Are you finding yourself frantically running from meeting to meeting, feeling as if you’re not accomplishing anything? Do you bemoan the organizational culture that promotes the work-til-you-drop attitude?
A day filled with tasks and activities that don’t fill you with joy and meaning isn’t something you should expect and accept from your job. As a strong leader, you can change the way you approach your workday with a few simple shifts.
1. Set 90-Day Smart Goals
Isn’t it fascinating that we spend months engaged in strategic planning for our organizations, but we aren’t strategic at all about how we spend our own time?
When you lack a clear 90-day goal, every single thing that comes up throughout the workday seems important and deserving of your attention. And, every single meeting that your presence is requested at feels necessary to attend, too.
However, 90 percent of what you are doing during the day isn’t moving you forward or changing the world. It’s either administrive or solving other people’s problems — activities that demotivate you and steal your concentration from what’s really important.
The best way to clear your calendar and reclaim some time is to set two clear ninety-day goals — one personal and one professional. Of course, smaller goals may fall under the umbrella of these bigger quarterly goals, but knowing what one thing you’ll concentrate on for this set time will keep you laser focused on the task at hand.
One more tip, these goals must be specific, measurable, and also stretch you just enough so that when you accomplish them, you’ll feel amazing!
2. Prioritize Your Schedule
Once you know your overall goals for the next 90 days, it’s easier to prioritize the small tasks that hit your desk from day-to-day. Take time every morning to write down the top three actions you will take to move you towards those goals, and schedule these three key activities into your day.
Over time, you’ll notice patterns of how you overwork and where you can steal some time from. You’ll also realize how much more of your time is truly in your control. And when you feel more in control of your schedule, you’ll be more motivated to complete each task on it.
Are you thinking, “Yeah, this sounds great, but what about all of those meetings I have to attend?”
Well, here’s the thing about meetings. Most of them probably don’t require your presence. You just think they do. Typically, it’s because the organization you work in has a habit of spending all of its time in meetings instead of producing and performing.
It’s up to you to lead your teams in prioritizing the work day. Politely decline meeting invitations that aren’t a requirement for you to attend, and ask for the minutes to be sent to you after it’s over so you can stay current with the discussion. Or, if you’re noticing hesitation or anxiety from others, send a trusted employee to fill your seat. By empowering your staff to make decisions in your absence and report back to you, you’re developing future leaders who feel confident in the workplace.
By setting clear 90-day goals, you’ll know exactly how to spend your time in a way that makes an impact. Remember, the most effective leaders say no far more often than they say yes!
3. Make Time for Deep Work
Another mistake the busiest leaders make that leads to burnout and overwhelm is not scheduling enough time for “deep work”.
Deep work is a focused mode in which we engage in a cognitively-demanding task for a sustained period of time. This is the mode that is required to create, innovate, or produce.
You moved up the ranks because you developed smart ideas and executed them well. Yet somehow, over the course of many years, you’ve fallen into the role of a manager which means that everyone else is having fun creating and innovating while you manage things from the background.
But why should it be like that? You’re so smart, competent, and driven. The world deserves your big, bold ideas. And, these ideas are what fill your bucket. It’s the type of work that is meaningful, fun, and rewarding — unlike budgets and staffing.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you ignore the administrative demands of your job, but I am urging you to find ways to do more of what you love, more of what drew you to your field in the first place. When you’re engaged in the deep work, your staff will notice a renewed energy in you, and this will motivate them as well.
So how do you fit deep work into your already overbooked schedule?
Look over your calendar for the next month. Identify where can you insert uninterrupted blocks of time to focus on a single task or activity. Start with just one hour if you must. Long term, try to build two-hour blocks into your calendar a few times a week.
Enlist your assistants and team in supporting your efforts, too. Let them know these “deep work” times are scheduled and that this time is sacred. Then, follow through with using these periods wisely. When your employees see you prioritizing these uninterruptible working hours, they’ll honor your wishes and leave you to concentrate.
Oh, and remember that 90-day professional goal you set? Your deep work blocks are a great time to make some progress on it!
The best leaders protect their time with clear goals and supportive routines. They say no more than they say yes, and they stay motivated by engaging in work that nurtures their creativity.
Ready to create more time for yourself without sacrificing results?
Download a FREE copy of my latest ebook below.
A proven executive coach and consultant, Carrie has a doctorate in organizational development, and over 16 years in non-profits. She has consulted and coached leaders from more than 30 states, and has held various leadership positions in some of the largest nonprofits in the US.