Mel Savage Executive Coaching
Self-Advocacy

10 Simple Time Management Strategies For Leaders

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Here are 10 simple time management strategies leaders use to avoid burnout and create time for leadership.

Early in my career I had a boss who had a great saying.

He’d say “We never have time to do things right, but we always find time to do things twice.”

Now I can argue for or against this statement (and believe me… I have).

But here’s how I like to interpret it today.

“Time” isn’t something that just shows up. It’s something you must create on purpose for things that are important.

And “Doing things right” is not about perfection. It’s about showing up as your best leader for the task.

So the way I read this saying today is “Am I willing to decide what’s important, create time for it and show up as the best leadership version of me?”

And in today’s world where you’re constantly being pulled in multiple directions, leaders must intentionally choose where they want to spend their time.

Time is your greatest asset.

Use it effectively and it can be the gateway to your success. Use it ineffectively and it will be the gateway to burnout and quitting on your goals.

Are you treating time like your greatest asset? Are you being intentional with how you use your time?

Or are you treating time like you have no control over it? Are you treating time like it’s a commodity you have to trade for success?

As a leader, being intentional and “leading” your time is what’s going to give you the space to be successful.

Here are 10 simple time management strategies you can use to avoid burnout and create time for leadership.

1. BE WILLING TO OWN YOUR TIME CHOICES

The problem isn’t that you don’t have choices about what you do and don’t do. The problem is the choices are hard to make. Sometimes, people won’t like your choices. Sometimes you might choose to sacrifice your personal time to avoid another tough choice. The important thing to remember is the person who controls how much you work is you. When you give yourself that control, you let go of resentment.

2. CHANGE HOW YOU TALK ABOUT TIME

Words matter. The more you tell yourself something, the more you believe it. So when your go-to language about time is “I’m so busy” and “there isn’t enough time”, guess what you perpetuate? Do yourself a favor and strike those two phrases from your repertoire. Instead, tell yourself “I choose what to do with my time.” Or “I make time for the things that matter.”

3. NEGOTIATE YOUR WORKLOAD

People are always going to give you more work than you can do. That’s not their fault. That’s actually their job. Your job is to prioritize what you will spend time on. And you can negotiate that. Just because someone asks you do to something, you don’t automatically have to say yes. You can say “yes, if…” and trade-off priorities. Just because more work is being made available doesn’t mean it all has to happen now. You’re responsible for negotiating your priorities.

4. SET WORK BOUNDARIES FOR YOURSELF

Do you have a cap for your work hours? No? Why not? I worked with someone at McDonald’s who was always home for dinner and to put her kids to bed. It wasn’t because she didn’t get offered tons of work. It was because she told herself, I only work 45 hours a week (unless it’s a real crisis). That forced her to prioritize what she said yes to. And it also forced her to look for ways to be efficient with her work without sacrificing effectiveness. It made her a highly valued member of the team.

It’s your job to set work boundaries and train people on how to work with you. How many hours do you want to work a week? How late will you respond to messages? Do you work all the weekends? Make a decision. And then it’s your job (not everyone else’s) to stick to your boundaries.

5. DON’T DO IT YOURSELF (IT’S NOT FASTER)

Who has said it’s faster if I do it myself? I have. It’s faster in the moment, but you’ll pay for it later. Invest the time to teach your team to do things. Mentor them. Give them project objectives. Offer them criteria for success. Don’t tell them how to do it, but help them plan an approach to figuring it out. Schedule checkins and touchpoints as necessary.

That’s the job of a people leader. Look at your calendar and change the focus to helping your team with their projects (not doing projects yourself).

6. AVOID PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination wastes energy. By deferring overwhelming projects or things you’re not sure how to do, you’re carrying extra stress and worry in the back of your mind. Instead, I recommend using my “one bite” strategy. It’s not really mine, but I’m claiming it. You’ve heard of eating the elephant one bit at a time? (That’s a freaking weird saying). Well, that’s what you actually need to do. Stop thinking about the size and/or implications of the project and just ask myself one question; “What’s my best next step”… and then I just do that.

7. MAKE DECISIONS

Waiting around for certainty or trying to make sure you have the RIGHT DECISION is a massive waste of time. Yes, do a bit of due diligence. Ask some questions. And then make the decision and see how it goes. There is no right decision. There is only the decision we make right as we go along.

8. PLAN AND REPLAN

Work moves fast. The priorities you had at 8 am may not be the priorities at 2pm. That doesn’t have to be a problem. Your job as a leader is to keep prioritizing and reprioritizing. You might get frustrated that asks and priorities keep changing, but what if you accepted that constantly tweaking priorities is normal. It’s simply part of the job to lead the reprioritizations and keep your team focused. You only get frustrated when you believe it’s NOT supposed to be that way.

9. PLAN PERSONAL TIME

If you sacrifice your personal time for work as a rule, you’ll eventually burn out and become a less effective leader. Having a full personal life doesn’t mean you’re less committed to your job. It’s actually in service of your job. Because when you take time to play and change your brain’s focus, you activate your creativity. And creative thinking is the cornerstone of high value leaders. One of my personal strategies is to plan personal time in your calendar first, and then plan your work life.

10. DON’T WASTE TIME ON TOMORROW PROBLEMS

The biggest waste of time is worrying about ‘what-ifs’.

“What if I decide to pull the trigger on this project and some of our clients don’t like it?”

“What if I give this project to “a report” and they can’t do it as well as I would like?”

“What if I hire more people and the business dries up?”

You worry about problems that haven’t even happened yet. I call those tomorrow problems. You don’t need to solve all the potential problems before you take a step or make a decision. Deal with today’s problems today, and park tomorrow problems until they’re actually a problem.

I’m not saying don’t anticipate. I’m saying don’t delay action because you have to solve all the problems now. You’re good enough to solve tomorrow problems when and if they arise.

Bottom line: Your workload isn’t happening TO you. You’re in control of creating it and managing it.

And isn’t that great news? Because when you control something, that means you can change it into something you want.

HI, I'M MEL

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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