Ah, summer. Relaxing warm evenings, vacation with kids, low stress activities that recharge the batteries. Yeah right! Most everyone I talk to is so busy they barely have time to think. Many companies are in the mid-year push. Those that work in government or government related companies are realizing that the fourth quarter of the fiscal year is just starting and key projects (and spend rates) are lagging behind or aren’t started. You may have taken a vacation but when you got back to work you had hundreds (or thousands) of unanswered emails. Perhaps you avoided this by working during vacation? (You didn’t do that did you? If so, suggest you read Indispensable? Better Think Again…)
During coaching sessions students routinely tell me they are just flat busy. Time management is not a nice to have it’s a must have. One of the pillars of great leadership is “Know Your Stuff” (the others are “Know Yourself” and “Know Your People”). Part of knowing your stuff as a leader is knowing how to personally manage your priorities.
We talk a lot about the value of planning. Some studies show that for every minute you spend planning you can save 6 minutes in execution. Save thirty minutes a day and you’ve saved 15 days in a year. As one student recently told me, you have to “take the time to save the time!” Many of the time management techniques we discuss in our classes seem so obvious yet are so easy to overlook. As a case in point, at the conclusion of our coaching sessions another student told me that one of her most important lessons learned during our time together was that simple time management techniques make a huge difference in your effectiveness as a leader.
Here are a few things you can do to get immediate results:
Create a prioritized plan based on your goals and high payoff activities. Spend 5 to 10 minutes planning daily, 1 to 2 hours monthly.
Block time on your calendar for prioritized tasks. Keep these appointments with yourself. If this appointment was with the CEO, would you miss it? If this is a priority task, and hence a priority for the organization, why treat it any differently?
Clear the deck for action. Eliminate or reduce distractions. Although open-door policies are great, there are exceptions. Make it known by either sign or prior agreement that during these periods interruptions should be for truly “can’t wait” reasons.
Know when to say “no.” This takes practice but if you don’t have the bandwidth to take on another task you do nobody any favors by agreeing to a commitment you can’t make.
Work one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task. Many of you will argue this point but the research is fairly definitive. Multi-tasking reduces the quality of the work and/or lengthens the total time to do the individual tasks.
This isn’t rocket science or earth-shattering revelation. It’s just common sense. Remember; take the time to save the time.