Working longer, harder and faster doesn’t always lead to bigger and better.
Peak productivity isn’t a simple, linear formula whereby if we put more in we’ll get more out. The reality is, it’s more of a bell curve. If we keep using the same strategies to get more stuff done, if we keep pushing harder, eventually those strategies become counterproductive and we start to burnout.
Leading ourselves towards burnout is bad.
Leading our teams towards stress and burnout is unforgivable.
Quit managing your time
We all know the standard time-management and prioritisation tactics, yet many of us fail to use them on a consistent basis. Or perhaps we used them in the early to middle part of our careers but drifted away from them as we stepped into more senior leadership positions.
That’s partly because as senior leaders we shouldn’t be focused on time management.
Our role is to deliver through others, to inspire, to enable and to support. Time management isn’t the right tool for this. In fact, any form of management isn’t the right tool for inspiring and enabling those that we lead.
As senior leaders we need to fully focus on understanding our priorities and managing our energy (ok – I know I said any kind of management isn’t the answer…but you know what I mean here!).
What is the greatest enemy and threat to our priorities and energy? Outlook – or whatever your preferred email and calendar tool may be.
Your inbox isn’t your to-do list and it’s certainly not your priority list. It’s simply a list of someone else’s priorities.
For many of us, our calendar doesn’t represent our true priorities either. It’s simply a list of meetings that we’ve accepted without fully considering the impact it has on our priorities. Without considering the impact it has on our ability to deliver the projects that truly matter; our ability to inspire, to enable and to support.
Being a busy fool
I’ve recently spent a lot of time looking at the diaries of some really senior leaders. Not in a weird stalker way – they asked me to during our mentoring sessions!
There’s one thing that stands out. There are many days when they have back-to-back meetings. And I literally mean back to back meetings from 8am until 6pm. I’m pretty sure you have days like this too.
Instead of saying yes to every meeting, start saying no.
I was with a client a few weeks ago who was telling me how he feels like he’s got too many plates spinning. He was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. This was being compounded by the fact that he felt at his level he shouldn’t be feeling this way.
I looked at his diary and asked him a few questions about one of his back to back days:
When did you eat?
When did you go to the toilet?
How did you prepare for your next meeting?
How clear, effective and inspiring were you in your final meeting of that day?
I don’t need to tell you his answers. You know.
The thing is, this is the reality for many leaders and it’s simply not effective. By the time the final hours of the day come, we’re working at 70% capacity at the very best.
What do you do when you walk out of a meeting?
Check your emails?
Check your social feeds?
Rush straight to the next meeting?
Usher the next person in?
Get accosted by your PA because they need to quickly grab you for a rushed decision?
Being a leader
The alternative is to focus on our priorities and start understanding what we must do in order to manage our energy levels (top tip - start by drinking a lot more water). When we shift our focus in this way we move from being busy, to being productive. We move from being efficient to being effective. Being busy after all is a choice that we make.
Instead of saying yes to every meeting, start saying no. Instead of accepting that every meeting has to last 30 minutes or an hour, start changing them to 20 or 45 minutes. If it’s not your meeting, accept it but explain that you can only join for 45 minutes.
This allows you to change your post meeting routine, which will make you 10 times more productive.
Being busy really is a choice.
Instead of rushing to the next meeting you’ll have time to review your notes. You’ll be able to follow up on some key actions. You’ll have time to clear your head and prepare for your next meeting – making you much more effective.
You’ll have time to walk to your next meeting, getting there on time and creating a positive state for you and those around you. You’ll have time to go to the toilet. You’ll have time to eat and maintain your blood sugar levels!
You see, being busy really is a choice. If we make these simple shifts we’ll get exponential results because the way we’re working really isn’t working for most us. Being frenetically busy is negatively impacting our businesses and our careers.
It’s wasting us time and money. It’s costing us our health and impacting the health of those we’ve been given the responsibility to lead.
Are you ready to shift your focus from doing stuff and managing things to being a leader?
About Ben Morton
Ben is a best selling author, accomplished keynote speaker and sought after leadership mentor who has worked with senior leadership teams in the U.K, US and Australia.
Ben’s work as a leadership mentor is based upon three fundamental beliefs:
- Leadership is less about the tools and models and more about understanding what it really means to be a leader.
- The best leaders put the interests of their people and organisations ahead of their own.
- Leadership is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.
As a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst he completed two tours of duty in Iraq as a Captain in the British Army. He then moved into business as Global Head of HR, World Challenge, later part of Tui Travel and followed this with a period in the Tesco Leadership Academy.
Alongside his military and corporate career Ben has also led expeditions around the world to places as diverse as the Himalaya’s, Malaysia and Mongolian Stepppe country.
He now works exclusively with senior and executive teams to help them be the most effective version of themselves as individual leaders whilst also becoming a genuine, high performing team.