I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thought they didn’t have a full load.

I bet you think you have a slammed schedule, with no room for one more thing. We all think that way. And though we may sometimes want to take on “busy schedules” competitively and see who has the busier schedule, the fact is we’re all busy, relatively speaking. We’re all looking for ways to be more productive.

That goes triple for a director with a team of people to oversee. You’re schedule might be busy, but when you’re managing teams of five, ten, twenty people, it gets downright hairy pretty quickly.

I know I struggle with it. Rarely a day ends that I’m not sick of emails, sick of phone calls, sick of meetings, sick of people. It doesn’t always last too long, but it’s inevitable, nonetheless. And with so many people depending on you to check this, approve that, meet here, etc., you can make it through a whole day doing everything everyone else wanted you to do and not a thing you wanted to accomplish.

That’s where a simple principle I call “the Army Slogan” approach helps out.

You may recall that the Army used to have a slogan that “we get more done by 9 a.m. than most people do in a whole day.” Not sure if that’s much of a benefit to get me to sign up for the army, but it is a killer productivity principle.

But rather than wake up to the sound of cornets at 4 a.m. and hitting the trail for a few miles, I simply twist the mantra to my liking to make sure I don’t waste the day. My version goes a lil’ something like this:

I’m going to get my most important to-do done by 10 a.m. so the rest of the day is gravy.

My not quite as catchy, but when I’m on a roll and doing it, it works.

When my schedule is normal, I can typically get most single key tasks done between 8:30 and 10 a.m. I also try to leave my schedule open until 10 a.m., partially to make room for getting these tasks done, and partially so I can caffeine up.;-) Then, as a stressful day ensues, I can at least rest assured that I accomplished that one key item.

As a leader of teams, sometimes that’s all you have time to execute yourself in a day. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your main job is to get things off your plate and onto your team members’, with clear direction. So the idea of getting one key item completed yourself a day could be  a revolutionary practice.

Of course, there are those days when your office time simply isn’t going to release the time between 8:30 and 10. For me, that typically means I’m starting early at home. Though I may lose an hour or two of sleep, it’s typically worth the price, especially on that drive into the office for a busy day, knowing I’ve at least knocked out that key task for the day before the day even starts.

I continue to gain new appreciation for productivity the more time I spend in a leadership role. How do you make sure you’re knocking out the important stuff on a daily basis?

Keys to this post:

  1. Identify one key task that you want to accomplish on a single day.
  2. Do everything you can to complete it by 10 a.m.
  3. Clear your schedule through 10 a.m. if you can
  4. If you can’t, get up early and have it done before you ever leave for the office.

 

 

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