1. Not listening to your body
Do you think more clearly and quickly in the morning or the evening? Save the tasks that require the most concentration for the time of day that you feel most awake. I call it “turbo mode.” There are a few hours each morning that I feel like I can knock out a lot of projects that require concentration and strategic thinking.
I save the more tactical items for later in the afternoon when I start to feel sluggish.
Guard your time and don’t be afraid to move meetings or block time on your calendar so you can link up tasks to body rhythm.
Resource: For insight on understanding how to maximize your energy management, read The Corporate Athlete Advantage by Jim Loehr and Jack Groppel. Hint:
You’re human and your body needs certain things to be productive — like sleep and breaks!
If you’re like most people and feel guilty about taking time to eat lunch or to unplug, you’ll be pleased that there is a scientific reason that you should be giving yourself permission to do it.
2. Not knowing how much time you’re really spending on certain types of tasks
The human brain has a tough time accurately recalling many things. Your perception of how much time you spend on certain tasks is often flawed.
Keep a notebook next to your computer and jot down the time when you switch from one task to another. It might look something like this:
730-830 Morning Project Meeting
845-930 Project work (XYZ project)
1000-1100 Meeting on 123
1100-1130 Meeting with Jane Doe as follow up
100-230 Project work (QRS project)
230-300 Budget prep
300-330 Return phone calls
330-400 Prep for morning meeting
430-500 Team check in
After you keep a few days worth of tracking, you’ll start to see categories you can place each of these tasks into. Example:
Email / Phone Calls
Leadership (team check in, employee coaching, etc.)
Managerial (budget, business plans, etc.)
This will help you get a clearer picture of what is taking the most time so you can decide if you need to make changes. It will also give you a realistic view of how much time you truly have to accomplish projects. It also helps you identify what you DON’T need to be doing.
Some tasks creep onto our to-do lists, but they’re really just distractions that we can remove to make time for the things that are more important.
This was a huge wake-up call for me.
After three weeks of logging my time — using a quick shorthand so I avoided “wasting” time on measuring time — I found that I spent 80% of my time in meetings. No wonder I felt like I wasn’t being an effective leader and that I could never find enough time to complete the work I agreed to do as a result of the meetings.
Since then, I leave only a few open blocks of time on my calendar each week. I’ve also begun scheduling time to make my leader rounds, prepare for meetings, return emails and calls, and commit to finding quiet time to concentrate on complex projects.
3. Not knowing what’s important
Take the time to prioritize and start big. Look at the global picture. Typically, I would recommend starting with your organization’s strategic plan.
No strategic plan? Then we’ll have to make an educated guess.
List the items that seem to be important to your boss. Is it growing sales in a certain area? Is it opening a new location? Finishing a major project?
Now consider the functions of your department and how they fit in to those things that are important to your organization.
These are the things that should be at the top of your list.
Do this exercise as often as you can. Many experts recommend planning tomorrow’s work today right before you leave. Making time to consider the full scope of work and how it fits in to your company’s overall direction is the key.
Resource: For balancing your own priorities with fire drills, pop-ins, and other people’s agendas, check out Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project.
© 2016 Jessica Walter, MS, APR
All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, there may additional helpful information provided by other sources. Whenever researching your own situation or devising a strategy, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.
About the Author
Jessica Walter is a Communications Strategist with a passion for inspiring companies to live into their full potential. She’s found that the essential equation for long-term success includes Marketing, Culture, and Leader Development.
Jessica has been a marketing executive for a regional bank, a communications director for a health system, a public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.
She holds a master’s degree in Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She is also a Certified Lean Systems Leader.
You can reach her at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.