“Never let anyone own your time.” Said Lou Gerstner, a former CEO of IBM. It’s a simple and apparent idea, yet it sounds fantastic.
Whenever I have lost control of my time throughout my life, I have become stressed or unproductive. Reflecting on this and focussing on the development of leadership skills, I discovered that planning and sticking to a routine has a significant impact on how I feel and my sense of control over my life, particularly, of course, control around my time.
When I advise leaders and successful people, I find the following keys to be common:
1. Create a routine
Regardless of the occupation in which you find yourself, have a routine, distribute the time in specific activities and follow the plan. This will ensure that you are taking charge of all those things that are important in your life, in this way include on your agenda activities not only like work, but also allow yourself to rest, get personal and professional development, and even take the family time you need. All of this is part of creating successful routines for your life.
Your routine may alter over time, but establishing a schedule can help you maintain order in your life. If you’re developing a business and need to find, code, and hire clients, set aside time to prioritize and isolate each activity.
A calendar application can be your tool today.
2. Reuniones grupales y llamadas
A very useful suggestion shared by busy people is planning group meetings in blocks and dedicating specific days of the week or month for it, as well as answering calls or attending urgent matters. Separate space in your agenda to answer calls or resolve urgent so it doesn´t interrupt all your activities of the day.
Do the same with online meetings. In this way, you will not only be creating a portion of time for meetings, but you will also be creating other blocks of time in which you can do important work.
There are many applications that allow you to order these types of activities in your agenda, for example, there is a function in Google Calendar called Appointments. It allows you to reserve an amount of time and then divide it into parts, you can reserve three hours of external meetings and then divide them into three meetings, one hour each. Or I can reserve an hour of calls and divide it into six calls of 10 minutes each. There are also several specific tools, such as doodle, that offer similar services.
Another alternative that makes managing your time easier is to create bit.ly links for different blocks of time. You can have a link for your external meetings, another link for internal meetings, and another for calls. You can then share these links so people can book time with you.
3. Prioritize your strategic activities and delegate
One of the most essential aspects of organizing your schedule is determining which activities are truly vital, which are merely routine, and which are emergencies. What decreases managers’ efficiency, in my view, is that they become engrossed in operations, and the weight of their responsibilities pulls them away from their firms’ or work areas’ strategic vision.
Making sure that the actions that resolve and guarantee that the plan is moving forward are on the agendas is part of being clear about what is essential. That will ensure that your end aim is met; urgent and last-minute tasks will always exist, and we must ensure that they decide whether or not to postpone the most critical ones, because many operations can be outsourced flawlessly.
How to recognize which are the important activities?
- Planning strategic coordination of activities.
- Finding moments to delegate.
- Risk prevention activities.
- Detecting new opportunities.
- Times of reflection and creation of new ideas.
4. Optimize time for your different types of meetings
The times of meetings vary according to the number of topics and the quality of decisions to be made, having defined the times and ensuring compliance with them is essential for managing your time. Meetings between 30 and 45 minutes are the most effective, the same happens with phone calls, if you try not to invest more than 10 minutes you can have an estimate of how many calls you can make within the spaces to be determined for it.
On the other hand, introductory lunch, dinner, or coffee meetings require additional time for your travel, so I suggest these types of meetings only in cases where people know each other well enough to make this space fun and productive.
I have been able to observe this type of practice in technology executives and it has been incredibly effective in minimizing the exchange of emails and saving time.
This of course will not work with everyone, because some people may find this type of invitation impersonal or ignore it, it is important then, to take into account the culture of the company with which you implement this type of application and to share and validate with which of your audiences you can share these tools. In any case, if you do not feel comfortable sending the link to someone, you can use your own spaces for appointments, suggest some meeting times, and then reserve the specific space on your computer.
These are some types of meetings and the suggestion about the time to dedicate to them:
- A 30-minute office meeting to meet someone or catch up
- A 45-minute meeting outside the office. Reserve time for the journey to mobilize.
- A 10-minute call to resolve or contribute to someone who needs you.
- A 15-minute Daily Scrum – Ideal for startups or teams that require administrative management.
- A 30-minute weekly staff meeting
Regardless of the meetings you have, organize them into blocks based on your calendar. Adjust the block in coherence with your demand if you believe a certain sort of meeting requires more or less time.
5. Set aside time to check your email
This is the most important recommendation in this entire publication. Email can become the owner of your time if you don’t know how to manage it. To take ownership of your email, avoid checking it all the time. You can do it by programming a daily space to respond to issues that are urgent and depends on you so that other important processes advance and another space that can be weekly or twice a week to evacuate emails that require deep analysis or additional work from you to give an answer.
It is absolutely essential.
6. Plan to exercise and also get some family time
Unless you put it on your schedule, it won’t be done. That applies to exercise and the time you spend with your family.
Activities such as exercise, meditation, spiritual practices, and any other activity that increase your well-being, are the ones that you need to take care of the most and do not allow work to leave you without these spaces.
The same applies to planning our time with family and other important people. If you are a workaholic, you will end up taking time away from your family unless you reserve it in advance and train yourself to quickly disconnect.
For many executives today, it has become clear that these spaces are forceful and make a difference in the happiness and effectiveness of work
7. Realistically manage your time
We dedicate a lot to thinking and reflecting on whether we can do more with the time we have, with the speed we have in work activities, many say they want days with more hours, however, today’s leaders who learn to manage their time are definitely happier, and more effective.
We don’t need more time, we just need to manage it better, and being realistic about the things we can do within the time we have and working to improve our productivity within the same time is what makes the difference from great leaders.
Taking ownership of my time and planning my days and weeks made me a happier and more productive human being. Hope this post helps you get there too.
I’d love to hear your productivity tips. How do you manage your time? How do you manage your calendar? What tools do you use? Share in the comment section!
Omaira Giraldo Soto.
Happiness Manager at Open Mind Advisor.