18 MINUTES PLAN FOR MANAGING YOUR DAY
STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.
Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, re-prioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.
STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.
STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?
The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It’s simple.
This particular ritual may not help you swim the English Channel while towing a cruise ship with your hands tied together. But it may just help you leave the office feeling productive and successful.
And, at the end of the day, isn’t that a higher priority?
There are three main reasons. First, lack of time and pressure to deliver results make it almost impossible for executives to reflect, consider, and apply their new skills. Second, budget constraints can result in a lack of support and follow-through on the best intentions. Finally, behavioral change is difficult — it’s all too easy for a development plan to slip to the bottom of the to-do list.
With these thoughts in mind, I offer my clients a short and simple management development plan to get them going. After they have mastered these fundamental skills, we can move on to what I call the “higher order” skills that will transition them to leadership roles. There are three rules and five key development areas:
Commit to the plan for six months. Be prepared to check in with your coach or line manager on any changes you notice and any suggestions for tailoring your plan.
Trust that the plan will make your life easier and less complicated in the long run
Be open to experimenting — and have fun learning about yourself and others
It is your job to delegate as much as you possibly can: your ultimate goal should be to delegate everything, find a successor and move on to a bigger job. If you are having trouble letting go or trusting others, try to remember how it felt when you were given the first big challenge of your career. Did you relish the challenge? How did you approach it? Did you succeed? What did you learn about the job and yourself? How did it help you to move forward in your career?
Remember that however talented you are, your career is likely to have stalled had your boss not trusted you with a challenging piece of work. He took the risk and delegated: now it’s your turn to do the same. No excuses, just follow the rules.
2. Managing distance
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is to spend too much time either in your team or away from it. If you are too close, you risk becoming a micro-manager, you can lose perspective on the business, you can become too friendly and lose authority within the team, and your team can become over-dependent on you. Being too distant, on the other hand, can result in a directionless team, potential crises, lack of control, and you being perceived as too remote or political. Also, maintaining social distance is an important discipline for managers that should not be overlooked.
Visibility and personal profile are important for your career as well as your team, so make sure you are being seen and heard in the right places. If you don’t manage your reputation and profile, someone else will do it for you — and they may not have your best interests at heart. Take time to network, share your successes, and ask to be included on steering committees or cross-functional initiatives to create opportunities to showcase your talents and your team’s achievements.
4. Work-life balance
It’s incredible that this point still needs to be reinforced. Remember that you are a human being, not a machine. You may pride yourself on being able to work long hours, never taking a holiday and putting your company before your own health and well-being (and that of your family). But be very clear that you cannot do this forever. Sooner or later your health will give up and you will no longer be in control. Burnout is a one-way ticket, so be sensible. It’s smart to look after yourself. Work reasonable hours, keep the weekends sacred, leave early one evening a week and build in an exercise schedule. Not only will this help you keep effective, it will make you easier to be around and probably prolong your career.
5. Continuous learning and reflection
Adaptability and being able to flex your style as your company or situation changes are critical. Seeking feedback, identifying your development needs, and monitoring your own progress are all vital if you are to develop as a leader and a person. Lasting behavioural change requires time, patience, dedication, and support, so don’t expect it to happen overnight. One of the best things you can do to support yourself is to give yourself time and space to reflect: try to schedule a meeting with yourself for an hour each week for reflection.