Updated: Aug 27, 2019
I thought about starting this piece with a witty quote like how many seconds in the day or one from someone famous stating something wise about time management. There really is a lot of great material out there, most can be very inspiring. Instead, let’s go with...
Most people suck at managing their time … especially me - Me
Don’t be insulted, it is easier to waste time today than at any other moment in history. Seemingly at every turn, we are bombarded with pretty and shiny - text, email, social media, TV, videos. If that is not enough, it is made available in your home, on your phone, over the road and even in flight; there is almost no escape. Scary as it is, it is only getting worse. There are so many distractions clogging the mind, smartly managing your time and being productive require major effort. It is almost as if we need to start classes to learn how to function in this sensory saturated world - Wormhole Avoidance 101!
How does the smart leader do it? Consider, not only must they deal with their own daily dance, there is also interference from the cast they are leading. When you think about that and consider they boost their own productivity AND those around them, it seemingly requires superhero strength.
JP was my VP when I led a team selling premium IT software and services, He was in charge of seven of us directors who each over saw 12 - 20 reps. We were a young management team, leading a young staff and I am certain we were high maintenance. He also reported up to executive management, overseeing their needs and (sometimes preposterous) requests. In the face of all this, JP was a productivity rock star and I had the privilege to learn a trick or two.
Even though this was a few years back, some of his tendencies still stand out. I don’t think that any of it is earth shattering, however people struggle with implementing. On these, JP never wavered.
-Plan your work and work your plan. JP was a master of mapping out his day / week / month and holding true. With this, he stayed on top of everything. He employed a smart system that quite obviously worked for him. For me, 95% of the battle was figuring out that system - and then, admitting it could be continually fine tuned.
-Do not confuse urgent with important. The break down with most plans are the hiccups that life throws at you. More often than not, these distractions have nothing to do with your goals. I admit that, in the moment, something urgent can look / feel / taste important, which is why you view through the lens of your objectives.
-Set goals. I would think this is a no brainer for any leader (or really anyone that strives to get ahead), yet it is not as common a practice as you might think. There is much more to say here (duh! Look at all the books on the topic).
-It is okay to say no. This one can be tricky, especially in a business world, however you need to be skilled at pushing back. JP was a master at asking questions and / or getting details that were, in essence reshaping requests to better mirror what was important. As a leader, you should be approaching everything with this mindset … and mentoring your staff to do the same.
-Start early. I have always been an early riser, but never knew the advantage. Knowing JP was in the office an hour or two before most everyone else taught me that is when so much gets done. Not a morning person? Try for a month and see what 15 or 30 minutes add to your day.
-Stay in shape. JP was (well, still is) an avid runner and cyclist. What many see as unrelated, he taught me was a key to being productive. Simply put, exercising boosts energy levels, clears the mind, and allows for better focus.
Of course there is more that can be added, however these quite literally leapt to mind. Since I always looked to him as a mentor, and somewhat regularly stay in touch, I find it interesting that he still employs many of the same tactics to this day. Sure, there has been some adaptation, the world has changed in the last 10 - 15 years (read a few paragraphs up), yet his productivity skills have passed the test of time.
What do you think? Obviously, there is no one size fits all that works for everyone, but I’d enjoy hearing your feedback, as well as any nuggets.
Don’t think. Act!