Life is busy. We run from meeting to meeting adding additional items of things to do on our ever increasing list of items to be done. In between meetings we check our email, facebook, twitter or LinkedIn accounts. On the phone we multi-task by responding to the many instant “urgent” messages that are flashing via MSN or Skype. We race home to begin the juggle with family – cooking dinner, supervising homework, meanwhile responding to emails, phone texts, writing reports and making new notes of the additional things we need to do the next day.
Yet at the end of the week we find the business development proposal, recommended organization structural change, the new marketing plan or policy [you can insert any key project you should be completing], has not really progressed in the way we wanted or in the way our business really needs.
Our sense of satisfaction wanes as we see many items achieved but not together representing a milestone measure of true value, progress and success. We know we need to do better…if only we had the time to plan? Or more people to help?
Does this sound like you? Or at least like you some of the time? I know I have fallen into the trap of “busyness” before, spreading myself too thin, and have needed to consciously take steps to pull myself out, take ownership of my time again and reset my focus.
It certainly is a common problem and one that many of us face or fall into the trap of doing from time to time. This type of high pressured chaos may be felt like an unreasonable workload thrown upon us, but more than likely this will be a problem of focus, a problem of prioritization and a problem of learning to say “no” without feeling guilty.
The person who owns and is responsible for managing your time and achieving the best outcomes with your time and your team is you. And only you can change the way you approach your day and week to sharpen your focus and thus maximize your effectiveness.
Here are some simple steps to sharpen your focus and start making greater progress:
- Revisit your business vision, strategy and goals. The more concise your business proposition is and who it is likely to help, the more likely your actions and those of others will help it stay on course. Once this proposition and your business goals are clear and easy to articulate, it becomes easier to sharpen your focus on the most important elements and targets to ensure you get there. If it is not clear to you or those who are leading, then it certainly will not be clear to those that are following.
- What do you need to do to ensure your business achieves what it is looking to do? Be clear about your key responsibilities and the key things you should be doing to ensure you and your business achieve this. At any one time you should be focusing on no more than three major projects. Build in time to reflect on your progress and that of your team’s against your business goals and revisit anything you know is not really working.
- What is the overall plan project outline and what needs to be done by when? Make a conscious list of priorities and develop a weekly plan to give you the right amount of time to spend on each item. The more tangible your goals and timeframes are, the easier it is to know how to approach your priorities, resources, workload and keep everything on track.
- Identify how much can be delegated. What can be handed over and to whom? Plan how many items can be handed over. Spend the time with your team to help them also prioritize and see where they can make a major impact on the business. The more focus they have, the greater the results you will see being delivered. You also are creating an achievement culture where success motivates everyone and you will find even more can be achieved.
- Weigh up those list items you can say no to. If you see too many competing priorities within projects, pick the top three things you should be focusing and begin the process of weighing up each item further down the list with the question “what would happen if I did not do this?”. If the answer is not fatal, then find the discipline to say “No” and make sure you reset expectations in your organization. Saying yes to everything on your list is an easy thing to do but much harder to deliver. Practicing the art of saying no, remembering to help your manager and team identify what they too can say no to helps sharpen focus within your organization. Focusing on the key things you should be doing will have a major impact on your business and will give everyone a chance to do those things well.
- Plan each day and approach it with discipline. Set aside specific times to review and plan your day (first thing in the morning before heading to the office is a good time). Set aside specific times to review and respond to emails, phone calls and messages as well as time to write your plan or proposal – making sure you are writing any plans or proposals at the freshest point in the day. Identify who you need to speak to and allocate an appropriate time. Don’t overschedule your diary. It is easy to book every 15 minutes and there may be many times you need to, however it takes enormous discipline to keep to schedule.
Sharpening your focus brings you much closer to achieving your business targets.
As your targets change over time, you may need to also revisit the resources that are available to you. As a manager, you need to ensure you are equipped to do your job and that of your team’s well. To do this you will also need to set aside time to work on recruitment and your people development. Remember that your people are your greatest asset. By helping coach them to sharpen their focus, it will bring an enormous return on the power of what you as a team can achieve.