I’ll get straight to it. Three minutes tops.
We’re supposed to be the strategy engines for our businesses, yeah? But we get stuck managing “stuff”, don’t we? As you read this, keep this key in mind: “It’s better to be effective than busy.”
Step 1: List your 4-5 highest-value activities as a strategic individual contributor.
Here’s a list to spark ideas. Or create your own:
- Business improvement time:
- Figuring out how to maximize growth in profits.
- Aggressively pruning your responsibilities.
- Finding ways to outsource or delegate.
- Developing systems to automate or simplify your life and business.
- Reflection, contemplation, and innovation time:
- Going on walks to think important thoughts.
- Brainstorming, whiteboarding, and crafting experiments.
- Customer-facing time:
- Talking to customers and learning stuff.
- Honing and testing your brand.
- Finding your ideal customer profile and niching down.
- Driving profitable sales.
- Personal optimization time
- Stretching and exercising.
- Reading books or following key influencers on LinkedIn.
- Getting mentored or coached.
- Journaling, meditation, prayer, etc.
Explicitly exclude things such as:
- Making sure everyone is busy.
- Make sure you answer every email promptly.
- Handling tactical, busy work just because you’re good at it.
- Saying yes to everyone/everything wanting some time right now.
- Doing routine stuff just because it’s routine.
- Stuff that’s frequently urgent but doesn’t move the dial for your business.
Step 2. Cement that high-value stuff into your calendar.
- Use 30-to-90-minute blocks depending on the activity.
- Create daily repeating appointments that go for at least a year.
- Put your most strategic items in timeslots when you think the best.
- Make sure at least a little of that time does not involve “work.” Walks, books, exercise, etc., are all good ways to calm your brain and minimize decision fatigue.
Step 3. (Critical) Book 90 minutes for managing your operation.
This is when you’ll do things like:
- Delete emails (or answer them if they’re important).
- Delete voicemails and texts (or answer them if they’re important).
- Answer your team’s tactical questions.
- Shuffle papers around.
You’re not booking this time to make room for busy work. You’re doing it to constrain busy work. This is immensely important.
Step 4. Leave some flexible time open
As you build your calendar, leave 2 or 3 hours open for ad-hoc appointments, like mentoring an employee, having a strategy meeting with the team, providing training, delegating important task work, meeting with a customer, etc. Just not busy work.
Your calendar now has 3 things:
- Your important strategic times.
- Your time for managing the company (90 minutes).
- Two or three hours of open, flexible time for providing value to your team as needed.
Ok, so you have your calendar built. Now, what do you do?
First, stick with your calendar. At the end of each day, decide what specific work you’ll do during each of your high-value slots the next day.
Second, empower your people by offloading tasks that will level them up but hold you down.
Third, when something interrupts your schedule, here’s how you deal with it:
Option 1: Say no (eliminate, automate, delegate, procrastinate, etc.)
Option 2: Say not yet. Ask them to come back during your “managing the business” time.
Option 3: If it’s totally unavoidable, such as a potential sale or a serious emergency during your “brainstorming” time, move your “brainstorming” time to one of your open slots. Don’t just skip it.
This discipline will change the way you run your business forever. It will transform your 1, 3, and 5-year outlook. Why? Because it will transform you.
- Decide what’s important.
- Put it on your calendar in stone.
- Add 90 minutes for managing the operation.
- Leave some time open for providing spontaneous value.
- Stick with your calendar.