Effective time management strategies for busy leaders
As a leader, your time isn’t just something you’re ‘selling’ to whatever company employs you in exchange for a wage. It’s an important asset you must divide carefully to make sure operations run smoothly, everyone on your team receives the support they need, and any individual tasks also get completed. Time management strategies is essential for busy, high-achieving leaders.
Leaders should always set SMART goals (goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). For example, instead of aiming to communicate more with your team, set yourself the target of having a one-on-one meeting with each team member every two weeks. Once you have a specific target, you can build it into your carefully planned schedule and make it happen.
Focus your efforts in three categories: calendar management, tasks and projects and work-life balance. They involve the three assets everyone brings to work: time, priorities, and energy. Productive people get key activities done between major events in their schedule (like high-stakes meetings) instead of filling gaps in their days with work chats, emailing, or low-priority tasks.
Even the most conscientious time managers tend to fall into the trap of spending too much time on the low-hanging fruit. This is why so many people believe in identifying the most important task (MIT) each day and tackling it first thing in the morning before moving on to anything else. If you’re freshest and most alert in the morning, it’s the perfect time to dedicate to your biggest priority.
Timeboxing is the process of accounting for all your tasks in your calendar each day, allocating a specific duration for each. It holds you accountable to complete a specific task on a specific day. Timeboxing is great for estimating level of effort. This is a great project management skill to have. You assign yourself an amount of time for a task and check yourself on how long it actually took.
Take the list of projects and assign one or more 30-minute time slots to each project. Prospecting is a good example. Once the project is done, move onto the next one. If 30 minutes spent prospecting is not enough, assign projects like that more than one 30-minute segment, but make sure they are spread throughout the day. It’s not difficult to focus your attention if it’s only for 30 minutes.
You can’t blindly assume that you’re going to follow whatever schedule you set, so try monitoring yourself as you do your activities. There is a range of applications that can help you do this, with various levels of sophistication. DeskTime, for example, includes all kinds of features, such as reports, integrations with your project management software, and even productivity timelines.
At the end of each workday, reflect on how you spent your time. Then add events to your calendar to document a map of what you accomplished in each block of time. This helps refine your workload estimation skills and hold yourself accountable for the work you said you’d do. You can set this to private in most calendar apps—you know if you don’t want to share it with your entire organization.
To keep stress levels in check, managers must focus on one essential skill: delegation. Your ability to become the best version of yourself depends on your ability to find the time and space to hone your strengths and passions. Delegating work will help alleviate stress and reduce the potential for burnout. Mapping out your tasks can help you get more specific on what you need to delegate.
To perform at your best, you need to take regular, intentional breaks to recharge. When you are doing high-intensity, focused work, you’re using up your cognitive resources. And when you take a restorative break, you are recharging those resources. These breaks help you be more productive, restore your motivation, and help you make better decisions and reach more creative results.
When the stakes are low, it is easy to convince yourself that there’s more to life than careful time management strategies. But as your responsibilities, task list, and the number of people counting on you multiply, you may realize that you need to have your time management strategies down to a fine art to be able to think of or enjoy anything else. This is fulfilling your duty as a leader.
You have eight hours to sleep, eight hours to work, and the last eight hours of the day—what you do with that time will determine the quality of your life.
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