How many times have you arrived to the end of a day only to wonder where all the time went?
You worked all day, didn’t get finished, are prepping for tomorrow’s meeting at home with kids hanging off your neck (who want your time)…and you’re nowhere near done.
Welcome to the club.
Time famine—the perpetual sense that there just isn’t enough time to get it all done.—keeps getting worse for most leaders.
In this post, I want to share 5 time stealers I’ve learned to reduce or eliminate from my life. They’re below. And of course, they’re free.
But I also want to invite you into a deeper journey.
I have a resource called The Leader’s Circle. It’s new online community in which you’ll gain access to a few critical things:
- Done-for-you staff meetings and leadership development. Yes, you can cross staff meeting prep off your to-do-list every month. It’s turn-key finished for you.
- Access to me and tribe of high-capacity leaders who can help you problem-solve.
In an age where information is everywhere but insight and access are not, The Leader’s Circle is top-tier leadership development for you and your team and a community of people to help you solve problems and figure out what matters most.
And it can help you cut through the time famine you’re feeling.
I hope you’ll check it out.
In the meantime, the day-to-day enemy of many leaders and their mission is time-stealing practices that seem to suck up massive volumes of available time.
And if you can’t manage your time, you’ll never effectively manage your life or your leadership.If you can't manage your time, you'll never effectively manage your life or your leadership. Click To Tweet
1. Constant interruptions with unimportant questions
Can you tell how I really feel by how I titled this section of the post?
How many times in your day do you get interrupted by well-meaning people with questions that honestly aren’t that important or that urgent? Let me guess..all the time.
Most of those questions come from the people with whom you work most closely: either people to whom you report or people who report to you.
According to the New York Times, the average office workers gets interrupted every 11 minutes. And it takes 25 minutes to return to focused work after each interruption.
No wonder you don’t get any work done. The math doesn’t even add up.
So here’s a hack that will help: tell people to save their questions. Keep everything that isn’t an A-level emergency on a list until your next scheduled meeting or phone call.
When people save their questions for later, everyone saves time.According to the New York Times, the average office workers gets interrupted every 11 minutes. And it takes 25 minutes to return to focused work after each interruption. No wonder you don't get any work done. Click To Tweet
Three things will happen by the time your Thursday meeting rolls around:
The question or issue will have disappeared. What felt urgent on Tuesday was actually completely unimportant or got resolved by other means. Everybody wins.
Often, in a three minute conversation during your weekly on a Thursday, you can resolve what might have taken 10 back-and-forth emails between Monday and Wednesday. Time and agony spared.
A third option is that the issue truly couldn’t wait, and so you dealt with it when it had to be dealt with. To deal with urgent and important matters on an urgent basis is actually fine. Usually, though that’s a tiny number of issues, so time saved anyway on all the pesky things that didn’t matter.
If you’ve got a relationship on your team that can’t wait a week, or there are just too many issues, then do a daily 5-15 minute check in, either in person, by phone or video call. You’ll solve so much and it will cut your email traffic by a massive amount.
So much of what is urgent on Tuesday doesn’t matter at all by Thursday. So wait till Thursday. Everybody wins.So much of what feels urgent on Tuesday doesn't matter at all by Thursday. So wait till Thursday Click To Tweet
2. Your devices keep hijacking your day
Sure, you get interrupted by other people. But how often do you get distracted by what you allow to push through on your phone or laptop?
One study shows the average person touches their smartphone 2617 times a day. And that’s the average user. Heavy users touch their phones 5427 times a day.
That’s not an encouraging trend.
And that stat doesn’t include your desktop, laptop or iPad. Yikes.
Here’s what’s true: a distracted leader is an ineffective leader.The average person touches their smartphone 2617 times a day. And that’s the average user. Heavy users touch their phones 5427 times a day. A distracted leader is an ineffective leader. Click To Tweet
So what do you do?
Years ago now, I shut off almost all notifications on my phone and my devices, including text messages.
I now also never sleep with my phone (unless I’m on the road), and I have my phone in perpetual DND mode (look for the moon sign on your iPhone) so it never buzzes, rings or chirps. If you’re wondering, I do program my phone so family and a tiny group of key people can break through my DND wall. Hint: they rarely need to or try to.
Do you really need to know instantly when someone likes your Instagram pic? Of course you don’t. Ditto with emails. Why leave email notifications on when you can jump into your inbox once or twice a day and deal with what needs to be dealt with then?
You can eliminate self-distraction by shutting down all but text messages on your phone.
And train your team to only text you when it’s super-urgent.
Focused leaders are always better leaders. It’s as simple as that.
3. Loud work environments that constantly distract you
One of the biggest challenges for office workers is creating quiet space to tackle big projects.
Even if you have a closed door office, carving out a few hours in an office environment can be tricky. Here are some quick hacks:
Close your door. Sometimes you may even need to put a note on the door that says “Please do not disturb until 11 a.m.”
Work offsite. Try a home office or coffee shop or park…or anywhere where you won’t be disturbed.
If you’re in an open office, you can put a note on your desk in a visible place asking people to not disturb you.
If all else fails, slip on headphones. Even if you can’t work to music, simply having earbuds in is a social cue for people to leave you alone. The combination of earbuds and ‘do not disturb’ sign is a fantastic message to the world to leave you alone for a bit.
For most leaders, the quieter the space, the higher the productivity. So create quiet space.For most leaders, the quieter the space, the higher the productivity. So create quiet space. Click To Tweet
4. Working when everyone else is working
If you have some flex on when you can work, flex that muscle. If you can, try starting an hour or two early.
As I’ve outlined before, Work patterns are a lot like traffic patterns: at 5 a.m. you have the road to yourself. At 8 a.m., it could take you three times as long to travel the same distance.
You don’t have to start at 5 , but I’ll bet your office and your inboxes are pretty quiet at 7 a.m.
Get an undistracted start on the day and you’ll be so much further ahead.
You’ve got the work lane all to yourself, which means you can work uninterrupted. You can think uninterrupted and actually accomplish all your most important tasks completely distraction-free.
You can likely even leave early.
If you only work when everyone else is working, you will always struggle with productivity.If you only work when everyone else is working, you will always struggle with productivity. Click To Tweet
5. Nobody Can Really Help You Solve Your Problems
Most leaders are surrounded by people, but mostly we’re surrounded by the people we lead or serve.
Which of course, is on the one hand wonderful.
The challenge is you have problems to solve as a leader that most people can’t help you solve.
So, if you’re like me, you turn to books, podcasts, conferences and events to help get the input you need to make the decisions you have to make.
Time famine and inefficiency team up to make this, well, complicated.
As a result, you end up with a stack of half-read books and partially-digested podcasts you have to condense to gain insights.
And you feel alone in your struggle. And the time you spend solving problems is rarely used efficiently.
That there’s so much content out there, but find yourself asking, “How does this apply to me?”
And you think if I just had access to the author, interviewer, or even another high-level leader who’s been through this before, then you’d be able to make progress.
All of that is true.
The principle: most leaders feel alone not because they don’t have access to people, but because they don’t have access to the right people who can help them solve their problems faster.
So, find the right people.Most leaders feel alone not because they don't have access to people, but because they don't have access to the right people who can help them solve their problems faster. Click To Tweet
What Steals Your Time?
What are some hidden time stealers you’ve battled? Scroll down and leave a comment!