In business circles, it’s a badge of honour – the busier you are, the broader your portfolio and the wider your scope – the more successful you must be. In coaching conversations, it’s a common topic of concern: How do I meet the expanding demands of my leadership role and avoid burn-out?
You may have discovered for yourself that what worked before doesn’t work now. The best time-management tools, the most aggressive boundary-setting strategies and competent administrative gatekeepers cannot contain your expanding commitments and emerging concerns. You feel you are pulled in a million directions and there isn’t enough time to pay attention to all that you would like to.
The answer may lie in your mindset, not in your calendar. Try on these approaches.
- Subtract don’t add. It seems counter-intuitive to remove things from your schedule as your accountabilities are increasing. It’s comforting to spend time doing what we are good at, and what others know us for. The hardest move, especially during personal change, is to let go of what is familiar. Step back far enough to reflect on what you are clinging to that needs to be jettisoned. For every new committee or stakeholder you take on, release one. Delegate something you love in the interest of developing someone else.
- Simplify your work life. The simplicity movement has gathered steam in many people’s personal lives as they search for the peace and calm of getting back-to-basics. Try bringing these concepts to work. Declutter your office of paper and books. Discard useless stored items and obsolete tools. Pick up the phone and talk directly to someone instead of sending a lengthy email message. Take a simple healthy lunch to work and eat outside. Try an uncomplicated routine. Slow down and remember to breathe. Ask yourself, “What would be simpler?”
- Improve your focus. You might be seeking distractions and interruptions – or at least inviting them. Many of us like the stimulation of the unexpected. Yet these are the biggest time stealers. As your world gets more complex and interesting, you need a stronger ability to concentrate your focus at will. Practice this throughout the day. Give your absolute attention to one thing, shutting out all else. When you are working on an email, do only that. Become mindful and let yourself get totally absorbed. You may feel that time is slowing down, and suddenly you are aware of important details previously missed.
- Do just enough. Similar to subtraction, and building on your ability to focus, this strategy is based on the notion of the 80/20 rule. Some say, in most of what you do, 80 percent of your result comes from 20 percent of your effort. And, if you are like most leaders, the best effort you expend comes as you near the deadline! You’ve probably surprised yourself with all that you are able to do when forced to by circumstance. Experiment with doing only what is required – all the time. Work as though you have a compressed deadline. Don’t start something half-heartedly, but with a determination to focus on it. Challenge yourself to work like you do on deadline – even set a timer to increase your sense of urgency.
A special shout-out to ICC teachers and Master Coaches Kevin Snorf and Chela Davison for inspiring this essay.