In my work as a management consultant and coach, one of the concerns I hear most often from managers is “how can I make more time to get everything done that needs to get done?” Unfortunately, we only get 24 hours in a day, so the only thing we can do is make smart decisions on how we “use” that time constructively.
Sometimes being busy is used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important, and sometimes uncomfortable decisions or actions that must be taken. A manager shouldn’t be trying to do more each day or trying to fill every minute with activity. The “results by volume” approach only leads to high stress and possible burnout.
It used to be that people could run around looking busy, with folders under their arm, constantly talking on their phone and get promoted. That era is over. It is now about outcomes, not activity. It is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, but for managers to be successful in the future — it’s mandatory.
Managers are constantly dealing with shifting priorities and unexpected urgencies. Dealing with these issues from the team and customers can mean strategic work is left unattended.
We also know that activity expands to fill the time available. Your goal should be to decrease the amount of work you perform, while increasing output, revenue and sales. Here are eight insights on how to do that:
Plan — Decide the most important things for you to be doing, then set up a system to document and track activities and measure results. What gets measured gets done.
Triage — Decide what can be done only by you. Everything else, delegate. Divide what is left into what is most important to you and what is someone else’s priority.
Decide — Make a decision that from now on you don’t touch a piece of paper more than once. Deal with it then and there. Don’t have meeting that last more than an hour. If it does, politely walk out. One client I work with has no chairs in their meeting rooms. This ensures no meeting lasts more than an hour.
Schedule — Create a regular routine for the times you check emails. Put an autoresponder on your email program informing people that you will be responding to emails two times a day. Then stick to it.
Set Goals — Develop three or four goals that are the most important to you, your department or your business. Document, and put in a visible place Every activity you are engaged in should be advancing you or your team toward achieving one of them. If not, stop doing it.
Four Hour Days — If you had a heart attack or other health issue and could only work four hours a day, what specifically would you continue to do in that limited time?
Log Activities — Record all your activities for a day or two or even a week. You’ll be amazed at what is really eating up your precious time.
Arrive Early — Arrive at the office 30 to 60 minutes earlier than everyone else. This gives you time to catch up on administrative activities. Then you can spend more with staff helping them be more productive.
I asked Mike Cassidy, one of the busiest entrepreneurs and business owners I have ever met. “How are you able to do in a week what would take most people a month?” He responded: “The first hour of every day I spend planning. I mentally prepare for even the unexpected crises that may happen. Doing this makes me feel that I am in control of the day and helps me maintain a positive attitude which is a necessary antidote to stress. Then, at the end of each day I summarize what happened, which then helps me prepare for the next day”
My question for managers this week: “What strategies are you using to eliminate less critical activities allowing you to spend more time developing strategies and with staff who will bring you the biggest return on your time?”
Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF, is Canada’s Leadership Effectiveness Expert. He has a Management Skills Development program scheduled for Sept. 12-13 at Dalvay By The Sea where participants will learn how get more done, be less stressed and have happier staff. Call (902) 437-6998 or http://www.gatewayleadership.com for information.