Managing time really well – for Leaders

As a leader, time is often your most scarce resource. Time needs be to consciously, thoughtfully and carefully allocated to activities which add the most value to you, the team and the business overall.

In a leadership role, time management is also a perception, and it’s a tricky balance. If you manage time well, and look like you manage time well, your team will see you as available. They’ll seek you out when needed. If you look harassed and hurried all the time, they’ll assume you don’t have time. Don’t have time for them to ask questions, raise issues or seek out your input. If you look like you have too much time, you’ll lose the sense of urgency.

Effective time management is a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice and discipline to build over time. There are a number of simple techniques you can do to help you best manage your time including to;

  • Consciously understand and choose where to spend your time- rather than running on autopilot, jumping from fire to fire and never really getting anywhere.
  • Prioritise what you need to do and primarily focussing on the things that really matter add value to you, the team and the business.
  • Be present, focused and attentive when working so you can finish each task, and do it once and do it well. Multitasking is often not our friend.
  • Delegate responsibilities to your team that you are not critical to. Not only will this free up time, but it will help to stretch, motivate and empower the team around you.
  • Understand why you procrastinate (fear, boredom, lack of understanding) and then implementing simple techniques to help you get motivated to get things done.
  • Structure and plan your day effectively, blocking out time, managing interruptions and thoughtfully matching your energy levels to tasks to be done.
  • Using simple tools (like to do lists) and technology to help you manage your task lists and time allocations.
  • Work smarter. Understand what things you can automate, do more simply, outsource or simply not do at all. Removing this “noise” or limited value add work will free you up to do the things that really matter.

While simple, these techniques take discipline and a commitment to get them right to achieve solid management of your time. Try implementing a couple of techniques from the list today and see how much time you can free up to do the things that make you and the team happier and add more value to the business overall.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Time is finite. 7 days a week. 24 hours in a day.  Legislation defines the Australian working week as 38 hours, however many of us spend much more time than this trying to get through the basics (and often still not doing what we feel we want or need to). While working longer and longer hours is an option, it is not one we would recommend at mwah. We all need rest, down time and space to do the things we love with the people we love.  This gives us energy and allows us to achieve a healthy balance between our work and our overall life.

As a leader, it is important that we manage and prioritise our own time to enable us to work on the things that really matter for us as individuals, for the team and the business overall. Even more importantly, it is critical leaders it is critical we role model good time management and work-life balance behaviours to our teams to create a culture where these skills are seen as important and ok.

So, how do we do this?

Managing your own time

Managing your own time, takes structure, discipline and commitment. These are some easy ways to help you get the most out of every day.

  • Consciously understand and choose where to spend your time. Keep a log of what you do in a day, week or even month (whatever is most relevant to you). What things were you not aware you were spending so much time on? What things could be done by someone else? What are you not spending enough time on? What could be done in a better way?Now you understand how you spend your time, plan how you would actually like to spend your time in future. Create an ideal work day/week/month schedule and try and implement it. Reflect on what is working and what is not and tweak the schedule as you go. While you may not always get it 100% right, having a clear plan on how you want to be spending your time will give you a greater chance of achieving this.
  • Do the things that matter. We can’t do everything. It is a fact. Look at tasks and understand what are important for you, the team, customers and the business. Look at what things are urgent and non-urgent. Look at things that add benefit in the long term. Choose the things the offer the best possible value to all parties involved and give time to these tasks.
  • Be present and focus on one thing. We now know multitasking is not great for our health (it can cause stress and permanently reduce our attention span) or our performance (we make more mistakes; we lose up to 40% of our productivity and we find it harder to make connections with those around us).Commit to being focussed and finishing entire tasks (or discrete sections of tasks) once, and once well. Simple things like only having one window on your PC open at a time; having your mobile phone outside your easy reach/peripheral vision; or having a designated a set time to get a task done (and only doing that task at this time) can help you get things done more quickly to a higher quality.
  • Delegate tasks to your team. Do the things that are most important to your role and the team and seek assistance from others to complete lower priority actions. This will free up time for you, but importantly it will give the team a chance to step up and build new and broader skills. Build delegated tasks into team development plans and provide support and even training to help the team to be successful in completing these tasks.
  • Beat procrastination. Procrastination isn’t generally about being lazy. It can be about a lack of interest in doing the task, boredom, a lack of understanding of the task or even a fear that of doing the task wrong.If you find yourself procrastinating, try and work out why. If it is fear, seek support from your Manager to minimise the tasking going wrong. If it’s a lack of understanding, seek clarity. It’s a lack of motivation or interest, find a way to break the task down into small chunks so it can be completed in manageable pieces over time. The important thing is to not leave these things too late as it leaves you little time to receive support, assistance or guidance and often compounds the difficulty in getting the task done.
  • Spend the first 10 – 20 minutes of your day planning what you will do. Block out time to complete critical tasks. This may mean putting in headphones or working in a quiet space or meeting room so you are not interrupted.When planning your day remember to be realistic of your own personal context and the environment around you. For example, mornings are generally best for personal energy levels and creativity. Plan outputs accordingly. Another example may be lunch times in an open plan office. This can often be noisy and a chance to connect with your colleagues. It is best not to plan detailed focused work during this time and instead schedule tasks you can dip in and out of (like checking emails).When planning your day, try to designate clear times to check emails and calls as these can be very distracting and easily disrupt our flow. This may not always be possible (dependent on role requirements), however, you will be surprised on how much time you will gain by only checking emails 2-3 times a day.  If you need to remain consistently on emails, only read in full and engage with critical or urgent items. Leave non-urgent or information only emails to be read at another time.
  • Make use of business tools. Our preferences are different so it may be as simple as a written to-do list; an app on your smartphone or a detailed time management tool. Use the tool or system that works best for you, even try a few and see what approach helps you manage your time the best.
  • Do things right and fully the first time. When busy or time poor we often dip in and out of things never properly finishing them off. This means to get things finished we have to spend extra time to get into that headspace again, try and remember what we were doing and what we wanted to say and then finish this task. This extra time taken to get things done the second time will generally far outweigh the few extra minutes or hour it would have taken to get the task completed originally. Where you can, take the space to get things done and completed the first time.

Making time for your team

As a leader, the most important time investment you can make is to your team. For a leader to perform well, their team must perform well, and this takes time, energy and attention to happen. Here are some simple techniques to help you prioritise and make time for the team;

  • See time with your team as valuable and important. We do what’s important, and as a leader, supporting and enabling your team is the most critical thing you can do. Look at this time as an investment that will pay off and give you more time in the medium to long term as you team develop their skills and capabilities and do more without your assistance.
  • Plan and block out time with your team. 1:1’s, team meetings, even informal time for you to be available and present. Setting aside time in advance and locking this in will ensure you have this space available and that time with the team is something that actually happens and is not just a pipe dream on your to-do list.
  • Support your team to manage their time. Refer them to the techniques above. How could you manage your time better as a collective team? A conscious effort in this space will help everyone to succeed.

Remember, as a leader, it is important you role model good time management skills and work-life balance. If you value and prioritise your own time, it will give them permission to do the same with their time, enabling the entire team to do the things that matter most and not get distracted by all the “noise” around them.

 Making time when you don’t have

So now you know how to manage your time and to create time for your team, but how do you create time that you don’t physically have? This is a tricky ask but can be achieved by;

  • Valuing what you spend time on. If you are doing something that you can see adds value to yourself, the team or the bigger picture, you will find a way to spend time on this. This means you won’t actually need to consciously decide to “make time” to do a task, rather you will likely find yourself drawn to and completing it. Value what you do, and do what you value. You will be surprised how much time is available to you if you take this approach.
  • Regularly reflect on how you spend your time. This means looking where and how you spend your time, what you would like to do more and less of and what you want and need to change.  Turn your reflections into a changed habits and behaviours to ensure you continue to get the best out of your time.
  • Prioritise “me” time. When we are busy, often the first things to put on hold are the things we do for ourselves. Things like exercise, sleeping, relaxing, reading, connecting with friends and family. These are the things that give us energy and are a critical part of staying well. While we can put these activities aside for short stints, if we do this long term they can negatively affect us and impact our ability to manage our time (i.e. we spend longer doing simple tasks due to a lack of energy, we have less motivation and creativity, we don’t feel as happy and can procrastinate more). Create and value time to do the things you love, that are good for you and give you energy. You will find this will help you be more effective and get more done every day.
  • Use your dead time well. When you are driving, are on public transport, or waiting for your kids to finish soccer practice. Use this time to do things that you may not have ordinarily gotten to at work. Listen to a podcast or audiobook. Read a short article or watch a Ted Talk. Return a phone call. Read the non-urgent emails that that came in that day. These short snippets of time will allow you to do the non-urgent things that can either take up valuable time in your “core” work day or even do the things you want to do but wouldn’t generally have had time to get to.
  • Say no. In a culture of FOMO (fear of missing out), we can be hesitant to say no. We want to (or feel compelled to) do everything, be everywhere and know everything. This is not necessary and it’s not possible. Work out what’s things are important, add value and what would benefit from your input.  Empower your team to be involved in things you can’t (or should not be) involved in and spend your time on the things that really matter to you.
  • Use your down time well. During non-peak periods when you have some spare capacity, look at the tasks that take a lot of non-value add time or things that you have devised “work arounds” for and fix them. Automate them. Stop doing them. This short term time investment will save you significant time in the long run.

© 2017 All rights reserved
making work absolutely human

When you get really good at time management, you can also use Time Management to set the pace of your team and create momentum. It’s all about that balance between being well organised and available AND being busy and productive.

Too relaxed, and everyone will relax with you. There are times for this, to take the pressure off the team after a busy or stressful period, but generally, you want a feeling of energy and momentum. If everyone slows down too much, it will take a monumental effort and a lot of personal energy to get things restarted.

Too busy, on the other hand, and people will stop approaching you. They’ll assume you don’t have time, or aren’t available, and stop raising things. You might miss out on hearing about things you really need to know.

There are two rules of Momentum.

  • Momentum creates momentum
  • If you have momentum, no one will stop you

Good time management – getting a lot of stuff done on time and in a good way – is the foundation, but them momentum is the real prize.

Want to get even better at managing your time? Here are some links to extra pieces of information to help you become a master in this space;

Want to know how well you manage your time?

Want some more detail around time management approaches that work?

Want a two minute guide to time management?

Want to know more about how to manage your time better?https://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_HTE.htm

Want to know more about online tools to help you manage your time?http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/top-15-time-management-apps-and-tools.html

Tips for doing the things at work you just don’t want to (and to avoid procrastinating)

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

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