You’re part of your organization’s leadership team, and you know you should be focusing your attention and energy on making key decisions to grow the business and lead your team. But there never seems to be enough hours in the day, and at the end of the week you’re left wondering where the time went and feeling dissatisfied about what you’ve achieved. It’s time to take control of your daily schedule with a set of four simple planning tools to streamline the way you work. These techniques are highly effective and provide a solid foundation to ensure you focus your energy and efforts where it has the biggest return on investment. Time is money, and you need to be spending yours wisely. Let’s look at each of these four cornerstones, and review how they work together to create a useful and repeatable approach for handling the challenges of your workday.
Establishing a Priority Level
You will always have more tasks than time. So it doesn’t make sense to just dive into your task list and hope that you can magically complete everything. Instead, spend the first part of each day planning out how you want to focus your energies. Assess your tasks and put the critical and high priority ones at the top of the list. If you’re having difficulty with reducing the size of your Top Priority list, you can reverse engineer your thought process and ask yourself “what are the risks or costs to my business if I don’t complete this task?” At the end of this process you will end up with a list of your day’s priorities. Any task that hasn’t made it on the priority list can be put on a pending list or delegated down to your team.
Bigger Tasks Earlier in the Day
Your priority list will probably be a combination of a few complex or large tasks, and a collection of smaller tasks. Studies show that people are more productive in the mornings between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., so it’s optimal to focus on the more complex tasks earlier in the day. If the size of the task is overwhelming you, try breaking it down into smaller bite size chunks. According to the Pomodoro time management technique, 25-minute blocks of time allow you to sustain maximum focus and creative energy. Between each block of time you take a five-minute break, before beginning the focus cycle again.
Don’t be afraid to delegate. When you have set your own priorities, there will be items that fall off your priority list but still need to get done, and this is where effective delegation comes into play. Take the time to set reasonable expectations and establish a delivery timeline, rather than just pushing work down. This allows your team to plan their time appropriately, and will assist them to practice their own prioritization skills. One of the biggest fears about delegating is the loss of control. You have to trust that your team will complete the task to your expectations and within your timeframe. It’s easy to keep track of one or two delegated tasks but, when the list grows, it becomes challenging to manage. You and your team need a streamlined method of communicating progress in order for the delegation process to be successful.
Instead of relying on pen and paper to keep track of tasks, or struggling with a constant back and forth of e-mail communication to keep you in the loop. It’s best to leverage a simple and effective technology solution to improve and streamline the communication flow. You don’t need a complex and expensive task management system to provide you with the sense of control over delegated tasks.
A simple tool that’s easy to use is a much better option. Having a task management system to check at the beginning of each day as part of your priority setting process will take the fear out of delegating, and free up your time to focus on your highest priorities. Implementing these four simple time management techniques will provide you with a sense of confidence that you and your team are optimizing your time effectively. It’s time well spent.