When was the last time you complained about not having enough to do and more than enough time to do it in?
Almost every leader I know struggles with finding the time to get it all done.
I do too.
So what helps? And what hurts?
One of the best things you can do is have an honest conversation with yourself about how you waste time.
I’m going to assume you’re not gaming when you should be working, but there are other more insidious ways that time slips away.
Any idea what your time wasters are? And even if you do, any idea how to fix them?
Here’s some practical help.
The Top 10 Time Wasters and Time Hacks
So because this is a post on time management, let’s cut to the chase and outline the Top 10 ways leaders waste time and 10 time hacks that can help.
While this isn’t a scientific list, I know this is how I waste time if I’m not careful and they’re patterns I’ve seen in working with many leaders over the years.
All of these are common struggles, and the good news is there are relatively easy solutions.
1. Social media
Social media is so seductive, but it’s a part of leadership and ministry today.
I use social media for ministry but I also know I can get sucked into the latest funny video as easily as anyone. How do you keep those lines clear?
Personally, my team and I batch process most of my social media posts. While I post content from this blog throughout the day, I set it all up to post at different times in about 5-10 minutes early in the morning.
I’ll go in later in the day and ‘batch respond’ to people, responding to dozens of items in as little as five minutes. Far more efficient.
Hack: Post content using a service like Buffer. Don’t respond in real-time, batch respond instead.
2. Unnecessary meetings
We live in meetings, and our productivity dies in them.
If I’m not careful, I can spend 75% of my week in meetings and have only a few hours left over for writing messages and leading what matters most.
Meetings expand to fill the time you’ve set aside for them. So just set aside less time.Meetings expand to fill the time you've set aside for them. So just set aside less time. Click To Tweet
Hack: Schedule less time for meetings. Hold them less frequently.
3. Inefficient email
In my view, email is a necessary evil. But I obsess on the evil part. I really can’t stand it and it takes up far too much time.
If that isn’t enough, here’s one more old-fashioned hack.
Hack: Stop emailing people if it can wait. Write down your questions and save them for a face to face meeting. This can make a huge difference!
4. Conversations without a purpose
Conversations can waste tons of time. Sometimes you feel trapped in one.
What do you do when someone corners you?
Hack: Be pleasant and move on. You’ve got work to do. Turn that 20-minute conversation into a two-minute conversation. Be pleasant, thank them and if need be, tell them you were on your way to get something done. Then go do it.
5. An open schedule
Chance are you only write appointments with others and meetings in your schedule, right?
Make appointments with yourself. Write in writing time, thinking time, date nights with your spouse, family time —everything you need to get done.
Then when someone asks to meet, you can say you have a commitment. If it’s truly important, schedule them in during your next available slot.
Hack: Book appointments with yourself for what you need to get done.
6. Being unclear on who you need to meet with and why
When someone asks you to meet with you, my guess is your default is to say yes.
So is mine.
But I would spend all week every week meeting with people, many of whom didn’t really need to meet or to meet with me.
Deciding who you need to meet with in advance helps. My priorities are (in order) our senior staff leaders, our elders, our staff team…and a few key people beyond that. That’s it.Most leaders waste time meeting with people who don't need to meet with them. Click To Tweet
Do I meet with other people? Yes, but only after those key people have the time they need and after my other priorities are done, which means I do say no a lot (I still hate that, but it’s necessary).
I outline more about meeting people in this post I called Why You Can’t Have Five Minutes of My Time. While it may sound harsh, it’s liberating and you will get more done. Plus, your church or organization will be positioned to grow as a result. And here’s a primer on how to say no nicely.
Hack: Decide on the kinds of people you’ll meet with in advance and why.
7. Too much blending of personal/work time
Life online and flexible work hours mean a lot of leaders blend personal and work time.
Because you feel busy, it’s easy to assume you’ve worked 50 hours when in fact, you’ve worked 35 and spent 15 hours running personal errands or wasted time on social media etc. I’m not saying that’s always true.
It’s a good idea to keep mental (or physical) track of what’s work and what’s not. Or, adopt the hack.
Hack. Work when you work, play when you play.
8. Not getting enough sleep
You would think that getting more sleep would waste time.
Just the opposite is true. It makes you more productive.
The first thing you’ll cut when your busy is your sleep. Big mistake. Sleep more. You’ll get more done.Sleeping more doesn't waste time, it makes you more productive. Click To Tweet
Hack: Pick a prescribed bedtime and stick to it.
9. Having no idea what your real priorities are
Do you ever think back and say “what did I actually do today”? Yep, that’s a bad day.
You have priorities, but do you have daily to-dos that become your first priority?
If you put the big rocks in first…the rest fit in as well.
Hack: Set a key task list of 1-3 things you simply have to get done every day and do them first.
10. Not pausing regularly to self-assess your time and priority management
Most of us just rush from one week into another, never pausing long enough to ask why we’re not accomplishing more.
I have learned I have to regularly pause and ask what’s working, what’s not and why. Then I recalibrate my calendar and life to try to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
That’s something you can do weekly, quarterly and annually.
Hack: Pause weekly, quarterly and annually to assess your time and priority management.
If you want more on productivity and energy management:
Exhausted thinking about how much work is ahead of you?
You probably feel like you just don’t have the time for that.
I’d love to help you do just that. And you do have the time. I’ll show you exactly how to find it.
I’ve helped over 3000 leaders free up hundreds of hours each year and often 3 hours a day to do what they feel they never have time for and get healthier in the process.
My High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.
It’s perfect for leaders who feel like they never have enough time in the day to get the really important things done.
Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day. That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.
Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – Joel Rowland, Clayton County, North Carolina
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“A game-changer.” Pam Perkins, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?
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What do you see?
So those are the top 10 time wasters I see in myself and others, and the top 10 hacks.
What’s helped you?
Leave a comment!