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Managing Your Time as a Leader - The Systems Thinker

https://thesystemsthinker.com/managing-your-time-as-a-leader/

thesystemsthinker.com

Managing Your Time as a Leader - The Systems Thinker
any leaders feel starved for time. Working under the assumption that longer hours lead to improved productivity, they drive themselves and others to increase effectiveness-then try to "squeeze in" good, quality time with loved ones. Working people are expected to run at a fast pace and be highly productive; yet at the same time, there ...

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The Pressure Of Time

Most leaders have familiar approaches to managing time: setting goals, planning, delegating, tracking commitments, and creating to-do lists. While these approaches do help in self-organization, they are not adequate in helping achieve high levels of sustainable, long-term performance.

The challenge is to have a fast-paced occupation while avoiding burnout, slippage, and sub-optimal performance.

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Sustainable Productivity

Instead of increasing the number of productive hours, we can focus on getting the right things done in a timely way. We also need to restore and balance ourselves, our colleagues, family and environment, instead of a neurotic or pathological focus on deadlines.

Find out what's truly important to us and use the finite resource of time wisely.

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Phantom Workload

Phantom workload looks like real work but results in massive unproductivity and even conflict in an organization. The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations causes a vicious cycle of further workload.

Leaders need to take a hard look at what is being avoided or not addressed. Facing difficult tasks that were 'swept under the carpet' earlier strengthens them further to make hard decisions and face difficult people and situations.

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The Four Domains of Time

Time can be managed in four domains: Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Material. This corresponds to the four key functions of leadership:

  • Mobilizing commitment.
  • Thinking strategically.
  • Building relationships and community.
  • Organizing for action.

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Thinking Strategically

The mental domain consists of being able to think strategically, prioritizing between short-term and long-term goals, urgent and important activity, easy or difficult work, and the level of comfort in the tasks.

Our focus has to be on the long-term important tasks that seem difficult and are hence avoided.

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Building Relationships

We usually overlook the emotional aspect of working with people while handling tight deadlines.

Leaders have to take simple actions like trusting and respecting their colleagues and team members, being true to themselves and have a clear understanding of the value of any work assignment, meeting or request. Making reliable commitments ensures that others keep their agreements as well.

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Organizing For Action

Organizing for action means creating useful, workable and scalable systems that make us access information and track commitments quickly.
It means managing your email effectively and ensuring adequate follow-ups are done.

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Change Your Behaviour

Time management practices require a change in behavior:

  1. Know your purpose and establish why you need to change, identifying the benefits.
  2. Create a vision of you being on top of your workday.
  3. Observe the current cultural, organizational and personal pressures of your workday.
  4. Talk about getting support if needed.
  5. Use time management tools with skill.
  6. Take the necessary action.
  7. Look deeper and reflect on your behavioral change.

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Manage Your Email

  • Focus on what's genuinely important in a day and do that, before checking your email.
  • Check the email in time blocks, like once every 3 to 4 hours.
  • Discard all impersonal unnecessary emails.
  • Briefly answer messages that require an instant response.
  • Use subject line protocols to speed up communication and for easy searching.
  • Keep only alive messages (hot email) in your inbox.
  • Allocate time daily or weekly to deal with complex replies.
  • Ask people to remove you from their distribution lists that are no longer appropriate.
  • Do not reply to or write an email when you are unsettled or upset.
  • Do not use e-mail for overtly sensitive communication.

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The Action Hero

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The Diva

Very sociable and upbeat but with a tendency to procrastinate, they often boast about their nonexistent achievements giving the impression they are more productive than they really are.

Strategy: breaking tasks into tiny steps, scheduling their resolution and setting reminders works well. Email management according to urgency is also crucial considering how much time it usually consumes. 

The Workhorse

Thoughtful, cautious, methodical and quite independent in terms in carrying out tasks. They plan and prioritize well, but may be seen as overcautious, while others can be frustrated by their inertia. Their dedication to the job can also lead to an unwillingness to share the burden of work.

Strategy: Choose the most important things you need to focus on and those that only you can do, while delegating the rest according to staff skills.

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Time Management For Leaders

Managing time gets challenging as our career progresses and we take up more responsibilities. Five ways we can manage our time like a successful leader:

  • Plan reali...

Plan The Unexpected Important Stuff

About 40% to 60% of our day is taken up by important stuff that needs our attention but is not on our daily calendar. 

Planning our day accordingly, keeping about half of it free for these 'out-of-calendar' activities, is realistic and sustainable.

Ask For Time

Instead of committing to getting the requested assignment done as soon as possible, factor in some buffer time and ask for a couple of days or a week. 

This will help you get the work done along with any 'reactive realities' that come up, and it's a win-win if you get it done before the deadline.

There isn’t enough time

Complaining that you don’t have enough time is not getting to the root problem. It may be that you’re lousy at time management. Admit to yourself that there is enough time -- you just don’t know how t...

A one size fits all solution

Instead of relying on a tool with all the bells and whistles, find out where you’re struggling and what’s essential for you. 

For example, if scheduling is taking you away from product development, then you could use a scheduling tool that uses machine learning to automate most of your scheduling needs. If you’re wasting too much time on email, then consider using a tool to help tame your inbox.

Less anxiety

Time management is only useful when you’re aware of your limitations and don't let the system dictate your entire life. 

In other words, when you don’t tread lightly (especially at first), time management can add more stress to your life.