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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Terranova

How to Manage Time Better


Hour glass sitting in rocks.

In a professional world that demands top performance with lean resources, time is one of the most precious commodities a leader can come by. Time management has become an indispensable leadership skill because it empowers high performers to achieve their goals, enhance productivity, and reduce the stress associated with getting things done. At the same time, most leaders feel like time isn’t on their side. They’re putting in the effort and the hours, only to feel as though they can barely keep their heads above water. Perhaps it’s time for a time management check-up to evaluate current practices and discover new opportunities to manage time more effectively.


Understanding Time Management

Time management involves the conscious allocation of time and activities based on their importance and urgency. It encompasses setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and optimizing workflow to make the most of available time, and allows us to balance professional responsibilities with a fulfilling life outside of work.


The problem is few professionals manage time well. They tend to prioritize daily workflow tasks and meetings above the focused, strategic and planning work required to bring important organizational goals to fruition. They rationalize that if they can cross enough items off the to-do list, they will have the headspace and bandwidth to focus on the important stuff. Unfortunately, this is a losing strategy because the tasks just keep coming. The higher up in the organizational ladder you go, the less you have the privilege of an empty inbox and fully completed tasks at the end of the day.


So what can a busy leader do to manage time more effectively?  

 


🕐 Know Your Goals

Goals provide clearing and direction toward meaningful organizational objectives, yet you would be surprised how few leaders can easily identify their company and departmental goals. They can recite lists of tasks that must be completed, but too few can link those tasks to a meaningful goal within the organization.


Step one is to know your goals and what you’re working toward. Step Two is to break down each goal into smaller, actionable steps you can use to track progress and stay motivated. Every goal needs a plan and it’s our job to ensure every worthy goal has a strategy to become a reality.

 


🕑 Prioritize Your Efforts

To prevent your workday from becoming cannibalized by tasks, emails and meetings, it’s important to mentally separate strategies in service of mid-to-long-term goals and the daily tasks associated with keeping workflow moving.


Instead of one long list, divide your responsibilities into two categories: actions and strategic plans in order of significance and impact. Set up your workday to reflect daily commitment to both categories, instead of prioritizing tasks ahead of the focused thinking planning required for strategic execution. 

 


🕒 Structure Your Day

With the understanding that a workday should consist of a balance between strategic focus and daily tasks, the question becomes how to do that effectively. The short answer is time blocking.


At the beginning of each week, review your strategic priorities and evaluate which require your time and attention. Schedule blocks of time to focus on strategic objectives, and let meetings, tasks and communication fill in the remaining available time on your calendar. These reserved time blocks are crucial to your performance and sanity, so hold them as sacred space! You can move them around over the course of the week but what you can't do is delete them or push them into the following week.    

 

🕓 Manage Distractions

A recent study revealed that our attention span has decreased down to 47 seconds. Even more disheartening is that if we aren’t interrupted in 47 seconds, we will interrupt ourselves with distractions like compulsive email, chat and phone checking. Quality work doesn’t happen in 47 seconds, so it’s imperative that we manage distractions and manage ourselves if we want to make the most of our time at work.


Use distraction blockers like silencing alerts and notifications, use visual cues of focused work like closed doors and headphones, and check yourself against self-imposed distractions for no apparent reason. Retrain your brain for focused work by committing to protected mental and physical spaces free from distraction.      

 


🕔 Practice Self-Care

Although it sounds like yet another time commitment to drain bandwidth, quality self-care is an investment in long-term productivity. Mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises and meditation, coupled with self-care activities like adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition, cultivate mental clarity and increase the potential we will make the most of the time available to us in a day.


Instead of wasting precious time and energy feeling depleted, stressed out and distracted, we give ourselves the gift of positive brain chemistry to facilitate peak performance. Get your body moving, take mindfulness breaks throughout the day, eat and sleep well, and watch how these small investments pay dividends when it comes to what you can accomplish in a day.

 


🕕 Evaluate and Adjust

Effective time management isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it exercise where you know your goals, separate strategies and tasks, and time block your way to success. It’s merely a place to start. Periodic self-reflection, assessment, and refinement are required to evolve time management techniques according to the current demands in your life.


Regularly assess time usage to identify areas of optimization and adjust strategies to foster a balance between life demands and the time available to execute. We grow and develop resilience to changing circumstances when we learn to trust ourselves to effectively meet the demands life places upon us.

 


Mastering time is a fundamental skill for any talented professional to master, yet it‘s also usually the first to fall to the wayside when the going gets tough. Instead of putting our heads down and focusing on tasks before we give ourselves permission to focus on what really matters, leverage effective time management strategies to harness your potential and achieve a sense of balance. Consider this your sign to invest in the time management strategies you need to optimize your professional performance and design a working life you love.   



Headshot of Danielle Terranova

Danielle Terranova is the voice behind Leadership Lessons with Danielle.

She has been an executive coach since 2015 and owner of Terranova Consulting, LLC since 2019.

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