A hot topic for many of us is how to create more time. We never seem to have enough of it. There’s a long list of things I hear clients say they would like to be able to create time to do: strategic thinking, development conversations with their team, focus on their own career planning, space to exercise or spend more time with family and friends. It seems many of us struggle to get the balance we want with the immediate pressing demands of work taking precedence. It is something that the most successful people appear to have cracked, although I’m sure they will tell you that it is an ongoing effort to keep the balance right.
I suggest there are 3 things that are critical when managing your time, and importantly your energy, successfully. They are prioritisation, delegation and discipline and they are worth devoting a bit of effort on to free up more of your time.
Prioritisation - are you spending your time on the right things? Most of us have heard of the important vs urgent matrix. It is very easy to spend too much time in the urgent column (including the not important, urgent box), whilst neglecting the important but not urgent space. This is where the strategic thinking, career planning and networking often get pushed.
Delegation - do you need to do everything or can you get help from others? Build the right team around you and delegate with confidence. It can take more time initially than doing it yourself to make sure the recipient knows what they are doing and can do to the right quality you expect but it is time well spent down the line.
Discipline - sticking to the above two even when things get busy and stressful will help stop you getting overwhelmed.
An important aspect is finding a way to do this that works for you and can become a habit. Personally I’m a fan of a handwritten to do list that I review (and rewrite) regularly but I know others who prefer digital tools and some who prefer not to write anything down. Finding a way to build in some planning time to your week or day can pay dividends when things get busy, as well as reflection time on whether you’ve stuck to your plan and what needs to be reprioritised as urgent demands come in.
If you lead a team, sharing what the priorities are can help them have confidence to involve you on the right things and free up some of your time. If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, ensure you fully engage them to help you protect your time for the elements you highlight as important.
Another consideration for the discipline aspect is your motivation. Often the things we put off are those things we don’t really want to do (e.g reading reports) or don’t place such high value on, such as our own career planning or networking. Breaking down these down into smaller, achievable tasks can help to progress and build momentum.
I’m still working on this for myself and would love to hear your ideas on how you create the time to focus on the important things.