Leaders Get More Done

Where Did the Time Go? 7 Ways Leaders Get More Done in the Same 24 Hours

  1. March 6th, 2023  | 

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Published in Accountability, Goal Setting, Leadership, Problem Solving, Productivity

In a few days, nearly half the world will “spring forward” into daylight saving time, losing an hour in their day. We each can lose more than an hour each day if we’re not intentional about how we invest our time. Here are seven ways effective leaders get more done with the same twenty-four hours.

1. Work on the right stuff

If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.  ~ Jim Rohn

I’ve led more than 250 strategic planning meetings and in most cases, the companies do not need more or better or newer strategies. They need to do a better job focusing on executing the three or four most important priorities that will improve performance.

This powerful question kick starts an exercise that helps leadership teams focus on the right priorities: Where are we not doing the best that we can do?

Achieving clarity about what matters most is the first step in managing your time and for leaders to get more done.

2. Align goals, structure and people

Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.  ~ Robert Heinlein
In Good to Great, Jim Collins advises leaders to “get the right people on the bus…in the right seats,” yet he largely ignores structure.
In two seminal books, Ichak Adizes and Elliott Jaques examine the importance of organizational structure. They each developed—parallel of one another—a model of how organizations grow.
When you have accountability problems, first look at your organization’s structure because it defines the working relationship between people. Dotted lines on an org chart ignore accountability and authority.
To increase productivity, define the work to be done functionally and with Key Result Areas. Define the output for each Key Result Area. Identify levels of work. Determine appropriate decision-making and authority.
Timespan is the way leaders measure the complexity of a task and the effectiveness of a worker. It’s a measurement of capability.
Match a person’s ability with the work to be done. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing.

3. Set – and honor – realistic deadlines

If you want to get something done around the house, have a party.  ~ Janet Bustin
If it wasn’t for deadlines, we might not ever get anything done.
Deadlines drive accountability. Deadlines also illuminate accountability problems. How often do you extend deadlines? Moving deadlines sends a signal to your colleagues that deadlines are arbitrary, negotiable, toothless. 
Deadlines are all about time management. Respect everyone’s time. Set deadlines that are real, that are realistic, and that matter. Then honor them.

4. Rethink meetings

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.”  ~ Dave Barry
Microsoft research shows the number of meetings attended by weekly users of Microsoft Teams more than doubled from February 2020 to February 2022, and the amount of time spent in meetings more than tripled.
Faced with an increasing number of meetings producing diminishing returns, leaders at companies like Shopify, Reynolds American and others are choosing to cancel recurring meetings, rethink the purpose of meetings, and declare moratoriums on days when no meetings can be held.
The fewer and shorter the meetings, the more productive your colleagues. 
What meetings can you rethink to give your colleagues the time they need to reflect, perform and breathe?

5. Work at your highest and best

There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker
What activities create the most impact for the organization AND are the activities that you do best? 
This is where you must invest your time.
Track your time in 30-minute increments over the next 30 days then catalog your activities in four or five groups. This exercise recommended by Drucker more than fifty years ago brings clarity to how you invest your time.
Where are you spending your time on activities others can do? Delegate those tasks. Where are you spending time on activities that provide little impact to moving your organization or team toward its most important objectives? Stop doing them.
Work at your highest and best level of effectiveness.

6. Automate where possible

The problem with quotes on the internet is that you cannot always depend on their accuracy.  ~ Abraham Lincoln

To the certainties of death and taxes we now can add two more: statistics show there are not enough people to perform work companies need doing, and artificial intelligence is here to stay.

Smart leaders are looking for ways to reduce labor, finding new ways to get more done by automating work wherever it makes sense. In the last several days, I’ve watched ChatGPT do in seconds what it would take most people hours to write.

Opportunities to lever technology exists wherever important, repetitive and mindless work is occurring. This type of work is a good first place to consider freeing up a human being and putting automation to work in your organization.

Beware. Content written by a robot isn’t always the right way to say something. And as noted in the fictitious tongue-in-cheek quote from Lincoln, you can’t trust everything you find on the internet.

7. Lever your power hour

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. ~ Stephen King

Early in my career, my boss advised me to figure out my most productive time of day then reserve that time for my most important or most difficult work.

For me, that time is between six and nine o’clock in the morning. I can get more and better work done in that time than at any other time of the day. Guess when this blog was written?

When are you at your peak? Block that time for yourself, then go to work. 

“The chief beauty about time,” wrote Arnold Bennett in his 1908 little masterpiece How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, “is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”

Make today count. 

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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