When you’ve a business to lead, you’re probably used to being stretched for time. Whether it’s attending multiple meetings through the day, reorganising teams for that upcoming project, or taking on your own to-do list, your diary soon builds up as a business leader.
But failing to manage your own time properly can have a detrimental effect on the business as well as your own wellbeing. By trying to take on too much throughout the day, you run the risk of burning out sooner rather than later.
To preserve your own health – as well as the productivity and success of your business – it’s important to get a hold on the things you can do, and the things you can’t. Here, we’ll take a look at some tried and true time management methods you can use to take control of your day and stay productive. We’ll also hear directly from one of our own leaders at Gazprom Energy – our CCO, Mark Eccles – about his personal approach to time management.
Organise your calendar
Organisational tools are a great way to de-clutter your week (and the whirlwind of what-to-dos in your mind). Things like to-do lists, project management tools, and collaboration software can map out tasks and time throughout the week, providing a clearer view of what you need to get done and for when.
Block off your time
If interruptions tend to stand in the way of your productivity, then use your calendar to create a virtual “do not disturb” sign so your employees know you need 100% focus. Communicate this with your team and let them know what it is you’re working on during this time so they can better understand why the distraction-free zone is needed right now.
Group similar tasks together
When your day is filled with a variety of different duties, it can take time to get in the right frame of mind when switching from one task to another – 25 minutes of your time, in fact. At least, that’s according to research conducted by the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Instead of having to adjust from leading a meeting to writing a report, they advise grouping similar tasks together so you can focus on other things after they’ve been completed.
When your tasks pile up and the clock starts ticking, it can be tough to mark out the tasks that need your attention the most. Learning to prioritise things is essential.
To start, you should write down all your tasks and duties in one big list. From here, you can begin breaking down the list into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. It’s important to be realistic here, so you can make room for ad-hoc tasks that might crop up through the day.
Learn to delegate
As a leader, you might feel duty-bound to take on everything. But take it from us: this unrealistic approach is not even worth trying.
Not only will your productivity take a dip, but your health will too. Learning to delegate is a crucial workplace skill.
Firstly, it frees up your time so you can focus on other tasks, but by handing over responsibility to your staff, it creates a sense of trust that empowers those under you. Of all the things on this list, delegation is perhaps the most important thing you should familiarise yourself with.
Turn off your phone notifications
Whether it’s meeting reminders, WhatsApp lunches or family matters, a constantly pinging phone is sure to stop you from focusing on your work. Your time is already minimal, so being distracted by (and then responding) to these messages is bound to sink your time even further.
Knock the notifications on the head by switching your phone to airplane mode during meetings and turning them off wherever else you can.
Dedicate a specific time to emails
Emails are another workplace distraction that can clog up your workflow. Instead of checking and replying to emails as and when they come in, try setting aside a certain time of the day to answer them, such as in the morning or after lunch, and then stop after a set time.
Time management with Gazprom Energy’s CCO Mark Eccles: A brief Q&A
We sat down with our Chief Communications Officer, Mark Eccles, to discuss how he manages his time throughout the week, the importance of setting boundaries, and why saying “no” can be such a crucial part of leading a business.
What are some go-to time management methods that you regularly use?
There are a few different things I do that I swear by. I always plan ahead for the week so I can get a clearer overview of what I can expect from my time at work. Here, I’ll write down any important meetings I need to attend and prioritise tasks in order of importance, which is absolutely essential for me.
Having said that, priorities will always change, so I’ll make time – usually 10 minutes – at the beginning or end of every day to see if anything’s changed. That way I can re-order my list of priorities and take on the most essential items the next day.
As well as that, I make sure to limit my time on certain activities, so I’m not spending an entire day on one thing. Providing it’s not too much of a priority, I can always come back to it later in the day or at another time during the week.
How important is it for a business leader to set boundaries? What can they do to make such boundaries clear to those under them?
I personally have an open diary so that my team is aware of my schedule and any meetings that I have in place.
I think booking too many meetings can interfere with people’s boundaries, regardless of whether they’re a leader or not. Meetings can be a massive time drain, particularly if it turns out that your attendance wasn’t especially needed in the first place.
For this reason, I’m quite open about when I can’t or don’t feel I should attend something. By doing so, this helps others on my team to understand when they should or shouldn’t invite people to meetings, which improves their own time management skills in the process too.
What would you say is the most important piece of time management advice you’ve received in your career?
To expand on the above: learn to say no to some meetings. You can’t attend everything.
If you don’t know what the required output of a meeting is, ask for it to be clarified or reject the meeting. You’ve given up your valuable time to be there. If it turns out the meeting is on a topic that doesn’t apply to you, or worse, it’s something that could’ve easily been covered in an email, then that’s an hour or two you could’ve spent doing something productive.
When it comes to meetings, requests, and other invites, do you believe in the power of saying “no”?
Yes, absolutely. I feel like delegation is an underrated skill right now. Everyone is always so switched on, they feel like it’s some sort of noble crusade to take on more than they should.
As a leader, be sure to lean on your team and assign tasks to them that they can take care of. That way you’ll be free to focus on other tasks that might be of greater importance. So yes, as a solid rule of thumb: delegate and ask for results instead of attempting to do or attend things yourself.
If there is one thing you would like to improve regarding your own time management, what would it be?
I want to try and monitor the past more. I feel as though if you don’t take the time to monitor the past, then things won’t change.
It’s important to reflect backwards as well as look forward. By taking the time to look back at the things that didn’t work out, or maybe wasted your time, then it’s possible to learn from these mistakes. I’ve started using a simple diary, but there are plenty of time tracking tools out there that can help you to map out the time you spent on certain tasks.
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