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There are so many clichés about time and how fast it passes, how much it matters, or how little of it there seems to be daily. A leader may hear these cute phrases and smile at their accuracy, but many still believe there’s got to be a way to actually increase what they achieve. Some leaders will simply work long hours. Others will make work THE priority and forsake any and all personal matters. Those leaders most successful at the game of managing time and feeling accomplished, approach this time and task management concept differently. Today’s Monday Moment shares those differences and gives steps on how you can get more done, feel like you’ve accomplished something, and actually feel you’ve addressed it all, including this first step of defining what that is exactly.
Most leaders make a list. What they don’t do is manage that list effectively. The minute and meaningless items of lesser importance get listed right next to those that will impact job performance. And the more on the list, the more tempting it is to make “pick up dry cleaning” as high a priority as “put Bob on final warning”. Getting it all done should not mean doing everything but the kitchen sink before noon on a Monday. Change that definition. Be very choosy about what goes on the list. Be disciplined in putting only a small number of items in the “must be done today” category. One model includes limiting daily list entries to only six items or actions. Once those are all done, everything else is gravy. Is the all you’re trying to get done even remotely realistic? Can you focus on only a small list of required actions and increase your feeling of accomplishment?
The common thought process is leader’s respond fastest to whomever or whatever is yelling the loudest. That squeaky wheel may be annoying, but unless it’s about to fall off, it may not be what provides the greatest impact from you giving it your attention. What does? If the boss has made a request, chances are it takes a high priority on your list. That is a pretty standard impact examination and decision. However, leaders who ask their boss whether their request takes a higher priority over two or three important issues that need addressing, maintain greater credibility and show stronger leadership. Are you carefully assessing what actions will impact the largest number? Would completing one task impact the numbers long term? Would one conversation impact the entire team positively going forward? These are impact questions and valuable in assessing what task comes next. You may not always have final decision authority or much choice in the matter, but asking the questions and conducting regular impact examinations will show you’re diligent about how, how long, and with whom you are spending your valuable time.
Oh, don’t we all wish that were an option. Sadly, it is not…unless, we take a close look at those activities a leader could spend time on that have little or no real value. Are there too many meetings? Could be, but some meetings one must attend for exposure, visibility, and to stay on top of things. Is there too much drama? Could be, but some drama could be cut short with a proactive leader’s involvement. There is no one answer to what needs to be removed from one’s schedule. There are some guidelines. Those activities that have very little impact, are mindless, or take up far more time than their value or their potential damage, need to be stricken from the leader’s schedule or delegated, or both. The way a leader creates more time is to be disciplined in not wasting it. Invest it wisely. Develop skills in others who could take on tasks that don’t require your level of skill or wisdom, even if you only are able to devote ten minute daily increments to this effort. That daily ten minutes over time will help you spend more time being a leader and less time wondering where all of your time went.
So, how do leaders get it all done? Time for some truth: they don’t. What they do manage to accomplish on any given day are those tasks that matter most, impact the most people, and fulfill what they have deemed to be their top priorities. Not everyone is always pleased with their progress, but a leader’s role is not to be the favorite on the playground, but to lead those to whom they have the greatest obligation, commitment, or responsibility for development. Who those people are or what projects fit that criteria changes daily and on some days hourly. Are you keeping up with your priorities and staying on top of how you define them? That may be the first thing to do tomorrow morning.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.