Our lives are consumed with deadlines, to-do lists, emails, meetings, urgent problems, family, and a bucket list of things you want to check off before you check out. We all know that time is precious—it simply ticks by and cannot be recaptured. Nothing drives this reality home better than remembering that our time in this world is finite, not infinite.
It’s virtually impossible for leaders to be immune from time management challenges. Stuff happens and you need to lead in the moment. The world around you relentlessly tries to invade and capture bits and pieces of your time. Guess what? You do the same to those around you. It’s what leaders do. All it takes is for someone to say, “I need to speak to you for a minute,” and before you know it, half a day has passed and you are thrown completely off schedule.
So how do you capture more time to get your stuff done and have some life left over? Here are six strategies you can start using immediately...if you can find the time:
- Make appointments with yourself: Chances are your calendar is full of appointments with everyone but you. If you have a project that needs to get done, schedule the time to get it done on your calendar. Do not give it up for anything but dire emergencies (the light bulb that blew out in the restroom, for example, is not a dire emergency). Show up on time and prepared to dig in and work. You’d be surprised at how productive you can be when given just two hours of concentrated, uninterrupted time. More importantly, scheduling yourself in this way takes care of the toughest part of a project—getting started.
- Low-level vs. high-level stuff: If you’re continually frustrated that you’re not getting your work done, consider all of the things you have been doing instead. Entire days can evaporate when you spend your time completing low-level busy work and putting out fires. The truth is, you sometimes focus on the small stuff in order to avoid what you know you should be doing. You chose to do that low-level stuff rather than schedule time to complete the high-level activities that would feel so good to get off of your plate. It's you who allows the world to interrupt and distract you. And when the world doesn't do it, you do it to yourself. Got it?
- Don’t do it all: The one thing that control freak leaders are consistently amazing at is driving those they lead absolutely crazy. Nothing is done good enough or fast enough. People want to do a great job. and to feel empowered and appreciated. But control freak leaders are never satisfied. Most of all, control freak leaders are rarely satisfied with their own work. It's time to let go of some of the controls before it's too late.
- Rethink your “To Do” list: This is all about managing what you allow on your plate. Your plate is your schedule. You can fill it with lots of low-level stuff and look busy as hell while accomplishing very little. Or, you can fill your plate strategically with high-level projects that will lift your company to that elusive next level. Think about the value of work and projects before you add them to your plate.
- Climb out of your rut: This one is simple. You don't have time to get stuff done because you are stuck in your rut. Your rut is your daily routine and, being a creature of habit, you are comfortable in your rut, even if you don't like it. Climb out of your rut by allowing yourself to master your time differently. Get to work early. Greet your team. Lead a huddle. Talk to customers. Just change it up for 30 days and see what happens.
- Respect yields respect: If you want others to respect your time and your schedule, you need to respect theirs. Too often, leaders are the elephant in their living room causing roadblocks, interruptions, and disruptions. Leading is about getting out of the way and empowering others to do great things.