It’s difficult to find the time to do everything on your list at work, let alone in life.
And if you really drill down on it, there are at least seven things in leadership most leaders feel there will never be enough time for…unless, of course, you make it.
These also happen to be seven things all the smartest leaders always make time for.
It’s amazing to me, but when you talk to leaders who operate at the highest level, they seem to have time for exercise, family, vacation and the five other things on this list.
It’s easy to get mad at them and pretend they live in some artificial bubble, while you go back into your very real world and complain about how slammed you are.
I get it. My guess is that whenever you read this, you’re already feeling pinched for time and a bit overwhelmed.
Welcome to leadership. Welcome to life.
Before we get to the seven things smart leaders always make time for, please know that if you scroll to the bottom of the post, I have some free, practical training and resources for you that will help you boost productivity in 2019. By following the strategies I share, you’ll have time for some of these seven things, and maybe all of them.
In the meantime, if you study the differences between great leaders and poor leaders (as I outlined here), many of the best leaders are pro-active. They refuse to make excuses and they have an abundance mindset (not a ridiculous mindset, just an abundance mindset).
Another key difference is that great leaders refuse to let their days get sucked up by meeting after useless meeting, email and being pulled into other people’s urgent priorities.
If you’ve ever made it Friday and had a hard time answering the question “What did I accomplish this week?” it might be because you failed to make time for these seven things for which great leaders always make time.
So, if you really want to edge up your leadership and begin accomplishing something significant, start making time for these seven things. And remember, read through the end for some free help on freeing up the time to do exactly that.
1. INVESTING IN YOUR BEST PEOPLE
Guess who will monopolize your time if you’re not proactive?
Your most problematic people. Problem people will occupy your calendar unless you decide they won’t.
When volunteer X didn’t show up for the fifth time, most leaders will spend incredible time and effort trying to fix that. Or you’ll get yet another meeting request from person Y, who always seems to have some irresolvable crisis going on in his life.
And in the process, your best leaders will be ignored.
Your best people—the ones who show up on time, every time, prepared and ready to do an exceptional job—rarely ask to meet with you. They never call you. They never bother you.
A great leadership practice is to spend the majority of your one-on-one time with your best people.
It makes them better.
It makes you better.
It moves your mission forward faster.
And—let’s be honest—it’s not like the problem people really get better as a result of your meeting with them anyway. They continue to be problematic.
So, cut your losses and spend the bulk of your time with your best people.
2. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
There’s never enough time to do an awesome job planning for the future.
But if you study top performers, you realize they do something many other leaders don’t: They spend significant amounts of time working on plans for the future.
Naturally, they execute as well, but having a carefully crafted and shared mission, vision, strategy and even a set of values can guide your organization beautifully into the future.
If you don’t plan for the future, the future will simply happen to you.
If you plan for it, you’ll shape it.
When was the last time you took a full day—or even a full week—to work on the future?
No one will ever ask you to do it, they’ll just criticize you if you don’t. So do it.
3. YOUR HIGHEST VALUE PROJECTS
If you broke what you do into categories from ‘lowest value’ to ‘highest value,’ you’d learn something interesting.
You will naturally spend most of your time doing the things that provide the least value: answering email, going to meetings that went too long, didn’t need to happen or that you shouldn’t have attended, and answering questions that really didn’t move your mission forward.
Think about it this way: If you didn’t engage in any of the above for a week, what would truly be lost (other than having a full inbox to empty?).
But you also do things that provide exceptionally high value. While it will vary from leader to leader, for me, those things would be creating great sermon series, setting objectives for the months and years ahead and ensuring our senior leaders are healthy and on-mission. I know when I do those things well, our church does best.
In my personal time, I blog, podcast and write. Recently, I’ve cut back on the number of original blog posts I’m writing so I can focus on launching my new book, Didn’t See It Coming. The decision was simple. Something had to give, and I believe a well-written book has the potential to help many more leaders over a longer window of time than a 1,200 word blog post.
If you consistently spend time on high-value projects, you will have a far greater legacy as a leader than leaders who don’t.
So what’s the greatest value you bring to your organization? Budget significant time for that.
I avoided this for too long in my leadership. For the first decade in my time in leadership, I hardly exercised.
Ironically, I worked more hours and got less done.
While I’m not perfect in my exercise routine, exercise has been a bigger part of my life in the last five years than at any other point. So has proper sleep (see point 5, below).
Perhaps not coincidentally, in the window in which I’ve exercised the most and slept the best, our church has grown to the largest it’s ever been. I’ve also written three books, launched this blog and launched a leadership podcast.
This may not be a coincidence.