Every one of us gets caught up from time to time in the distractions that barrage us daily in our work hours. As time slips by, we let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security that we are being productive as we tick 10 items off of our To-Do Lists. No matter what you call it, you probably have a To-Do List that you maintain during the week. How often do you scrutinize that list and figure out how much time you are squandering each day and each week by working on activities that really DON’T contribute to your long-term success? If you’re like most of the executives I work with, you are likely to find that some significant percentage of your week is spent on a handful of activities that make you feel good about productivity, but in reality don’t move the needle. My prescription for such executives? Stop!
Take A Good Look – Take a good look in the mirror, and ask yourself if you’re REALLY working on the most important things, that handful of potent, vital actions that make a difference for you and for your team. Typically, a strong executive will be able to classify about 60-70% of their activities as highly productive and necessary. But, what about the other 30-40% of their time? Often, they tell me that these are things that they MUST do, because, to refuse to do them would lead to them being labeled as a misanthrope or a malcontent. Take this challenge: Review how you’ve spent your time for the next week and put things into three categories. Category 1: Productive Important Work 2: Non-Productive Work Must-Perform 3: Non-Productive Work: Should Stop.
Think This List Through – If you are like most of us, you engage in some percentage of your activities out of a sense of duty, or out of a sense of obligation. Furthermore, you are probably engaging in a sizable chunk of activity because it makes you feel good, or makes you feel productive. Finally, you’re probably doing a percentage of your activities just because you have done it so long that it has become a habit, despite not really delivering any value. Question every one of these potential time traps, and make up your mind to seriously consider just STOPPING activities that don’t contribute to your overall productivity. You can talk to your team and to your manager and persuade them that you cannot afford to spend time on meetings that don’t produce results, activities that don’t lead to results, etc. If you make a humble business case that you want to spend your time on more productive pursuits, your peers, and your boss are going to embrace your motivations and support your decision.
Stand Your Ground – Just say “No” to the time wasters and mind-numbing requests for non-productive efforts. If the activity you’re being asked to engage in doesn’t deliver value to the business or to you personally, you can simply say that you don’t have time and stick to your guns. Don’t do it, don’t waste your time, STOP spending your time foolishly, and STOP wasting your resources and energy. Practice saying no diplomatically, and tell people you’d like to help them but your workload demands that you protect your time preciously and that this activity doesn’t fit with the priorities that you’re currently working towards.
Run Hard, All The Way To The Finish – Go after your work with a vengeance, and demonstrate your sense of urgency in all that you do. Drive to results, and expect others around you to drive themselves to results as well. Don’t allow yourself to be reduced to the median by the mediocrity around you. Don’t let up short of the finish line, and you will find yourself leading the team to greater results by accelerating all the way through the finish line.
Most Of All: Stop! – Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the endless false urgencies that others allow themselves to get distracted by. Don’t squander your precious time on anything that isn’t going to contribute to YOUR success or to your TEAM’S success. Go first. Set the standard. Draw the line. Stop working on things that don’t match your priorities or the priorities of your team. Stop wasting your energy on an activity that doesn’t result in the kinds of achievements that you have your sights set on. It takes some work, but you can master this, and the ROI will be near immediate. In my experience, when executives begin to protect their time carefully, they make time to focus on what’s most important and things immediately get better for them and for their teams. You may find, like others have, that being careful about how you spend your available time, might make you 20-30-40% more productive. Wouldn’t that be helpful?
Life moves quickly these days, a little bit like a Chevy Corvette. If you want to keep up as things accelerate and become more complex, you’re going to have to invest yourself in some new techniques. You’re going to have to raise the level of your game and try some things that you’ve never been willing to try before. In doing so, you may well find that you have gotten sloppy and fallen into some bad habits with how you invest your time. It won’t hurt to take another look at how you’re spending your energy and time and to crisp up what you’re willing to spend your scarce resources pursuing. By working first on the most important activities and by refusing to waste your time on things that don’t contribute to success, you will maximize your efficiency!
Michael Beach is an Executive Development Thought Leader and a Certified Professional Business Coach in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Michael helps Executives, their leadership teams, and especially their Emerging Leaders to develop strategies to assist them in leading with distinction and to deliver ambitious results for their companies. Michael will be leading a Time Management Workshop at his office in Prior Lake on January 27, 2017, and space is limited. If you’d like to reserve your seat, send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll reserve your place in the workshop. Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, “Delivering Ambitious Results.”