One of the biggest challenges for ever-busy executives is time management. As a manager or individual contributor, you likely juggle what seems like a million different tasks simultaneously; as a result, time becomes your enemy.
Conquering time management challenges will help you not only overcome these obstacles to success, but also give you more time to live a rich life outside of the office.
But first, what are the chief hurdles when it comes to time management?
These are the top five obstacles:
Lack of Prioritization: Did you ever play the whack-a-mole game at an arcade? Those little devils just kept popping up despite your mighty swings! A tossed salad to-do list can yield the same frustrating results. Instead of controlling your schedule, perhaps someone else is managing your priorities for you? Or maybe each of your tasks is assigned the same ranking, so you’re unsure of what truly needs to bubble to the top? Reacting to daily “fires” is also a culprit that takes time away from critical projects.
Perfectionism: Many people use perfectionism as a crutch, a way to stay busy doing what they know how to do best while putting other action items on the back burner. For example, you may be a skilled writer but detest spreadsheets, which means you spend days creating new sales collateral while your data-laden reports are in such shambles that you’re unsure of revenue insights the metrics could illuminate for senior leaders.
Procrastination: This happens for a number of reasons. If you’re facing a task you just don’t want to do; it’s easy to procrastinate. Some people delay action because they’re unsure and fear to ask for clarification or further direction. It also can circle back to (excessive) perfectionism which encourages you to put off even attempting a task until you think you can do it perfectly.
Inability to say no: Guess what? Not only should you not be doing everything—you can’t! And if you try to, something’s got to give. You’re not going to be able to devote your full attention to your important and urgent tasks; they’ll suffer, and your bottom line will suffer. Saying “No” to tactical tasks allows the most successful executives to say “Yes” to more strategic needs.
Lack of planning: It’s easy to become caught up in social networking, emails, phone calls, blogs, checking stats, industry research, and the like. One quick email check can turn into a full hour of back and forth correspondence, and before you know it, your entire schedule is off for the day. Planning—and sticking to your plan—helps you stay on track.
Now that you know the leading time-management challenges, it’s time to take them on. To overcome these obstacles—and set yourself up for success, not frustration—try these four steps:
1. What’s stopping you? Identify what’s holding you up. Is it procrastination? Perfection? A lack of planning or prioritization? What’s getting in your way?
2. Prioritize and set goals. Prioritizing and goal setting are two important components of time management. Goal setting is easiest to accomplish when you set a goal that's attainable and measurable, and when you break it down into smaller, manageable goals.
Creating a task list is another item that, as strange as it may sound, needs to become a scheduled part of your day and your week. You’ll want to spend a bit of time before Monday morning creating and ranking a list of tasks and goals for the upcoming week. Keep in mind that some days may be set aside as planning days, days off, or meeting days.
3. Plan and schedule your day, week, and month. Make sure you have time to accomplish the goals, tasks, and priorities you’ve established. Set aside the time you need by planning your days, weeks, and even your month out. To make this process easier, and to lighten your load, there are time management tools like your smartphone, desktop scheduling software and the good, old-fashioned paper calendar, which can help you establish and maintain time management success.
4. Get help. Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to seek outside advice. Consider working with someone to help you develop a method for prioritizing, creating a plan, and tackling the obstacles standing in your way.
Often, you’ll discover projects that can be delegated. With the right level of your support and their buy-in, empowering employees to take on additional challenges keeps them motivated, engaged, and develops skills to take on even more responsibility in the future.
Overcoming your time management obstacles is easy when you can acknowledge what they are and why they exist. From there, it’s merely a process of planning how to overcome them and using the right tools to get the job done.
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications