As organizations emerge in the post-pandemic era, leaders will need to think more intentionally about how they view and spend their time.
Over the last three months, we have coached clients in India, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, and have noticed the three significant challenges in how leaders think about their time.
Challenge #1 – Prioritizing a Full Calendar Instead of Calendaring Priorities
Leaders often fall into the trap of filling their calendar with every meeting request that comes their way, regardless of its importance or priority. For some leaders a full calendar is a status symbol reflecting their importance. Zoom sessions stack up from morning until night with no time between each meeting. The impact? No time to prepare, no time to think, no time to follow up. Context shifting is like a runaway train destroying focus, concentration, and any sense of flow. The level of overwhelm and stress feels more intense than ever before.
Challenge #2 – Efficiency Over Connection
COVID has proven that we can work productively in a remote environment. But many leaders have fallen into a trap. They’ve made such efficient use of their time, utilizing the minutes and hours previously allocated for commutes or walking between conference rooms, but they haven’t been intentional about carving out time to connect with co-workers. With and in-person workplace being preferable for nurturing social connection with others, remote working is often used as an excuse for not building stronger relationships.
Challenge #3 – The Loss of Thinking Time
The upside of a commute or ride in an elevator or walk to down the street to grab lunch is that it provides time to think. Stacked Zoom meetings and the focus on efficiency (not to mention family interruptions and obligations that have been a part of the pandemic work from home situation) has severely limited many leaders available thinking time. Working time has become primarily focused on doing, with little to no time focused on thinking.
The Leadership Choice Management System
To overcome these challenges and create sustainable productivity in our future workplace, we must stop thinking about time management and instead think about choice management.
When you look at your calendar, are you happy with the choices you have made? Do these choices reflect your values? Do they represent your priorities as a leader?
Here are four types of choices you can make with your time. Each choice should be blocked off on your calendar so that you can optimize how you work.
Multiplier Time – This is time leaders use to prepare for the work that needs to get done by their team. It’s the time dedicated to developing others to they can succeed in doing excellent work. We call this multiplier time, because it’s an opportunity to multiply your impact as a leader through others. Multiplier time might include team meetings, one-on-one sessions, and daily stand-ups. Multiplier time enables you and your team to be focused during the Doing time (see below) and to moving forward in a more efficiently. Ideally, multiplier time is scheduled early in the week (preferably Mondays), so that everyone can get aligned and focused on the priorities for the week. Leaders should consider devoting 10-20% of their time on multiplier time in any given week, depending on their level of leadership.
Doing Time – This is time spent on your core responsibilities as a leader. It is doing what you do to help the organization achieve its goals. It is your time to get your work done. Doing time might include meeting with customers and key stakeholders, developing the product roadmap, delivering the right messages, and managing accountabilities. If you’ve effectively managed your multiplier time, you and your people should be highly focused with minimal distractions during your doing time blocks.
Thinking Time – Leaders get paid to think. They get paid to strategize and innovate which comes from concentrated, uninterrupted thinking time. That is the real value that leaders bring to the organization. Thinking about the future, trends, and the competition. Thinking about what they’ve learned from recent experiments. Thinking about mechanisms that might be needed to address critical business challenges. You may need 10-20% of your time here depending on your level of leadership. Slot your thinking time during times of the day when you feel fresh and sharp. For most people, this is in the morning hours.
Connecting Time – This is time devoted to creating or strengthening human connections. This can happen all the time but in a virtual or hybrid environment, leaders must be more intentionally about connecting with others and encouraging team members to do the same. Allocate up to 5% of your time to building connection. As a result, you’ll see an increase in trust, problem solving, and independent decision making among your team.
Choices and Values
Ultimately, your calendar reflects the choices you are make. And those choices reflect your personal values. As we head into this new future of work, it is critical for leaders to reflect on their time choices and consider if those choices are reflecting the values they espouse. Are you running your calendar or is your calendar running you? To help you assess and think through those choices, we created this free time tracker available for you to download. You can use it to assess how you are spending your time and then optimize your time choices in the future.