I've got a few quick strategies for you that will immediately put some time back in your day so that you can be more productive.
1. Get a Handle on Your Meetings
I challenge you to find anyone out there who doesn't think they spend too much time in meetings. For executives, meetings eat up almost 23 hours per week.
As much as you may want to, it's impossible to get rid of meetings entirely. But a few simple shifts can reduce your meeting load and make the meetings you do have to attend more productive.
Are the regular meetings that you have some control over — such as your team meetings or one-on-ones with your reports — happening with the right frequency? For example, if your weekly team meetings tend to be mostly updates, you can probably meet less often. And be sure to have agendas with start and end times, and the desired outcome for each topic (for example, input, decision-making or updates). That will help you ensure that the agenda is manageable for the amount of time you have and focused on what you want to get out of it.
Another one of my top strategies is to ask for the primary objective for the meeting before you fully commit to attending. This will help you and the other party clarify the purpose, define the right duration for the meeting, and make the most of your time.
2. Manage Interruptions
You might pride yourself on your ability to juggle a lot of tasks at once, but multitasking profoundly damages your productivity. Each time you get distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to immerse yourself again in your work. And you're up to 40 percent less efficient.
To keep colleagues from dropping by your desk constantly, set up a consistent time slot a few days a week ("office hours") to handle urgent issues that can't wait until the next meeting. Technology can also be a huge distraction. When you really need to get something done, consider changing the status of your instant messaging software to show you are not available and closing your email. You can let people know that if something is really urgent, they can always call you.
Remember, your most thoughtful, high-impact work — the very work you were hired to do — requires focus. And you'll never have those periods of focused work if you're at the mercy of interruptions.
3. Create Time to Reflect
Setting aside time to review, process and look ahead might sound like the last thing you have time for with your packed schedule. Sometimes high performers focus more on taking action. Planning and reflecting can make them uncomfortable because it doesn't feel like doing something. According to researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats:
People feel more productive when they are executing tasks rather than when they are planning them. Especially when under time pressure, they perceived planning as a waste of time — even if it actually leads to better performance than jumping into the task head-first.
But trust me: Investing even a few minutes each week to reflect may become the single most productive thing that you do and allow you to get better results in less time. To get started, block as little as 15 minutes on your calendar once or twice a week. When my executive coaching clients start doing this, they always see rapid results and pretty soon are carving out an hour or two to do this each week.
Which one of these strategies would make the biggest difference for you? Start implementing it this week. And to continue building your leadership skills even when you're pressed for time, check out WOW! Highlight Audio℠. With a sampling of strategies from the full WOW! Women On the Way to Peak Performance Program℠, the format of this self-paced program will help you make shifts on the job quickly.
10 Years of Purpose, Presence and Power
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Newberry Executive Solutions. In that time, we've helped countless leaders get raises, get promotions and amplify their impact through our products and services. To say thank you for your ongoing support, I'm sharing a special series of blog posts with some of the most powerful insights I've gained through 10 years of coaching (and 16 years in business before that). This week is Part 5 — stay tuned for more! You can also catch up on past posts from the series below:
Part 1: Build a confident executive presence
Part 2: What your boss won't tell you (but you need to know)
Part 3: How to communicate like a strategic leader
Part 4: Go from frazzled to in control