Business owners may understand intellectually there are only 24 hours in a day, but the frenetic pace at which they lead their lives suggests they hope, somehow, to find more.
This is often the case with leaders who don’t manage the time they have, either because they take on too much and always feel hopelessly behind, or because they allow others to “steal” time away from them.
Whatever the situation, time is every leader’s most precious commodity. It’s essential to manage it as effectively as you can.
Here are six “timeless” tips for meeting this urgent objective:
1. Multitasking is not an efficient use of time.
Busy isn’t the same thing as productive. Every time you interrupt one activity to tackle another, you sacrifice a certain degree of focus. It takes more time to regain that focus when you return to the original task.
“While ‘multitasking,’ your brain is shifting from one task to another—back and forth,” notes entrepreneur Jean-Luc Brisebois. “You may think you are doing all the tasks at the same time but you really aren’t doing them well. The human brain is simply not made that way.”
2. Practice a strict “Do Not Disturb” policy.
Business owners who keep an “open door” to employees soon learn the limits of this well-intentioned policy. If no limits are set, this is just one more in a never-ending series of interruptions—texts, emails, phone calls, social media, etc.—that suck up time and leave little or nothing to show for it.
Of course you should maintain lines of communication with the people who work for you. At the same time, you’ll maximize the limited time you have by shutting out all distractions during those periods when you must concentrate on the task at hand.
For a set period of time, close the door to your office. Don’t take any calls. Don’t reflexively respond to every email that appears in your inbox. All those things will be waiting for you after the top-priority task has been completed.
3. Overcome a tendency toward perfectionism.
Working on a project or initiative until you think it’s “perfect” is a time-consuming luxury you can’t afford. It’s more strategic to do the best you can and then move on, as opposed to endlessly tweaking and sweating all the minor details.
“Perfection-induced stress, anxiety, and frustration aren’t doing your overall health any favors,” writes business columnist Ilya Pozin. “You’re probably spending far more time at work than necessary and thinking about work when you’re not there.”
4. Reserve time for your creative side.
Being a leader involves more than putting out fires all day. Your business requires a strategic vision, as well as a fresh, creative perspective on the challenges and opportunities coming your way.
Look at scheduling your day around your most creative time—when your mind is sharpest and you’re more inclined to confront the big issues or focus intently on a strategic plan. If your creative side is stimulated by discussions with others, set up meetings aimed specifically at brainstorming and strategy, not the nuts-and-bolts stuff better left to others.
5. Use downtime to recharge.
When he’s flying from one location to another, Phil Libin, CEO of the note-taking software firm Evernote, doesn’t try to cram in more work time. Instead he “uses his time spent on planes to catch up on video games, watch movies, reading books and taking that long nap during a particularly busy day.” Always working leads to burnout. Taking time to recharge is an efficient way to be more productive later on.
Business owners can’t control everything that happens around them. But they can take charge of how they manage their time and get better results, both in their business and in their lives.
Can you work fewer hours and still be a successful leader? The answer is ‘Yes.’ Learn how becoming a TAB member will help you balance your professional and personal life.