Quite often I’ll get requests to help teach and facilitate effective time management skills to managers. People are “juggling more balls in the air” than ever before and many can’t ever seem to catch up with the pace of life. The impact on many organizations is often lower morale leading to retention challenges. Many think that if we can just learn to manage our time more effectively, we can fix the retention issues. While I agree that most everyone can learn to manage their time better, to really address these challenges a more holistic approach is needed. We must also look at how people are managing their stress and energy levels.
Time, Stress and Energy are undoubtedly interconnected and thus leaders should learn to excel in all three of these competencies in order to maximize their personal effectiveness. Think about your own experiences. Some days you might be dragging a bit and not able to get your entire to-do list accomplished. Despite your well managed intentions, it just didn’t happen today. This in turn might lead you to start thinking about all the things you need to catch up on and as your mind starts racing, your stress levels rise. Later that evening, you lie awake at night trying to figure out what to do next, losing valuable sleep and waking the next day with even less energy than the day before. Sound familiar?
So what are some of the things we can do to reduce this self-perpetuating cycle? While there are many techniques that we offer our clients during our workshops, I would like to highlight what I believe to be the single best thing you can do for each of these domains.
- Manage your time by practicing “worst first.” Everyone has something they dread doing throughout the day. Maybe it’s that sales call or perhaps it’s knocking out that piece of admin that seems like such a waste of time. Whatever it is for you, you always save it for the end of the day. By then you’re exhausted, so you put it off until tomorrow. Get into the habit of doing it first thing in the morning before you take on any other task for the day. Not only will you manage your time better, but you’ll feel less stressed and more energized as you no longer have that monkey hanging on your back.
- Manage your stress by finding a physical outlet. Nothing busts through stress like physical activity. Why is that? Because stress lives within our bodies and it has to go somewhere. Yes, it is true that we are responsible for generating our own stress as it stems from our own minds and thoughts (as opposed to the common perception that others are stressing us out). Yet, short of becoming a Zen master and learning to insert mindful behavior in the face of our body’s natural stress response, I have found nothing more effective for limiting stress levels than 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise daily. Leaders hold their boundaries firmly when it comes to making time to exercise. This means they schedule time in their calendar and protect it accordingly.
- Manage your energy by maximizing your time off. Think of your personal energy level as being like a car’s fuel tank, you can only go so long before you need to stop and refuel. Yet, not all fuel is created equal; there are various levels of octane to choose from. If you own a hi-performing vehicle, choosing the low grade gas may have significant long term impacts on your fuel injectors. Eventually the car will run sluggishly. You also are a high-performing machine. When it’s time to refuel, put the right stuff in your system. Tempting as it may be, don’t just sit on the couch and catch up on your favorite T.V. shows. Instead do the things that bring you the most energy. Maybe you love to travel, or spend time outdoors, or really invest in quality time with your family. Plan accordingly and when your downtime happens, invest in your energy reserves.
Committing to mastering these three skills can greatly increase your personal effectiveness as a leader. The key word is commitment. While we all might recognize the benefits of these skills/behaviors, only a handful of us will find the personal discipline to make it our reality. Yet, all new behaviors start with a personal choice. So what choices will you make today?
David understands how effective leadership generates success. He holds a degree in Leadership Development from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Science in Organization Development from American University. A combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, he now consults for Lead Star to Fortune 500 companies internationally. David is recognized for his creative learning designs and ability to facilitate highly engaging training events. David holds expertise in the MBTI, DiSC, and PMAI behavioral assessments, as well as in non-verbal (somatic) communication. Learn more at http://www.leadstar.us.
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