So you’re busy. Join the club. It seems that everyone is busy all the time. Granted, there are times when it can get overwhelming. That’s the nature of business. That being said, you’re probably not as “busy” as you think you are.
How so? Well, it boils down to a simple comparison: “busy” work vs. “productive” work. Most managers and leaders spend way too much time on “busy” work. Things like putting out fires, running reports, allowing interruptions, and micro managing are examples of “busy” work. Of course, fires have to be put out and reports have to be run. Inevitably, interruptions will also occur. The question is whether or not such tasks can be delegated to other people in order for leaders to focus on “productive” work.
Examples of “productive” work include coaching, mentoring, strategizing, planning, and producing. As part of my Leadership Thought-System, ABSURD!, participants are encouraged to “let go” of the “busy” work. It’s hard to do but it absolutely must be done. Here are 4 steps that you can take right now to become less busy:
Prioritize – you can’t do everything. Rather, you can’t do everything well if you’re trying to be a “one man/woman army.” So it’s important that you create a WRITTEN priority list. Ask your superiors to provide you with the most important tasks that you should be working on every day. Stick to that list. Everything you do from now on has to relate to the items on the priority list. If something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t have to be done. Scrap it.
Delegate. Delegate again. Delegate yet again. Your job is to be a leader. You’re not a babysitter, crisis manager, psychiatrist, or punching bag. If you’re honest with yourself and create a list of the things you work on every day, more likely than not you’ll come across things that can and should be delegated. Part of your job as a leader is to empower others. They need to learn how to deal with challenges and problems. They need to “learn the ropes.” The only way that they’re going to learn is by doing. There’s an old saying: “Show me and I’ll forget. Tell me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” So involve people. Do it more. Do it often.
Prohibit unnecessary interruptions. You have permission to say “no” to being interrupted. And remember that “no” is a complete sentence. There are times when you have to close your door. You have important meetings or conference calls scheduled. Your full attention needs to be paid to other tasks. It’s nice to have an “open door” policy but truth be told, having such a policy often decreases productivity. Think of looking at your “to do” list at the end of the day and finding that you didn’t accomplish anything. Could it be that every time you started to work on something, you were interrupted by one of your staff? You have permission to tell your employees that you won’t be available from 9 to 11 or for the next half hour unless of course, there is an emergency. If a customer insists on speaking with the manager and you’re not available, your employees need to be trained to politely ask them to sit and wait until you’re free or encourage them to make an appointment. Your time is valuable. Start acting like it.
Cut down on the number of meetings you have. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how I feel about meetings. To summarize: most meetings are completely unnecessary. So it’s time to have meetings that matter. If something can be communicated via e-mail or a carefully written memo, you don’t need a meeting. A leader recently told me that on Mondays and Thursdays, he has 4 standing meetings, back-to-back before Noon. Seriously? I asked him how many of them are productive. His answer: none. He surmised that all of the different meetings could be held once or twice a month at most. I encouraged him to be brave and suggest that to the powers that be. He did. He prepared, showed data, and had a solution ready to be implemented. I wish I could say that all of the meetings were cut from weekly to monthly. Only 2 of the 4 were. But you have to start somewhere.
So make better use of the limited time you have. Start with these 4 steps. I’d love to hear your feedback so please comment below!
One of the services I provide is Strategic Planning facilitation. Take a look at the information page for more information and to see testimonials from clients that I’ve worked with.