Staying Out of the Weeds – Nine Ways Leaders Can Better Manage Their Time

Leadership time is your organization’s most valuable asset.  Where leaders focus their time and effort affects everyone below them and the organization as a whole. 

So how can leaders make the best use of their time?  There are a number of small, incremental changes – shifts – each leader can make to their daily behaviors that will assist in keeping both the focus and momentum of the organization pointed in the right direction.

Shifts in Personal Work Habits that Increase Focus

It’s easy to get mired in the details of the day, to get lost in the weeds.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the end of the day and realizing that no forward progress was made on the initiatives that matter most. 

This happens because of the non-stop interruptions and distractions that bombard us throughout the day.  Here are a couple of ways to reduce the daily “noise” you experience.

  1. Turn New Message Alerts Off.   These self-inflicted interruptions are riddling your ability to focus and be productive.  Instead, check your e-mail, texts and voice mails periodically throughout the day to remain responsive to those who need your attention.
  2. Create a Designated Work Space.  Identify a defined physical space – like your desktop – that you clear of everything except the one thing you need to work on right now.  This will help you eliminate the distracting effects of peripheral vision, i.e., the files and other stuff on your desk.
  3. Do One Thing at a Time.  There is a growing body of science that proves that multi-tasking is inefficient.  Still skeptical? Try having a conversation with someone who is checking their e-mail at the same time they’re “talking” with you.  Doing one thing at a time means you can be laser focused on that one thing and results in increased personal productivity.

These slight shifts in your personal work behaviors reduce the distractions and interruptions you suffer.  The result will be a quieter, more focused work effort allowing you to get more done.

Shifts in Management Style that Increase Responsiveness

Managing others is a vital, yet time consuming activity.  It’s also an area where getting lost in the weeds is very easy to do.  Try these shifts in your management style to increase both your responsiveness and efficiency.

  1. Reduce Meeting Length by 25%.  Work fills the time allotted.  If meetings are scheduled for 60 minutes, they take 60 minutes. If scheduled for 45 minutes, they’ll take 45 minutes.  Shazam!  We just found 15 minutes in the day for everyone.
  2. Use Robust Subject Lines.  Descriptive subject lines assist the reader to determine how important your e-mail is in relation to the others already in the inbox.  It also assists their ability to find and file it quickly.
  3. No Core Dumping in Real Time.  You have a lot of good ideas, but you also have some not-so-good ideas.  Sharing every new idea you have with your entire staff via a “group” missive is very distracting FOR THEM.  Instead, gather your ideas together, review them periodically, and, if appropriate, share them with your staff to see if additional development is merited.

Time working or meeting with team members is some of the most expensive time spent in any organization.  Maximizing that time is a key leadership objective and these suggestions can help you accomplish that objective.

Shifts in Leadership Perspective that Increase Effectiveness

A key leadership strategy is the development of team member talent.  As your people become more capable, they can take shoulder more of the existing workload and facilitate your focus and efforts on other initiatives.  The following suggestions will help you continuously improve your team’s abilities.

  1. Do Right Versus Be Right.  Actions speak louder than words – always.  People watch you – their leader – to determine what is important and how to achieve the results sought.  Knowing when to do the right thing versus when to prove your intellectual prowess is a subtle skill that must be constantly refined for your and their benefit. 
  2. Honor Face Time – Be Present.  The most important time you spend with team members is the real-time time.  Be totally present whenever you are engaged in a real-time event with one or more of your people.  Do NOT check our e-mail on your BlackBerry or rummage around looking for things.  Stop whatever you are doing and honor the “face time” spent with them. 
  3. Elicit Versus Give Answers.  If you answer every question your team asks, you’re training them to ask questions.  Try asking questions back instead.  You hired these people because you thought they were bright and capable. Give them a chance to prove it … to you both.

The more you develop the people around you, the more effective and cohesive you all become.  Maintaining a view towards the small things you can do to effect this result will drive everyone to a higher level of ability.

Small Changes Create Large Benefit

The recommendations above may seem inconsequential.  Many may seem obvious common sense.  But challenge yourself to look clearly at how you work, manage and lead to see if any of these suggestions will benefit your organization. 

Each suggested shift in behavior is small, but the aggregate benefit of these small shifts is significant over time.  Find a way to achieve that significance for yourself, your people and your organization.

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