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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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.
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.
Time can be managed in four domains: Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Material. This corresponds to the four key functions of leadership:
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.
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.
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.
Time management practices require a change in behavior:
... instead of task management.
Task management is more effective than time management because these tasks come with clear limits which make them easier to manage. You know when you’ve started work on a project -- and you know when you’ve completed the job. It’s one limited thing at a time.
You need to figure out when your brain works best and get heavy work done in those productive hours.
These windows of 'brain time' cannot be wasted with meetings and chores that end up wasting your time.