It's a universal problem.
Too much to do, not enough time to get it all done.
This is particularly the case when it comes to being an effective leader. Our focus on the day-to-day operational stuff means that we often put the important, but not urgent, leadership stuff on the back burner.
I haven't met a person who couldn't be better at managing their time, so here are five habits everyone should adopt:
1. Slow down to speed up
Schedule an hour where you drop everything and focus on what's going on. Too often we let ‘chaos’ be our normal, whereas we need to get back into ‘control’. Brain dump everything onto a clean sheet of paper - every deadline, tasks, meeting, detail so it is all real and in front of you. You should feel calmer already.
2. Use a system
It might be as simple as a list, better still a prioritised list. Even better, schedule the highest priorities into your calendar so you can commit to when you will complete them. There are many commercially available, more complex systems that I know work. The point is, don’t rely on just your memory, as many people do. Supplement it with, and commit to, using a system.
Too often we let ‘chaos’ be our normal.
3. Be disciplined
Once a week, review steps 1 and 2. This works well on a Friday afternoon as it sets the next week up for success. Don’t see getting in control as a one off, rather, make it a habit. Put a recurring appointment in your calendar for an hour every Friday to review your progress and to organise next week and the coming weeks. This investment in time will pay you back many times over in productivity, efficiency and reliability.
4. ‘Three Things Today’
Take a Post-it note. List the three things that you simply MUST get done that day. It will serve as a reminder when you get distracted, which will inevitably happen. Put the Post-it in a prominent place – on your computer screen or note book. Check in several times each day to make sure that you are working on your priorities.
5. Say ‘No’ more often
We have to accept that we simply can't get everything done. It is simply impossible in this day, and we are kidding ourselves if we think we can. We need to discern what are the essential, high-priority tasks and work on those first. This will require us to say 'No' to other tasks. This can be a real challenge as many of us want to please others and some feel awkward saying ‘No’. Better to say ‘No’ than to say ‘Yes’ and let people down.
Bonus tip for leaders: Hands up who's got too much time on their hands? I thought so. You see, when we are time poor, the operational stuff that screams at us becomes the priority. The ‘non urgent leadership stuff’ often gets put off. Months pass by and before we know it the culture and the level of engagement have turned.
We need to make time to lead.