If you closely observe leaders, you will realize that while some of them are extremely good at managing their time, others struggle to work on multiple things at the same time. There are those who are responsive and efficient when it comes to connecting with their team, while others are unable to even respond to emails on time. The first thing we need to understand is that the one who cannot juggle many things or respond to emails on time is not a bad leader. He or she is simply a leader who needs some guidance on time management, so that working smarter becomes the norm for them, not working harder. Leadership courses cover these elements extensively and they share strategies on how this can be done to make one an effective leader.
Let us take a quick look at some tips to start applying this approach to our regular work-schedules and manage our time in a way, that we can do more with it.
- Prioritization of tasks – This is the biggest challenge for leaders when it comes to time management. Every task seems urgent. Every project seems critical. Every initiative seems to need your attention. In reality, a lot of the tasks might be important but not essentially urgent. There might also be those which are not important or urgent, but you might realize that only after you have started it. So remember to work each day on prioritization of the tasks. Many people work better if they can prioritize their work activities for the entire week. Work towards managing those tasks which are urgent as well as important first. That should be followed up delegating the tasks that are urgent but not important, to your team members. Such priority levels can actually help leaders to work smarter rather than harder.
- Assessment of impact – Every task, initiative, project or intervention has an impact on the organization. As a leader, you need to assess the impact, both in terms of direct or indirect, as well as span. This can help to make decisions on the extent of effort that needs to be invested into it. Many times, the issue with time management lies in miscalculating the impact and effort estimations. It is a crucial step towards working smart because then the leader can take the decision to focus high effort on something that is high impact, and delegate something that is low effort and low impact. Things that are a low effort but the high impact can be done quickly and are the low-hanging fruit in terms of achieving business results in a short time-frame. Realizing which ones these are is important.
- Know your strengths well – Many of us trying to do all things or projects that come our way. While that is great for gaining experience, it is important to realize where your strengths lie. Because when you know your strengths well and are able to leverage them, you work more effectively. If your skills lie in communicating with your team, make sure to use that for getting the messages related to business goals, across. As a leader, you will have to do it, but if it’s a strength and you know it, you will be able to do it better and in less time. So introspect on your strengths and bring those to your role, to work smarter, not harder.
- Be focused – Sometimes we notice how we shift from the task we are performing to some other one. This kind of switching from task to task, without completing the earlier one can be detrimental at times. Being focused on the task that one is already working on, is crucial. Due to unnecessary distractions when one shifts focus, getting back to the previous task with complete attention is more time-consuming. Distractions such as phone calls, social media interactions, emails that are not related to the task being worked on and conversations with colleagues that do not relate to the task, can lead to time management challenges when you are trying to close it.
- Learn to compartmentalize – This is a very key aspect to learn so that you can manage your time well. Learning to compartmentalize the tasks at a broad level into different buckets always help to manage them better. For example, some use the external – internal approach when resolving issues or communicating, wherein they respond to emails from external stakeholders first and then the internal ones. Another approach is to split your day into two parts and define what you plan to achieve in both time-periods. Keep a track of what is getting carried-forward to the next day and how to keep reducing that, with practice.
In addition to the above, if you can create your own organizing tools like just a simple spreadsheet which helps you define the essentials and non-essentials, or reducing the social media and email clutter that you are exposed to daily, you can actually achieve more with your time. You will then be working smarter, not harder.