Sometimes the most difficult person to manage is our self. We can stand apart from others and easily see where corrections are needed or training would benefit, but when it comes time to turn our gaze on our own habits, we become mysteriously blind, unable to see the simple things that would help us become more effective leaders. With that in mind, Dr. Bill Mathis of the Mathis Group offers up these seven tips for self-management.
1. Manage Your Time
There are several practical things everyone can do to manage their time more efficiently. The first is to find a calendar system that works for you. Ideally, this calendar will be in some format that is easily shared with a few key people. Online calendars, such as the one offered by Google or Outlook, have functionality that allows events to be categorized (family, work, personal) and shared with spouses, coworkers and friends respectively. Large wall calendars (sold on dry erase boards at office supply stores) can also be effective. Whatever system you choose, use it to manage all of your commitments. Don’t be afraid to block out free time, too. By moving your calendar out of your head, you will reduce missed opportunities and the stress that goes along with them.
The second most important thing you can do to manage your time better is to get organized. If you don’t already have one, devise a filing system and get your workspace structured. You need a place for everything, and everything needs to be in its place. Time and energy spent searching through piles of paper is simply wasted. Consider reading David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done,” for some excellent organization tools. Or, if your ready to get serious about getting organized, hire a consulting company such as the Mathis Group to help you get your things in order. Whatever you need to do, do it. You are too busy to waste time on being disorganized.
Lastly, reconsider what is worth your time and what isn’t. You would not have reached this point in your career without a plethora of skills under your belt, but as the individual running the show, it’s your job to know which tasks are worth your time, and which need to be delegated.
2. Manage Your Priorities
Get comfortable with delegation. As leaders, we wear more hats in a day than a monkey at the circus, but often all that multitasking is not the most efficient way to work. We will get more done for our organization if we can recognize that we have certain skills that are unique, and others that are shared. It is your duty, as a leader, to delegate the jobs that others can do, and save your time and skills for the tasks a leader must manage.
After you’ve delegated any chores that can be shared, you must then prioritize the work on your plate. This is where your calendar will come in handy. In a glance you will be able to see what deadlines are most pressing, and know right where to begin working. Block out periods of time to focus, without interruption, on one project at a time. It will get done faster, with less energy.
3. Manage Your Energy
There are always things to be done and people that need our help. However, the greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness. The best way to manage your energy is to corral your busyness into a specific period of time, and not allow it to intrude on the rest of your schedule. Some people designate the first hour of the day as busy time. They use that hour to deal with emails, respond to requests from employees, and make brief phone calls. Anything that can be done in less than ten minutes is relegated to this time slot, and multitasking reigns supreme. However, anything that takes more than ten minutes is put onto the calendar to be dealt with later in the day, with greater focus and attention. Once the hour of busy time is over, effective people slow things down, and channel their energy into specific projects. Calls are allowed to go to voicemail and email is turned off. Depending on how busy you are, you may need two hours of busy time—one in the morning and one at night—or even three. Some people find it easier to have one day of the week when all manner of minutia are dealt with, reserving the rest of the week for larger projects. Whatever works for you, find a space to put your busy work, and save your energy for the larger tasks at hand.
4. Manage Your Thinking
One of the reasons that busyness is the enemy of good thinking is that it keeps our thoughts skipping along the surface like a stone on a lake. Big projects and unique challenges require deep thinking. In order to let our minds sink into a question and really explore solutions, we have to manage our thoughts, and make time for them.
When something comes your way that needs this sort focused of attention, make use of your calendar. Block out time to just sit and think. Keep a notepad and pen on the side of your desk so that as unrelated thoughts invade you can make a note of them and let them go without getting distracted. Recognize that simply sitting and thinking through a problem, whether by yourself or with a collaborator, is some of the most important work you do.
5. Manage Your Emotions
Emotions can be sources of great power when we are aware of them, and chose our actions carefully; Fear can make our senses sharper and prepare us for unknown dangers. Love can bond us to our families and give us strength. Anger can spur us to action when others wallow in apathy. But when emotions get the better of us, when we forget to be mindful of our actions, emotions can also be a source of great suffering.
People with emotional issues have 144% more accidents than those with healthy coping mechanisms. When we struggle emotionally we tend to snap at our coworkers more frequently, vent frustrations at ill-chosen moments, and increase stress for everyone in our work place. If you are experiencing emotional trouble, as everyone does from time to time, consider seeking professional help. Having someone to talk to can make all the difference in getting control of your emotions. By doing so you will transform your emotions from an energy drain, to a source of great power.
6. Manage Your Words
Once we have control of our emotions, we are much more capable of managing our words. The best managers are careful with their words and use them sparingly. They do this by taking the time, internally, to assess situations, recognize their emotions, determine their own biases, and cut directly to the core of what needs to be discussed. It is a skill that takes practice, but is well worth the effort.
7. Manage Your Personal Life
Managing your personal life begins with the recognition that you have one. No matter who you are, you continue to exist when you leave the office, and whether you share the details of your personal life or not, it will inevitably affect your professional performance. Take the time to find a work/life balance and then foster it.
Make sure important family events are on your master calendar, and treat them with the same reverence you treat business meetings. Likewise, explain to your family if there will be times that you have to work late. Make time for the gym. Schedule lunch with friends. Take care of yourself, so that you are able to take care of others.
Managing our time and priorities, our energy and emotions is not something that comes easy. It’s a wisdom born not just of age, but of intention, and reaching out for assistance is one of the smartest things we can do. To find out how Mathis Group can help guide you through the process of self-management, contact us today.