One thing that separates great leaders from the rest of the pack is their use of time. Time is an interesting thing. Everyone has the same amount yet some people seem to be able to accomplish a lot more with the time than others. If you are in leadership, or aspire to leadership, your use of time will either be your leadership ceiling or your leadership catapult. Here are four tips that will help you launch forward as a leader:
- Track your time – It’s important to know where your time is going. You don’t have to spend a lot of time here. A simple look back at your calendar will tell you where your time is going and will give you some idea of what you need to change moving forward. Uncalendered time will more than likely be wasted time. Instead of leaving large blocks of unscheduled time open on your calendar, block that time and set it aside for a specific task that only you can do as a leader. Be aggressively protective over your calendar and find the system that works for you. Unscheduled time will more than likely become wasted time. And yes, even creatives can live inside a strategically planned calendar.
- Consolidate your time – Devote large chunks of time to the things that really matter. Management guru Peter Drucker argues that this “chunk” amount should be at least 90 minutes, realizing that little driblets of time are really no time at all. Little chunks of 15-30 minutes tend to be wasted instead of being used effectively. I’ve found that I work best when I can devote 90 minutes to 2 hours of time to a task, take a short break of about 15 minutes, then back at it for another large chunk of time like before.
- Sleep less – This one is difficult for me because I would say it’s an aspirational value of mine more than it is a value that is already embedded deeply into my personal habits. That being said, Proverbs chapter 6 is pretty clear on the relationship between sleep and success. If you haven’t read it in a while take a quick break to go read it and come back. Convinced yet? Admittedly, people will line up on both sides of this argument. Some state you need X amount of sleep to be at your best while others would state the opposite. I’m not going to give you a specific number of hours here, but would just pass along that the more leaders I talk to about their own habits the more I see this theme of sleeping less.
- Avoid time-stealers – These can come in the form of people or tasks. For the tasks, using your time-tracking skills developed in #1, identify what these time-stealing tasks are and work to delegate them off your plate. You wont be able to do this with all of them. In that case, try to put as many of them together as possible and finish them at one time so that the rest of your week can be spent on other tasks. If there are things you need to do daily that fit into this category, don’t allow them to take over your most productive and creative time of the day. The time-stealer people need to be handled a little differently. As a leader you are in the people profession. You can’t sit behind a closed-office door all the time and expect to effectively lead your team. However, don’t fall into the “open door policy” trap. Allowing anyone and everyone to interrupt your time, especially when it is one of those big chunks of time from #2, will cripple your ability to focus and get things done. Getting things done is your ultimate task as a leader, after all; it is what you are paid to do.
Using your time wisely doesn’t mean you have to be a workaholic and it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice time with your family or even some hobby in order to get all your work done. In fact, it is often this group of people (the workaholics and “I don’t have enough time”) that are the worst at time-management. A workaholic dumps more and more time into their work rather than using the time that they already have in a more effective manner. Before you begin dumping more time into something, make sure you are using your current time to the best of your abilities. A simple restructuring of your calendar, your sleep, or your priorities could be all that is needed.
Success and wasting time don’t go together. Wasted moments and small chunks of time add up quickly, and the best leaders don’t allow this snowball of wasted time to overtake them. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.”
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry