Most leaders have a lot of things competing for their time. If you’re like me, your schedule is already filled with meetings, project work, planning sessions, and a pile of tasks that have to get done sometime. Now throw into that mix all the unexpected urgencies that can hijack your schedule, and it starts getting pretty difficult to get things done.
But if you start missing deadlines, dropping the ball, making excuses, or otherwise failing to fulfill your commitments, you will frustrate other people, your reputation will suffer, and your career advancement may stall. Nobody likes coworkers who leave them hanging.
So, I’d like to give you a few tips on getting things done.
First, don’t rely on memory. Write things down in one place where you will look frequently throughout the day.
Second, keep in mind that every single thing you do takes time. To be effective, you must plan both what you will do AND when you will do it. If you don’t somehow attach tasks to time, you risk making unrealistic commitments. The simplest way to attach tasks to time is to manage everything you must do through your calendar. I don’t have task lists. I have a calendar. One calendar that I can readily view at any time from my phone or my computer. And I look at it constantly.
So when you accept a task– any task — immediately go to your calendar and assign yourself time to work on it well enough ahead of the deadline so you can adjust if something unexpected interferes with your plan.
Next, build in margin to deal with emails, phone calls, and unexpected urgencies. While you cannot predict exactly what’s going to hit you today, you can assume that something is coming, so leave gaps in your schedule, or be ready to drag some lower priority tasks to another day if necessary.
You’ll have a few bugs to work out if you adopt this approach. But most of those challenges can be easily resolved by using the features commonly found in calendar software that allow you to color code activities or shield certain items from public view.
The bottom line is: you will execute a lot better if you develop the discipline of tying all tasks to time, recorded in one place where you look frequently. I call that a high caliber calendar. Give it a shot.
THE SHARPENING STONE
Sharpening Stone is a series of short videos from True Edge designed to sharpen leaders and their organizations.
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About the Author: Rob Skacel, Ph.D.
Rob is a licensed psychologist with senior executive experience. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College, and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Purdue University. Rob began his career in the field of clinical psychology, splitting his time between patient care and management responsibilities. Within a few years, he began the transition to business psychology specialization. He has since held senior leadership positions in sizeable for-profit and non-profit organizations, where his responsibilities focused on performance improvement and organizational development.
Rob founded True Edge Performance Solutions in 2000, and maintained it as a part-time venture for a number of years as he continued to accrue executive experience. By 2006, True Edge had grown to the point where it required Rob’s full-time attention. Over the years, Rob has provided services to dozens of leaders and their organizations, in a variety of industry sectors such as manufacturing, professional services, health care, agribusiness, construction, education, non-profit, and trade associations.