be the most important or urgent tasks.
Because of this, many people begin their day by tackling their most important task (MIT). Therefore, the most appropriate time to address your most pressing issues is in the morning, when people are most alert and energetic.
After completing all the "must-do" activities, you can slowly work your way through the "would-be-good-to-do" activities.
3. Fire yourself from everything you don't need to be directly involved in.
"Simply put, let your team do their jobs," advises the experts at the Methods of 100 Coaches Blog. "In theory, you've hired entirely capable candidates for the job, and you should trust them implicitly to carry out their duties successfully."
This can be difficult if you tend to micromanage or obsess over every little detail. However, getting caught up in the weeds leaves you with little time and energy to make the critical decisions only managers and leaders can. "The less time you spend micromanaging, the more time you have to "MACRO-manage'!" they add.
4. Plan your life a year in advance.
In addition to your work responsibilities, you also have personal obligations. At the minimum, this includes doctor's appointments, parent-teacher conferences, and vacations. If you don't add these to your calendar, you can expect conflicts to arise.
What's more, with a little planning, you know what to expect so you're prepared. Also, this limits the number of decisions you have to make to save precious energy. And it's an effective way to set and track goals.
But how far should you map out your calendar? In my opinion? Planning your life a year in advance wouldn't hurt.
I live and die by my calendar," Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec told CNBC's Make It. In order to accomplish this great feat — he always plans a year in advance.
″[It] allows me to manage my time and prioritize," he explains. "It doesn't mean that everything on the calendar needs to be locked in, but it gives me an idea of where I'm going to be and when so I can maximize my time."
For example, Herjavec told Entrepreneur he would plan his kids' activities a year in advance with the school counselors. "Because of that, I never missed a swim meet. I never missed a school play. I never missed anything," he said.
Herjavec also keeps a calendar to stay organized every day. "The details, the briefs are always all there," he says. "It helps me be prepared, and I always have a reference."
5. Don't schedule every minute.
Have you ever wondered why some leaders schedule their days into 5-minute blocks? Well, you have Parkinson's Law to thank. According to this, "works expand to fill the available time."
Many leaders, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, use timeboxing to stay on top of their busy schedules. Basically, you set time blocks for each task and then incorporate them into your schedule.
Setting a time limit for each task maximizes your concentration, increasing your likelihood of completing them on time. It is also easier to figure out what to do next when you have a plan for the day, including breaks.
That's all well and good. After all, planning is essential. But, you shouldn't schedule every single minute of the day.
On average, CEOs spend about a quarter of their time interacting spontaneously, according to a study conducted by Harvard Business School's Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria.
To handle unfolding, unexpected events which consume 36% of CEOs' time, executives must be available for reasonable conversations or meetings.
"Leaders whose schedules are always booked up or whose [executive assistants] … say no to too many people risk being viewed as imperious, self-important, or out of touch," Porter and Nohria noted.
6. Build healthy habits and set firm boundaries.
According to a McKinsey study, professionals manage email on average for 28% of their working hours. In addition, Harvard Business Review revealed that "professionals check their email 15 times or every 37 minutes."
Why's that a problem? It takes workers 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to full productivity after being interrupted, such as checking your email.
However, emails aren't the only time stealers out there. Additionally, many people are distracted by notifications from Slack, social media, and text messages. In turn, they cannot pay full attention to the task at hand. And, even worse, this can eat into their downtime.
The answer? Set aside 20-30 minutes in the morning to check and respond to emails that can be handled quickly. Also, you should flag those that need to be followed up more thoroughly.
Also, to avoid spending time on distractions like email and Slack, leaders should set parameters around how frequently they check their emails. And, it's critical to set expectations with employees and communicate how to reach them if something urgent needs to be addressed immediately.
7. Find the right opportunities to use your strengths.
"Highest and Best Use" is a concept you probably understand as a leader. But, it has meaning in various situations.
"Let's look at it related to managing your time efficiently," Dennis Reid, H2scan Corporation, told Forbes. "If you know your strengths, look for opportunities to use them." First, however, ask yourself daily whether you are both "required and best suited" to take on a given project. Instead, take advantage of the strengths of your team members and delegate to maximize efficiency, Reid suggests.
8. Rethink meeting planning.
It can be difficult for an organizational leader to accept an invitation to a meeting. Your response might sound like you are breaking a cultural norm if you say "no' or "not now.' You may realize, however, that many meetings you attend are pointless if you evaluate all the meetings you attended the previous week.
When you are invited to a meeting, you should ask for the agenda to make better use of your time and build a management system. Using this method, you can politely decline meetings that aren't of high priority.
And, when you do schedule a meeting, the shorter, the better.
""Standard' meeting times should be revisited to shorten them. Doing this can significantly enhance a CEO's efficiency. For example, in our debriefs, CEOs confessed that one-hour meetings could often be cut to 30, or even 15 minutes," Porter and Nohria reported.
9. Schedule alone time.
A CEO's job is to create a vision for their company, formulate broad strategies for realizing it, and communicate them clearly to all stakeholders.
If you don't have enough time to reflect, though, this is hard to accomplish that. Because of this, CEOs typically spend 28% of their work time alone, but their time spent alone is usually limited to an hour or two.
"CEOs need to cordon off meaningful amounts of alone time and avoid dissipating it by dealing with immediate matters, especially their in-boxes," Porter and Nohria recommended.
10. Have a powerful executive assistant or chief of staff.
How will this role contribute to time management? Well, here are two excellent reasons.
By hiring excellent personnel in this area, you can ensure meetings that are not aligned with your priorities don't get scheduled. When you request to attend a meeting, they ensure you're attending for the right reasons. In other words, they provide that the request serves a purpose.
Often, they decline community, industry, and other external meeting requests that would otherwise clutter your calendar with unnecessary events.
Managing your email is also one of the responsibilities of your chief of staff or executive assistant. The reason? It's common for CEOs and other leaders to receive an overwhelming amount of emails. As such, they can help keep your inbox in check.
11. Don't just prioritize your own time — help your employees do the same.
Despite our belief that we devote eight hours daily to our core duties, research shows that's rarely the case. By periodically auditing your team's time (and your own), you can help them make the most of their time. As such, set aside a specific day for your team to track what they do and how much time they spend on it.
I should add that this exercise isn't an excuse for weeding out poor workers. Instead, it's meant to help employees in the long run. By gathering enough data, you and your team should be able to determine the time needed for tasks and how to avoid any work delays or interruptions.
12. Make time for personal well-being.
For higher-ups, finding time for themselves can be challenging, with roughly 60 hours of work per week. For a healthy lifestyle, however, blocking out time for your personal well-being is paramount.
But, how can you squeeze in this alone time? Harvard Business Review contributors Whitney Johnson and Amy Humble offer these four tips to help you take care of yourself:
- Add self-care to your calendar by making it a priority.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
- Check in with others to see how they are doing.
- Make a list of the positives in your day. And make it a point to say them out loud.
Featured Image Credit: Energepic; Pexels; Thank you!
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