As a manager, you don’t have enough time as it is. Your inbox feels like the Hoover Dam broke. You can’t seem to get away from the attention of people who want more of your time than you have to give.
Filling just every minute with some to-do is, in fact, counterproductive. You need time set aside for resting as well as for contemplation to be effective in strategizing with fresh ideas. If this seems impossible, then reading this article will be the best ten minutes you have invested in reclaiming your time.
Read on to uncover disempowering mindsets, get steps to reclaim power over your time and ways to increase productivity.
Busy Is The New Stupid
In today’s culture, we wear “busy” like an accessory. We use it to show off how important we are when nothing could be further from the truth.
Take it from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. They know that busy isn’t a sign of excellence or status. You can always get things and money, but you can never buy back expired time. Ergo, what you do with your time matters and contrary to popular belief, filling every minute with things to do will not be the most effective use of your time as a leader.
You cannot buy time. — Warren Buffett
You don’t want to be remembered for being the busy guy. You want to be remembered by your legacy. Leaders aren’t just busy, leaders make a difference. They are influencers. They orchestrate achievement. Is that you?
Refocus On Your Legacy
Let’s take a look at what your calendar expresses about your priorities. How do you spend the majority of your time?
You can read about how other CxOs spend their time and that may provide helpful indicators, but that doesn’t uniquely address you. Use these reflection questions to refocus on the legacy you want to leave behind:
- What matters and what goals have you set as a result?
- How do your calendar and the milestones you have on it reflect this legacy you want to leave behind?
- What milestones on your list for this year will you be achieving?
- How are your goals reflected proportionally in your schedule?
- How did you account for time to strategize, to contemplate and come up with creative solutions, and to rest?
Reclaim Power Over Your Schedule
Assess your commitments — both personal and professional. You can make it a habit to question your standing appointments regularly. Are they still needed? Could you cover the objectives of a meeting in other ways? Say, for example, you have a decision meeting with your direct reports and you see a pattern of similar cases. You could pre-authorize decisions within clearly defined bounds and only request involvement if those limitations are exceeded.
Prioritize by using Dwight D. Eisenhower’s time management principle, also labeled the “Eisenhower Productivity Matrix.” This method processes all requests on your time through a filter in four quadrants: (1) Important and urgent; (2) important but not urgent; (3) urgent but not (as) important, and (4) neither important nor urgent.
To apply this filter accurately, you need to define the qualifier for what is important to you. Remember that what isn’t important to you is still important to others, so make sure you require that every request of your time will include the impact and urgency of the request. This also allows for a great shortcut to filter your inbox later on.
View Your Calendar As A Reflection Of Your Strategic Plan
For a moment, consider your calendar a blank canvas.
Begin blocking time according to your focus areas and filtered priorities. Don’t forget “meetings with self” for strategizing and reflecting and to plan the coming month/week/day.
Instead of wasting time in dysfunctional multitasking, block chunks of time for activities that belong in a similar category. Our brain works that way, so let’s maximize its capacity.
Take Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, as an example. He “chunks” by dedicating entire days to specific topics and arranging his commitments accordingly: His Mondays are reserved for management, Tuesdays are focused on product, and so on. “It sets a good cadence for the rest of the company,” he stated at a conference.
Ditch Old Habits
Whatever method or tool you select to keep track of your time and to-do’s, you have to stick to it or it won’t work. For example, if you plan to make your calendar the holy grail, make sure you refer to it first, and not to any other tool.
If you end up opening your emails first or your favorite news app, you will effectively nurture reactionary behavior and defeat the purpose of your careful prioritization. Such discipline is rarely pleasant but always pays off down the line.
Once you’re done, set time aside to brief those you are outsourcing tasks to. Let’s be realistic: you’re unlikely handing things off without some need for supervision or check-ins.
Manage your schedule or it will manage you.
Be sure to inform your direct reports and family on the changes to your schedule and your expectations as well. As a leader, you already know the importance of boundaries around your time and around expectations and commitments. Boundaries take effort to establish and keep up. Make sure you draw a clear picture of where the fence to your most precious property is placed.
Are you facing the challenge of new habit formation? Work with a coach. You can also start by planning a daily review of your calendar each day (assessing both the past for learning and the future for adjustment). This can take as little as five minutes a day.
Lastly, apply the same prioritization method consistently across all future demands on your time. Train your time suckers like a puppy dog: either you manage your schedule or it will manage you.
You have the same 24 hours everyone else has. The good news: you have total control over what you do with your time.
Since you can’t buy back time, you can manage this expiring resource through prioritization and gatekeeping.
Clarity on what matters most will help you to prioritize and make effective use of your time.
Accept how the brain works. It will prevent you from old myths like multitasking or back-to-back to-do’s without time set aside for strategizing and other brain work.
Practicing the planning of your calendar by priorities and key objectives will increase your mindfulness.
Don’t get busy!
Image credits: Zaradigm, Depositphotos
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