Attention Leaders: Treat Time Like Money and Stop Overspending

Most leaders are no strangers to 50+ hour work weeks, middle-of-the-night crises by email and playing catch up on weekends to be able to start all over again Monday. You’re busy because you’re hard-working…but is your work ethic being abused? Taking a breath and two steps back from your time management can help put things in perspective; is your leadership guiding the organization in a strategic direction? Is your holistic impact being felt, or are you just stuffing inboxes in retaliation?

Business leaders may feel the pressure to execute constantly. If you’re not reading blogs on strategy execution while you brush your teeth (ahem, ahem), you feel like you’re not contributing. Fortunately for everyone’s sanity, the stigma of the “first one there, last one to leave” leader has drifted to the wayside during the recent push for work/life balance. While grindstone-level work is still necessary, true leaders make sure the work itself resonates strategically before spending 15 hours of a day pursuing a project.

Think about the time you spend in your role this way: if you were spending 40-50% more money than you budgeted to get the same value/results that you originally expected – wouldn’t you have a big problem with that and make a change? You may be going on three years of 60-hour work weeks, but just because you can “handle” it doesn’t mean that the time you’re spending in the office is impactful. Time is effective contribution’s currency, and overspending is exactly what leaders are doing.

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Successful executive leaders spend their time building from the ground-up and executing from the top-down. Employees feel more connected to leaders who spend time collecting feedback from the front line. Leaders who work to align strategic initiatives to the company’s objectives receive more buy-in from team members who can relate their day-to-day activities to a shared vision. In the same spirit of connectivity, executives who lead by example experience an empowering trickle-down effect that inspires employees to act with agility and spend their time wisely.

If you’re looking to lead your team to success instead of down another rabbit hole, we recommend evaluating yourself against three common time management vacuums and trying out some of the tips below.

1. Add some mindfulness minutes to your calendar.

Business leaders spend every work block of their day on high level, MBA-earning strategic decisions, true or false?

You might be frightened to find how much of your day is spent on tiny details as a business leader. Most professionals fall into the practice of living by their calendars. Plotting out what you want to do this week/month/quarter/year can help keep the cogs of the machine clicking along.

However, simply adding a 5 minute block around lunch and 5 minutes at the end of every day to look back at what you actually accomplished – instead of what you aspirationally blocked off on your calendar – can help put things in perspective. Try updating your calendar to reflect what you in fact spent your time doing, and do a quick audit. You may find that too much time is being spent on items that are really not that important.

Solution: keep your three to five biggest priorities/initiatives in front of you at all times. With every task you start, ask yourself how it will help move one of your biggest objectives toward success. Everyone operates in a healthier capacity with a few minutes of clarity.

Meditating on your work for two brief moments a day can help alleviate your time management, and you’ll more effort leading your team to achieve their goals, and cut down on less strategic activities.

Bonus: this will help you delegate. Delegation helps you earn trust as a business leader, and employees will be more likely to throw their weight behind your initiative full-force if they know how it rolls up to a larger objective. More on this below.

2. Move some responsibilities off your list.

In the sleepover marshmallow-mouth-stuffing game of Chubby Bunny, it’s all fun and games until someone inhales a windpipe-blocking glob of gelatinized sugar. Do yourself a favor and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

There is a rampant problem with leaders who are wary to admit they feel overwhelmed and therefore don’t ask for help. You may worry that admitting you have too many responsibilities than you can do completely and do well is admitting you are insufficient in your role. In reality, you may be feeling overburdened because it really is too much work for one person.

Solution 1: learn to say no. Business leaders are so afraid of letting people down or being seen as incapable. In most cases, if you simply tell a person that you cannot handle something, they will find someone else and not think much else about it. Your team will keep coming to you because you seem to have more capacity than others; you keep saying “yes.”

Solution 2: delegate. The difference between a middle manager and a senior executive is knowing when to delegate. Executive leaders especially can be such control freaks sometimes, that they may not realize how much harm is being done by saying, “I’ll get to it…eventually.” Letting someone else handle a responsibility can free you up and help them develop. That’s a win/win.

Solution 3: hire someone else. This sounds scary. If someone else is hired to take some of your responsibilities, you may worry about being seen as less valuable and more expendable. In truth, hiring someone else to specialize in one area of your responsibilities lets you be even more impactful in others. If you think it’s necessary, sit down and put a business case together for your boss. Pro Tip: Remember the title of this blog post when listing reasons why an extra brain on the team will help the company overall.

3. Use the tools available to you – and find new ones that will make your life easier.

Work schedules are becoming more and more varied. In any one company, there are likely a number of employees who work remotely or keep custom hours from office hours to accommodate for traffic/family/classes/etc. Communication may not be as simple as shouting across the hall for an opinion or dialing an office phone number when an employee is in a global office in the ACDT time zone (Australian Central Daylight Savings Time).

That said, a lot of time may be spent transcribing handwritten notes to tasks assigned via email, then tracking in a different project management tool and then reporting strategic success metrics in yet another tool. Want to bet where the majority of your time is allocated that’s not set aside for making those strategic decisions?

Solution: embrace technology. Chances are, if you’ve ever uttered the phrase “there has to be a better way to do this,” there definitely is. Take the time to research what is out there. Several tools are sure to exist that could change the way you work for the better.

This doesn’t need to be as stark as going from a Rolodex to a CRM, but something as simple as taking notes in a note-sharing application like Evernote can help you save time updating three different parties on what you just talked about in a meeting they missed.

And, of course, for those of you strategic leaders out there – if you’re still working in Excel and compiling numbers from email, PowerPoint and goodness knows what else – let us give you a demo. Talk about life-changing; our plan execution software is essential for leaders who’d like to take their objectives all the way through to results within the same platform.

To all the organization leaders out there – the gauntlet is thrown and the challenge to stop overspending your time has been called. Set time management budgets and look for ways to allocate it in the right places. Much like money, there is a limited supply of time and it will definitely be gone one day. Are you spending it wisely?

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