Running from meeting to meeting can make it difficult to feel like you ever get anything done. It creates a difficult choice of either leaving the office with more unread emails than you started the day with or putting in long hours. This creates a vicious cycle where there always seems to be more work than you can get done in a single day. Leadership time management is a skill that can be worked on through effort and planning. These four steps below will get you on the way to better time management.
- Schedule your time
Blocking off time on your calendar will help carve out time to get work done. With schedules being back to back or double booked if you leave the time open, someone will fill it. Try to be consistent with the time that you select so you know what time is dedicated to getting through your own work. I recommend blocking off the first hour or two first thing in the morning or at the very end of the work day. If that isn’t doable start with a half an hour and then build up to taking an hour. When someone tries to schedule over that time hold your boundaries firm. If you are new to setting boundaries you can check out articles and topics by Brene Brown on the topic, which she covers extensively. There are also helpful videos on YouTube by Brene Brown on the subject.
- Have one to-do list
Creating multiple lists is a recipe for chaos and disorganized thinking. Stop jotting down items on post-it notes and sticking them everywhere, create one central to-do list. Creating a single list will give you a complete view of all of your tasks, and it can be digital or handwritten, whatever works best for you. There are several apps that exist if you go the digital route.
- Organize your tasks
If you have a long list of what you need to do it can be difficult knowing where to start. When in doubt, give the Urgent Important Matrix a try. There are free templates available online if you’d like to take a look and get started on organizing your workload today. This format is also called the “Eisenhower Principle” because in a speech former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This matrix categorizes your tasks into one of four buckets and you tackle the buckets in a specific order prioritizing important and urgent items first.
- Decide if it is something that you need to attend
One of my past posts was about learning how to delegate, which can really free up your time as a leader. Looking through your meeting schedule and deciding which meetings you really need to attend can be one way to get more time back in your day. While you may have been the person invited to the meeting, do you really need to attend? Are other people from your team or organization going? Are you attending as a primary party to the meeting or are you there really more as an FYI to keep you in the loop? If other members or you team are going to be in attendance it may not be necessary for the meeting to be double, or even triple, covered. If you would only be attending to listen to be kept in the loop on a project, it might be better to delegate that meeting to someone else on your team to go. You can ask who attends the meeting to send you a quick email recap of anything important impacting you or your team.