I had a friend in my life a while back who was heading up a very large corporation in Winnipeg and living in Toronto. Every Monday he would hop in the car and drive to Pearson International, fly to Winnipeg and live and work there for the week. Each Friday afternoon he would fly home and spend the weekend with his family. And if that weren’t enough he would spend 3 to 4 days a week flying around the country visiting other offices. I often wondered how he could pull this off with all the work commitments during the week plus the traveling plus his family plus keeping his own health in check.
The fact is, great leaders need to be great time managers. They need to have the ability to manage the distinct sections of their lives throughout the days and weeks. The leader who wakes up every day and ‘wings it’ will not be a great leader for long.
Time management is a very personal thing. Some of us think in terms of a week while others think in term of a day. Some use a hard copy diary system while others use technology. Personally I am a technology guy (Google Calendars + Remember the Milk) and when I manage my time I think in terms of one day. For me, my day involves six steps.
- Start your day prepared. I never wake up to a new day without being prepared. I will rework my to-do list, check over my calendar and plot my priorities for that day. In my case, I find that without preparation I’m often panicking during the evening and losing sleep over things that I may not have control over. If just for my health, this preparation phase is vitally important.
- Deal with the top 20% issues. We all know about the 20/80 rule. We so easily get pulled in by the 80% of our work that isn’t as important. In our preparation phase our prioritization needs to address the top issues of the day or the week. My top 20% always sit at the top of my action list for the day and I schedule the time to deal with them. The 80% stuff will fill in the blanks of the day.
- Deal with the big picture. Leaders need to take time out of their day to look at the big picture, to address the strategy and be reminded of the vision. Strategy execution is not easy and not done very well. There are many reasons for this but one of them is that leadership has trouble focussing on strategy as they deal with the day-to-day issues. Leaders need to take time to refocus on where we need them most – the big picture. At least a part of the day anyway.
- Sometimes we are so busy that we only engage with the key people around us for days on end. This is a mistake. As busy as leaders can get, we need to connect to the outside world: customers, suppliers, employees, friends and family. Stay connected and manager our connections daily.
- Take personal time. Our health is the most important part of everything we do. Without it, our organizations won’t have us around for long. Our families will not have us around for long. Leadership brings stress and stress can bring serious health issues. Work out every day if possible, meditate and take time to relax and re-energize, if only for 20 minutes mid-afternoon. Staying healthy is critical to great leadership and we need to take personal time to look after this part of our life.
- How was your day? Did accomplish what you wanted? Did you deal with the 20% issues? Did you visit the big picture? Did you call or visit or write to someone in your world? And did you do something for you and your health? This daily scorecard is a way that we can stay on top of the priorities in our life – both personal and professional.
Leaders need to be good time managers. Are you?
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