It seems to be the single biggest stressor for most of my clients.
Number one lament – “I don’t have enough, I’m always busy, my ‘to do’ list is a mile long.”
Number two lament – “What do I do first? I have so many conflicting priorities, and I can’t do it all.”
This, amongst other things, has prompted me to think about time. How precious it is. How it flies. How depending on what you are doing it can drag on, or zip past in a heartbeat.
I have been thinking in fact, how scary it is when we say "I don't know what I have done today", or "where has this week/month/year gone?"
I often talk about the concept that it's not what you know, or who you know, but actually, how you spend your time that makes the difference.
Speak to someone you know that you perceive to be really successful, has it all together and is making it seem effortless. I guarantee that if you ask enough questions, a couple of things will become pretty clear.
I bet that they:
- are really focussed on what they want to achieve
- are very deliberate in how they allocate their time
- know what they are great at, and seek to surround themselves with others that complement their skills.
I constantly check in on what I am doing to make sure I am 'walking the walk'. As soon as I find myself getting frazzled, working crazy hours or getting stressed about something, I ask myself "what advice would I give my clients?".
So my advice to you, if you are feeling frazzled, exhausted, out of control, under the pump, inundated, behind the eight-ball, chasing your tail, or any other variation on the theme, is this:
1. Understand what you are great at. What is it that you do when you are operating in your 'zone of genius' and on fire? Where are you getting energy, making money, adding value and loving every minute of it?
2. Get rid of anything that drains your energy, feels like a weight around your neck, doesn't make you money or get you any closer to your vision.
3. Make sure you have a crystal clear vision. Knowing where you want to go is the first step in being able to prioritise your time. Don't know what you want to achieve? Then yes, you are going to struggle to work out what's most important, and filter out the noise.
If you think this is starting to sound familiar, then you are right. I have talked about all these tips before, and I will keep riffing on these themes for the simple reason that they WORK!
If you want to achieve anything, you need to get that vision in place, work out where you are most effective, and let go of your ego to outsource, partner, delegate and automate everything else.
"It's not that simple."
Actually it is.
It may take several attempts and a bit of help, but if you decide it's a priority to be more deliberate about how you spend your time, it is very do-able.
Here are two examples from my last fortnight for you to ponder below.
One of my clients is a very successful businessman. He has been in business for years, makes great money, and has a reputation that any business would covet.
He is exhausted. He can't go on holidays. He just can't get in front of the endless stream of tasks. He is actually thinking of throwing in the towel because it feels way too hard.
So we had a good look at his business, and what he is doing. Turns out that in a 60 hour plus week, he is spending over 50% of his time (that's over 30 hours) doing things that he shouldn't be doing. They don't play to his strengths, they weigh heavily on his energy, and they don't move him closer to his vision.
So what can we do? We are already moving lots of tasks off his plate, invigorating his team, getting clear on who does what, and automating and outsourcing tasks that are currently weighing the business down.
Now he has time to think about growth strategies, and has the confidence to bring in new business again. Not to mention being able to take some time off.
This lady is a senior leader who is brilliant at what she does.
Trouble is, she is exhausted, chasing her tail, always feeling like she is failing, and basically can't give any more. Sound familiar?
She is at the end of her tether, and wondering if she is capable of being a leader at all.
She worries that it was just luck that landed her the role.
She is absolutely capable, and luck had nothing to do with it. But right now she isn't being an effective leader.
Because she is trying to take the load off her team. Live up to the responsibility of being the leader. Prove that she is in the trenches with everyone else.
Great motivation, I agree. But she is going about it the wrong way.
Right now, in her effort to 'work hard' and 'role up her sleeves', her week is disappearing in a blur of meetings and reacting to new crises. She finally gets to catch up on her 'real job' after hours, when she is tired and stressed.
And the biggest casualty of all?
She doesn't have time or energy to spend time with her team. Ironic huh?
The hard reality is that the role of the leader is not to sink neck deep into tasks. Whilst it may feel that this is where you help your team the most, you actually just perpetuate the problems that are lurking under the surface.
So what are we doing?
This leader is taking a step back. She is freeing up her diary and setting some boundaries. She is trusting her team to do their jobs, and is spending her time setting up an environment where they can all be successful. This will take some time, both for her to re-adjust and for her team. But already it is paying dividends.
So the moral of the story? Whether you are running a business or a team, as the leader, your role is not to drown in tasks, but to set the vision and create an environment for success.
When you are drowning in 'busyness', you lack perspective and don't have the mental space to plan your next move, be creative or spend your time where you are most effective.