That wasn’t a typo… I’m really telling you to do less in order to be a better leader and have a greater impact.
If you’re a Manager, and especially if you’re feeling stuck at the Manager or Sr. Manager level, I’m going to guess that you’re great at execution. That you’re a person who gets shit done. That’s awesome.
But have you ever stopped and taken a hard look at what you’re spending your time on?
Have you asked yourself how strategic that next task is, or do you just go full steam ahead running meeting to meeting and banging out work in between?
If you’re nodding your head at this scenario, I’m talking to you.
And you’re not alone. I see this in many, many people. But I can tell you. it’s not getting you to the next level.
If you read my newsletter regularly, you’ve already heard me talk about blocking off deep work time, and spending more time thinking strategically.
And maybe you’ve thought, ‘Sure, that would be nice… but I’m WAY too busy already!’
So that’s what we’ll be tackling today.
I want to share some tactical exercises and tips that will help you to be more efficient, in order to create some space for more strategic activities (ie. the stuff that’s actually going to get you promoted).
Tactical Work Blocks
Let’s dive in!
1. Calendar Audits
Often we let recurring meetings stay in the calendar that really don’t need to happen anymore. Maybe they could be an email update. Or could be cut in half time-wise.
The result is that you’re overloaded and wasting precious time in meetings that you’re not getting a lot out of. This isn’t great. And there’s a secondary effect that’s also bad…
As a senior exec, one of the things I always looked for in great leaders was good judgement. And when your calendar is a mess and you don’t know enough to change that weekly 1hr touch-base with your colleague to a monthly, I’m doubting your judgement. Not to mention, if you’re overloaded now, I may think twice about giving you more responsibility…
So, every quarter or so, look at all of the meetings in your calendar and ask yourself:
Do I need to be at this meeting?
Does this meeting need to happen, or should it become an email update?
Does this meeting need to happen at this frequency? Can a weekly move to bi-weekly or monthly?
Does this meeting need to be as long as it is? Can we cut it in half without sacrificing what needs to happen?
You get the idea.
2. Task Audits
Same idea – every quarter look at ALL of the things you’re spending your time on and do an audit. Here’s how.
Create a table like the one below.
List every task (or project) that you spend time on. This should include the admin work you do as part of your job and anything else that takes time in your day.
Estimate the number of hours you spend on this every week.
Now this is the good part: Indicate the strategic value of each of these tasks: low, medium or high.
When my clients have completed task audits they’ve discovered things like:
My weekly commitments already add up to 45 hours per week and I’m being asked to take on another major project!
More than half of my time is being spent on ‘low strategic value’ activities, and I barely have time for the ‘high strategic value’ ones
I’m spending WAY too much time on administrative work
This exercise can be eye-opening.
3. Tactical Work Blocks
Now, even if you do both of these things really well, you may still find yourself constantly answering emails and Slack messages, and getting bogged down with other tactical work.
Let’s face it, even when you become a senior executive, this stuff still exists!
So I recommend creating short work blocks (in comparison to the 2hr blocks I recommend for deep work) to tackle these all at once. Instead of getting distracted by every ‘ping’, set aside time for email and Slack. Because guess what? The company is not going to fall apart if you answer an email in 3hrs vs. 45min.
A key element of doing this is also to set expectations. If you’ve set the expectation that you’re super responsive, everyone now expects an email back from you in 30 seconds. So let people know that due to the volume of emails you’ll be tackling your inbox at 10am and 2pm every day (or whatever times work for you) and if the matter is urgent they should pick up the phone and call.
According to Gloria Mark at UCI, it takes an average of 23 mins and 15 secs to return to the original task when you’re interrupted. Almost 25 minutes of wasted time!! So if you multi-task in this way, really think about the time you’ll save by being more intentional. It’s SO worth it.
4. Removing Distractions
Okay, so I’m just going belabour the point above a little more with this next one. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that multi-tasking is NOT a good idea. So how can you remove all of the distractions that are taking you away from your original task?
Here’s what I do:
Put my phone on ‘focus’ between 9am-4pm every day so I’m not notified of texts or calls (this drives my mom crazy, but it’s a small price to pay)
Don’t keep social media open on my laptop – I close it down when I start working
Disable notifications for my social media apps on my phone
Disable notifications for new incoming emails – I have to open my email to see if I have anything new
Never, ever do silly sh!t like watching TV or YouTube when I’m working. I mean, seriously??
These may sound like small, obvious changes, but they can have a huge impact. If you’re the type of person who checks social media throughout the day, I’m going to bet you’re wasting more time than you realize.
And the reason this matters?
Because when you become more efficient with your time, it allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time. It allows you to work fewer hours while having a greater impact.
When I tell people you don’t have to choose between a great career and having work-life balance, I know this is true because I’m living proof.
Until next time friends… ✌️💜