Is this your usual Monday morning routine?
- Look at your calendar, which is crammed full of meetings and appointments.
- Look at your task list and to-dos – wonder where you’ll fit them in.
- Decide you’re going to have to stay late most nights to get them done.
- Look at your “ideal” to-dos, the ones you haven’t touched yet – sigh, and say “not this week”.
You shouldn’t be looking at your to-dos and your schedule, and saying “How do I fit it all in?”
Instead of saying “how do I fit it all in?” You should be saying, “What do I fit in?”
Clear your schedule
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey
Why spend a good chunk of each week working on things that aren’t part of the bigger goals for your business?
A lot of the time, the business leader is seen as the only person who is allowed to make important decisions, so they get invited to every meeting in order to give approval. If this happens to you, encourage your employees to be more confident and take assertive action.
Step back from all meetings that you don’t need to be a part of.
Your job is to lead the business, not run the business.
Are you doing day to day work that could be done by your employees or outsourced so you can work on not in your business?
If you want to work on the tasks you know are going to have an impact on the business, rather than the day to day stuff that keeps it running, you need to start saying “no” to things and allow your employees to handle the running of the business.
When you start saying “no” to work you don’t need to be doing, you’re saying “yes” to your priorities.
Remember the four quadrants
It’s important to stop and think about which of Covey’s Four Quadrants you’re spending most of your time in.
When you work in Quadrant 3 (urgent, not important), you’re reacting to the pressing of other people and neglecting the really important tasks that won’t ever force themselves upon you, but are actually the most important, impactful work you can do.
Image from: Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey
You can’t completely avoid spending time in Quadrant 1, but the time spent in Quadrant 2 can prevent some Quadrant 1 emergencies from happening.
- Planning reduces the number of last-minute preparations you need to do.
- Dedicating time to health and fitness reduces the likelihood of medical emergencies.
- Taking a proactive approach to IT maintenance reduces the number of IT emergencies that come up.
Quadrant 4 should always be avoided, these are the obvious time wasters, but the time spent in Quadrant 3 is a waste of time too.
Don’t be unapproachable, but also don’t allow your employees to always interrupt you. Hold weekly one to ones for them to bring up any issues. Have weekly (or fortnightly/monthly) departmental meetings, and try to keep all non-urgent discussion to these times.
Don’t react to emails immediately, but process them at scheduled times, and get someone else to answer your phone calls to reduce the number of time-wasting calls that ruin your flow. Only allow important calls to be put through.
Say yes to important work – schedule it
If you always find you haven’t worked on those important Quadrant 2 tasks, it’s time to schedule them in your calendar.
Schedule departmental catch-up meetings and one to ones too.
The idea is to have time blocked out in your calendar for your most important work. This is scheduling your priorities.
Once they’re in there, you have to make sure they happen. Make sure your calendar shows you as busy during these times – and set reminders on the appointments. If they’re things you need to do on an ongoing basis then set them up as recurring appointments. Make it as easy as possible to work on your important tasks, and difficult to put them off.
Protect your work time
Don’t easily allow things to come between you and your scheduled “impactful work” time.
If someone sends you a meeting request and they haven’t checked your availability, then you should propose a new time that doesn’t conflict with one of your “deep work” blocks.
By also scheduling one to ones and departmental catchups, you still set aside time for Quadrant 3 activities, but you confine these distractions to pre-determined blocks of time. This way you can control how much of your time is taken up by these less important activities.
Schedule and protect important personal time too
- Commit to and schedule your exercise time.
- Schedule family time.
- Schedule time spent with loved ones.
If you don’t do this, you’ll inevitably end up putting off these important activities too. Remember to keep your work and personal life in balance. It’s easy to decide to stay late and do more work – but when you see you have a scheduled dinner and date night at home that night, you’ll plan your day better and be more likely to ensure you get out on time.