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Know your fit - A fitting time

Back to the Future. The Butterfly Effect. These two fascinating movies explore a topic we all like to consider. . . time travel. The BBC series Doctor Who has its premise around a Time Lord who travels through time to stop the destruction of the world. Maybe our fascination with time travel is because we love the idea of a real-life ‘control Z’ to undo mistakes or bad situations. The Butterfly Effect covers this in a haunting fashion as each different alternative has consequences, some of them fatal. In Back to the Future, Marty McFly discovers how his stepping into the past has consequences on his parents getting together and he needs to rectify this or personally suffer the consequences. Fantasy stories about time travel, prey on a basic fear that how we spend our time does have consequences.

How we spend ‘time’ is an important aspect of leading others. Spending it on the right things that have an impact can transform a situation. “I need some help with my time management.” It is a phrase I hear quite a bit when I am coaching leaders. The truth is, at the root of it, it is not a question of how to manage time. It is a question of how to manage our minds. It is about understanding our priorities, knowing how and when we work best and knowing the things that sabotage us using time well and taking control of it. We can’t control time, but we can control our minds.

Know your priorities

What separates great leaders from ok leaders? Great leaders have really clear priorities and are passionate and determined to achieve them. There are always a million and one things that come to our desks to demand our time. How do you decide what takes your time? What helps you to prioritise and filter them? I use the Eisenhower grid to help leaders decipher what is urgent and important for them to decide what to take on for themselves and what is urgent but not important for them to do and can be delegated. However, before you pick up the grid, you need to know what is your purpose and your priority at this time. That helps you decide what is important. Everyday Leader has the purpose to empower people. So, when things come in to do, we reflect on whether it gives us the opportunity to empower people to decide its priority.

The next stage comes when establishing the current priorities. What needs your focus at this time? Is it growing the business? Is it a deeper connection with customers or stakeholders? Is it about developing a more targeted marketing funnel to reach the right kind of customer? Whatever your priority is, this drives the amount of time and how quickly you give it time.

Know your best times

Purpose and priorities help decide 'what' needs to be done. Next comes some time juggling and ‘when’ you do something. Knowing your best fit time is important to get the best from yourself. Some of us are Larks and like working early. Some of us are Owls and like working later. Where is your peak part of the day? Generally, I am more productive in thinking tasks in the morning. So, the development of training material for me is best done in the morning. What about you? When are the best times of the day for you for thinking tasks?

The time after lunch can be a typical time when the body wants to sleep a little and digest any food. So, maybe thinking tasks after lunch is not great. I find active, people engagement works best for me after lunch as they keep me alert.

The length of time available can often dictate the task. In between appointments I sometimes have 30 minutes. This is probably not the time for a big strategic piece of work, but ideal for a phone conversation, a couple of emails or some short practical creative tasks.

Timetabling out your week to know where you have heavy days and where they are clearer, can help you allocate tasks more helpfully. There is little point in putting three 2-hour tasks on a day that is already full of meetings. Knowing the best day that fits ensures that you are not frustrated as you are in control of your list and when you do it.

Know your tasks

Just as children work out the shape of the object and the shape of the hole in their shape sorter toy, we also need to know the size of the task so we can allocate it. Break it down into its component parts and work out what each part takes. Then you know when you can allocate different parts to be completed.

Know your saboteurs

In Back to the Future, Biff seemed to thwart some of Marty’s plans. We can often settle down to a task but we have saboteurs trying to stop us. Email notifications, text and WhatsApp group notifications. We know we need two hours to focus on a strategic task and these ‘pings’ can act as gremlins invading our thoughts and drawing us away. So, turn them off or to silent. As leaders, our people can interrupt thinking time too. So, letting people know when it is an ‘emergency only’ time so you can complete the task efficiently without interruption can remove the chance of distraction.

We can't travel back in time and change what happened. We can travel forward in time and plan our time to get to where we want to by the time we want it to happen. All it takes is a little planning and then you are indeed a time lord!

If you would like help to manage your mind to make the best use of your time, contact us at Everyday Leader. We can empower you to feel more fit for purpose. Give us a call at 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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