Lots of articles at this time of the year are related time management. It seems like the only time of the year managing your time is a problem is now. Or maybe it is the only time that you have the time to think about it. That is a huge issue if that is the case.
How you spend your day is one of the key differences in being a leader versus simply a manager. By no means is my method or schedule the only way to achieve the balance of getting your work done versus helping your team achieve their goals, but it is steeped in management guru theory from people like Steven Covey and Peter Drucker.
1. Handle your business at the very beginning and end of your days. If you work a nine-hour day, I would suggest the first and last 45 minutes of the day to handle your work. Focus on planning and reviewing what happened, what you need to do as immediate next steps and challenges that you see doing that. Respond/send your emails that need a little thought including meeting notes and status updates. (1:30)
2. Touch base with your team before getting into the bulk of your day. I have the habit of having a five-minute chat with every team member every day. “What’s hot?” and “How can I help?” were my only questions. It was amazing how things branched from there. It also enabled me to know their schedules and subsequently, what challenges may lie ahead for me. If you have 6 direct reports, budget one hour. (1:00)
3. Focus your meetings to occur during the core work hours of 10-3. In most companies, five hours a day in meetings is more than enough time. Use the down time between meetings to return “Yes/No” emails, eat lunch, and urgent voicemails. Don’t let the firefighting distract you, it only draws out the meetings. (5:00)
4. Managing up is a skill that many leaders forget. Take the next block of time to check in with your immediate boss and other key stakeholders in your team’s success. This should be quick- 45 minutes’ tops. You should not have time for gossip and other time wasters- and neither should they. I usually split this time right before and after my meeting blocks. (:45)
5. The last 45 minutes use as flex time. Is there a colleague that you wanted to touch base with? A report that needs analysis? Whatever you cannot get to in your normal day. If you don’t have any pressing issues, use the time to plan. It is amazing what an uninterrupted time to think does for your progress.
If you are like me and put in many hours over 9 per day, I would look at expanding all of your time segments other than #3. Five hours in meetings is brutal and any longer will reduce your capacity to lead. If you bring work home, limit it to FYI type stuff- reports that you need to be familiar with, not own, quick response emails/texts/VM. They tend to not interrupt your family time- you know, the real reason why you work.