As an executive or leader, time is the most valuable commodity, and yet it is in a fixed supply. While it is obvious that time management is important, sometimes we can lose track of what is a priority in the rush of our daily work. Harvard Business School conducted a study on CEOs and found that 79% of them worked an average of 7.8 hours over the weekend, on top of 9.7 hours per weekday. An executive role is evidently a consuming one, and so ensuring that you have control over that ever-ticking clock is a priceless skill.
A proact/react ratio is one way to measure how effectively you are using your time. If you
find yourself constantly interrupted by phone calls, knocks on your office door, and in meetings on short notice, then you may be in react mode. There are so many things coming at you at once that all you can do is react to them as and when.
But imagine how it would it feel to be making the calls you wish, having the meetings you think are important, and initiating action? If you find that you have time to think and engage with your staff, you may be in proact mode. You have control over your time and delegate it accordingly, being proactive and doing things before they have the chance to become something you have to respond to later.
So how do you move from react to proact? One way is to trust the people you
hire. Careful delegation to skilled, caring people with whom you have a great professional relationship with can give you the hours to do high level work that perhaps only you can do, by virtue of your position. This will allow for valuable uses of your time, such as more customer interaction, time to understand the competition, and developing a clear vision of what could be coming down the road.
Another thought is to set a one-hour time slot in your schedule at some point during every week, in which you schedule nothing. Do not catch up on e-mails and allow no interruptions. George Mitchell, former US Senator and Secretary of State, used this method, asking his executive assistant only to interrupt him during his thinking hour if his wife or the President of the United States called. Emergencies happen, but if you can be intentional about giving yourself time to think, read, and assimilate market data, you are moving into the proact realm.
Additionally, journaling as an executive can prove to be extremely beneficial for time management. It is a great way of strategizing for future endeavours, as you can reflect on things that have happened and find ways to mitigate potential problems in the future. On top of this, it will simultaneously help strengthen your leadership capabilities – the founder of Impraise argues that leaders need to be able to master the five soft skills of active listening, self-compassion, empathy, vulnerability and honesty. The privacy and ability to be honest when journaling allows leaders to develop and hone these skills.