3 Time Management Tips for Busy Executives

You’re a busy executive with a million things that all have to be done right now. You’re not sure if anybody else really understands.

As the Chair of our local Vistage group in Springfield, Missouri, I work with lots of other executives who are in the same boat you’re in. I have also been that busy executive, working with organizations around the world. So I know what it’s like to have that endless stream of responsibilities coming from all directions.

We all get the same 24 hours in a day. So, how do some leaders spend those 24 hours better than others?

Here are 3 tips for effective time management that I’ve learned along the way.

#1: Know Your Why.

There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive. — Oprah Winfrey

Author Simon Sinek is perhaps best known for his 2009 TED Talk “Start with Why.”

According to Sinek, the greatest leaders throughout history, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs, inspired people because they emphasized why over what. People must buy into a sense of purpose before they can buy into specific items on a to-do list.

Good time management starts with a clear sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

  • People need a reason to come to work besides money. Sinek points out that money is fuel, not a purpose: “We don’t own cars so we can have fuel. We own cars to get places.”
  • If you articulate your “why” in terms of product, service, or industry, it isn’t a true why. Instead, Sinek envisions a world where “organizations exist to advance something bigger than themselves.”
  • Your “why” must withstand the test of time. Trends and technologies come and go, but your core values and sense of purpose should not change.

#2: Know Your One Thing.

Once you know your why, you can turn your attention to the question of what. What specific thing must you do, day after day, to turn your why into reality?

Gary W. Keller, founder of Keller-Williams, the largest real estate company in the world, along with co-author Jay Papasan, answers this question in the best selling book One Thing.

To be successful, Keller says you must focus on one thing — one overriding priority for achieving your goals.

Identifying a single priority cuts through the clutter, reduces stress, and builds momentum towards fulfilling your purpose.

Sure, you may have more than one task to complete each day. The important thing is to make sure that each item on your checklist contributes to your overall purpose.

#3: Stay Out of the Multitasking Ditch

Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time. — Gary W. Keller, author of One Thing

So you think you’re that one special person who’s good at multitasking? Dr. John Halamka, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, offers the following cautionary tale:

A few year ago, a medical resident was instructed to stop ordering blood thinners for a particular hospital patient. The resident began entering the change into the hospital’s ordering system, but suddenly stopped what she was doing to answer a text message about an upcoming party.

Think that’s no big deal? Because she let herself get sidetracked, the resident forgot to complete the order. The patient continued receiving blood thinners when he shouldn’t have, and needed emergency open heart surgery to save his life.

Even if you don’t work in the medical field, trying to do more than one thing at a time has numerous detrimental effects on you and your work.

  • Multitasking increases your stress level, impairs your cognitive ability, diminishes your creativity, and decreases your productivity.
  • When you’re constantly switching your attention between tasks, your brain uses more energy and you get tired more quickly.
  • Researchers from the University of California found that people who constantly check email throughout the day have elevated heart rates, indicating a higher stress level.

Effective time management and multitasking simply don’t mix.

Minimizing distractions helps you stay focused on your top priorities. Instead of checking email, text messages, and social media all the time, set aside dedicated times for those things, apart from other activities.

By focusing your attention on one thing at time, and encouraging your employees to do the same, you’ll feel better, and your organization will benefit.

In our monthly Vistage peer group meetings, we learn from fellow executives who face the same “struggle to juggle” that you’re dealing with. We work together to help each individual to implement the 3 tips for better time management.

Contact Global Advisory Associates at anytime for valuable resources for managing your own time more effectively.

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