Priorities: Learning to make the Most of Our Time
There is always someone, or something demanding our attention, and we will always be busy. The problem is, busyness does not always equal effectiveness. You can be busy, and look back at the end of the day and realize that though all your energy was spent, you didn't get any closer to your goals. You were active, you just weren't intentional with your activity, and you are not alone! One of the hardest things for leaders to grasp is how to prioritize. Of course, we all believe that prioritizing is important, we just don't all actually put it into practice, and the result is that we don't make the most of our time. Sometimes, being most effective means having to be critical of what we allow to make it onto our To-Do lists and calendars. If we aren't, we can waste a lot of our valuable time doing things that either weren't necessary, or weren't worth it. Before you let something creep onto your list, making you even busier than you already are, ask yourself:
Is this task necessary?
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many times I have ended up with tasks on my list or in my planner only to realize that if I thought about it for a few more minutes I can find a way to eliminate it, or solve the problem without having to go through so many steps. Before you decide to shoot out the door and do something, make sure that it's something that really has to be done. Always remember to ask: how does this contribute to my overall goals? Something that you have to spend time and effort on that does not directly benefit your overall goal or contribute to your values is called "side-ways energy" and they may be wasting a lot of your time! I'm guilty of always getting "great ideas" on how to improve myself or my leadership, but upon closer examination I sometimes realize that whatever it is is simply going to distract me, and that the result us not really as important to me as other things are. Being effective means understanding you do not have an infinite amount of time, so spend it only on what really counts!
Does this task have to be done right away?
Those of us who are activators, and like to get things done right away have to be careful not to get so caught up in little tasks that seem immediate that we lose track of more important major tasks. For example, often when I'm in my office I will get a call about something that has just come up that will require my attention. It can be very tempting for me to drop what I'm doing and go put out the fire, but I've learned that when I do that I take a lot of time to get back to my original task. Not only that, but if I let myself, I will spend my whole day running back and forth between one office to the other having impromptu meetings or thinking for my team rather than letting them figure it out, and I will never get any work done! I've learned that sometimes it's ok to save something for next week, or tomorrow if it's going to get in the way of something you need to do today.
Am I the Best Person for the Job?
Here's a blow to our egos, leaders: even though we may be the leader,s we may not always be the best person for the job! Some tasks are an opportunity to challenge, teach or equip someone on your team. You may find they are actually more naturally gifted in that area than you are! Too many leaders try to do everything themselves and as a result they end up over-busy with a team that is begging for more responsibility. Every once in a while it's ok to let someone else take charge, even if there is a possibility they will fail, because it's also an opportunity to learn. Remember that as a leader, you will never be able to elevate to higher tasks if you can not learn to give your smaller tasks to someone else. Always ask yourself: does this have to be me? Can I ask someone else on my team to take this on? If the answer is "yes" this task should not be on your list it should be on theirs! Occupy your list only with things that are necessary for YOU to do in order to reach your goals!