Too much work and too little time - one of the most common problems our clients bring to our management and leadership training sessions. Ever looked at the clock and realised that the day is gone and you’ve not done anything from your to-do list? Instead, you have spent the day fire-fighting, checking/re-doing other people’s work. Perhaps reading irrelevant e-mails take up too much of your time?
One of the benefits of having worked in roles that always required me to spin many plates at the same time meant that I had to learn to manage my time effectively. I often say - I wish someone had given me some tips in the early days. I’m sure I might have saved myself a lot of hassle and time too.
Read on and discover some tips, based on my own experience, that I normally share in our leadership course.
1. Create ‘Controlled’ Time
Take control of your time and let others know when you are and more importantly are not available, even for a quick chat. Suggest that your team does the same. This will help you to concentrate and remain focused. By doing so you will avoid interruptions that could add at least another 20 minutes to the task in hand.
Many leaders like to have an open door policy which is great and I fully support that. However, it doesn’t mean you are available all the time to all the people. Establish some ground rules for controlled time i.e “I’m not available time”. This is not just a privilege of the leader. Every member of the team should have controlled time allocation. Make sure you respect their time if you expect them to respect yours.
2. Be aware of your energy levels
When are you at your best and when to you have your down time? Be aware of your energy levels and schedule your tasks accordingly. Not a new idea but how many leaders actually apply it? Divide your work into 4 categories
1. High concentration / takes more than an hour (controlled time)
2. High concentration / less than an hour (controlled time)
3. Low concentration / takes more than one hour
4. Low concentration / short tasks
Spend a few minutes to note what your energy levels are during the day (e.g. from 8am – 10am=90%, 10 – noon=80% and so on). Schedule the tasks in your diary according to your energy levels. Where possible, schedule your ‘controlled’ time to the hours when your energy levels are at their peak. For example, I am a morning person so I would allocate my controlled time in the morning. That's when I would get the high concentration tasks done and out of the way. That helps to avoid the temptation of starting with the tasks I prefer and working through a list in order of preference.
3. Stick to your diary
Sounds simple but so many people are guilty of putting actions in their diary and just moving them along each day. Once you have created a realistic plan for completing a project, schedule time in your diary for doing so. For example, Monday from 09:00 – 10:30 – work on project A, Tuesday 09:30 – 11:00 work on project B etc. Once you have made an actual entry in your diary – stick to it and do not let small things come first. Treat this as any other meeting arrangement in your diary, because this is a meeting – with yourself to complete the Project A. It also helps if you can leave your workspace and work elsewhere if the arrangements in your office allow this.
You can’t change the length of the day but you can choose what you put in it. Could it be that we are creating a lot of self-inflicted stress? We tend to spend too much time and energy on the small stuff at the expense of the bigger, more important things.