Who doesn’t enjoy a good night’s sleep? A night that spans eight hours, includes only peaceful thoughts, and results in feeling rested in the morning might be considered great! This time spent rejuvenating your body and mind takes one third of the time in a day. What happens in the other two thirds can greatly affect these eight hours, for yourself and others. As a leader, how well you proactively and productively juggle the demands of your day influences those your serve and may impact loved ones, and your well-being.
Proactive leaders are transformational when they connect to the purpose and value of tasks and general activity. They engage others in the knowledge of why something is in the works or needs to be completed. Simon Sinek popularized leading with why in his book Start With Why as well as his Ted Talk that has 57 million views and counting. While I typically speak of “why” as foundational to change management, it is also essential to proactively approaching priorities. It is not until you clearly know why something is on your list in the first place that you can prioritize doing it. The “why” behind an action or deliverable informs when and what gets accomplished, and perhaps who does the accomplishing.
Each week, I coach Fortune 500 leaders who express difficulties in managing all that is on their plate. The proverbial plate has become a platter piled high with “alleged” priorities. It appears that discerning the hierarchy of what needs to be done has become a lost art and everything seems equally important. This approach leads to reactivity and transactional interactions, two enemies of engagement.
There is much written about productivity and many resources for improving time management skills. I’d like to offer five actions to influence your perspective of how you honor the sixteen hours not dedicated to rest. They are recommended as lenses through which to filter the work you get to juggle.
5 Actions for a Proactive and Productive Juggler
1. Worktime Clarity– Blocking Sacred Space. Consider the sixteen waking hours. How much of it do you desire to commit to work? If your immediate answer is how much you “have to” commit to work, return to a reflection on why. When we believe external forces are in control of our time, they are. When we decide to own why we do what we do, we are in control.
It is unrealistic to think that someone or something will someday reorganize your day for you to make it as you would like – only you can do that. Begin with carving sacred time, time you commit to self-care (exercise, meditation, yoga, time in nature), family, community…etc. Block this time on your calendar, as part of the sixteen waking hours, and consider them as much as a priority as a meeting with a client or your boss.
2. Calendar Management – Color Coding Clarity. What is left are the hours you dedicate to getting your work done, though all of the commitments in these hours are not created equally. You can create some overlap to self-care and reduce the stress of a full day of events with some color coding. The visual is quite helpful to well-being. Some basic suggestions: red = must do, green = could do while walking outside (a call/meeting in which you are mostly expected to listen), blue = project prep, work time, breathing life into deliverables, yellow = allow another to lead, grow an emerging leader, delegate. You get the idea, make it your own.
3. Prioritization - Glass Balls and Rubber Balls. “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority,” coined Karen Martin, the clarity expert. At least monthly, perhaps weekly depending on your job, it is appropriate to evaluate priorities. Set time aside to determine which ones are glass and must not be dropped. Assign resources to ensure these priorities are accomplished accurately and on time. For those you decide are “rubber,” in that they are more fluid, less urgent, and/or shared by others, consider options for deferral. Can a timeline be pushed out? Is there someone who would benefit from working on this and therefore delegation is an option?
4. Operating Proactively Over Reactively. All that has been mentioned above constitutes proactive actions. Proactivity is a choice; it is not assigned to you. Reactivity is also a choice, one that leads to continual spinning of effort and likely creates stress for you and those you serve. The challenge is that you can’t flip a switch. If you are typically more reactive and less in control of your time, it takes implementation of proactive practices (such as those mentioned above) to transition to consistent proactivity. There are many proactive leadership tactics that will turn up in future articles. One of the most important may be effective one-on-one meetings with direct reports. Meetings in which you ask powerful probing questions. This enables you to lead proactively and reduce time spent on issues that catch you by surprise.
5. Leveraging Cross-Functional Collaboration. Silos are created out of competition, insecurity, and ignorance. We flourish when we collaborate. We also leverage a growth mindset, enable inclusion, and foster diversity of thought. Consider all that is heaped high on your plate. How much more capable of success would you be if you drew in someone else, or another team? Your first thought may be, “That takes more time,” and this is likely true. However, the long-term results may be greater and subsequent efforts may be positively impacted.
Engagement matters. Your engagement in all that constitutes your work is affected by external and internal forces. You have all of the control over the internal ones and some control over the external ones. Choose to be proactive. Choose to organize your day and your priorities as you desire. Choose to be transformational and collaborative. Choose to be a productive juggler who knows why each ball is in the air. These choices determine the quality of your engagement during your waking hours and possibly that of your eight hours of daily rest.
Join us at our upcoming retreat to transform your approach to your work by allowing your inner work to inform challenges. We invite leaders of all levels to learn self-care tactics and practices that enhance self-awareness. Book today and we will see you March 25-27 in the Santa Cruz Mountains!