How top leaders manage their time: 7 effective strategies for managers

hourglass next to calender

Putting in more hours and still not getting through the to-do list? Ditch the balancing act, take a step back and optimise your time management with these leader-specific strategies.

As a manager, getting through your daily duties can sometimes feel like spinning plates. Just as you’ve got everything balanced, there’s always a few more tasks looking to take up space on your to-do list.

Before you know it, things start to wobble, you’re running to and fro, and now there’s a whole lot of broken crockery on the floor. Extended metaphor aside, if being unable to stay on top of your tasks through the day sounds familiar, then you may need to work on managing your time.

If you’re in a leadership position, it’s crucial that you can deal with an increasing workload. Without the right time management tools at our disposal, we run the risk of burning out. And when we’re stressed, our mood, decision-making and productivity can take a downward turn.

The need for strong time management strategies is more important now than ever. As the lines of the work-life balance blur due to ongoing restrictions, it’s crucial to distinguish between the two so we can give ourselves something positive to look forward to once we’ve downed tools when working from home.

If you’ve felt the time slipping away from you during the day, then be sure to check out these top-notch time management tips to help you get more done without having to put in the extra hours.

businesswoman looking at her watch

  1. Plan out each day

As ad-hoc requests and roadblocks crop up during the day, plans are bound to change. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans at all.

Every night before bed, put together an agenda for the next day that weighs up the responsibilities to deal with tomorrow, leaving some space free. Not only will this give you time to take on your workload, but it will give you space to take on additional tasks that crop up.

Although planning is important, even the best-laid plans can go awry. A lot of your day may be taken up by devoting time and attention to things that we can’t plan for, so be sure to account for this when planning each day.

  1. Prioritise your daily, weekly and monthly tasks

When planning your days, you’ll be able to pinpoint the things you need to prioritise over the coming days, weeks and months. By keeping an eye out for these future tasks, you can divide your workload and spread things out, so you aren’t taking on too much. This also helps to give things a greater structure, allowing you to stay on track with your daily goals.

To do this, make a list of every single task or duty you have to tackle, and then take some time breaking these down into daily, weekly and monthly tasks. By breaking things up this way, it’s much easier to stay focused on the day to day, without having to worry about what’s on the horizon.

  1. Work out when you work best

Everyone has a time of the day when they can achieve peak performance and get the heavy lifting of their to-do lists out the way. For some, it may be first thing in the morning, for others, their personal best comes later in the day.

Whenever your own time may be, make sure your diary accounts for it; you may want to take on larger, more challenging tasks during this time, for instance. And be sure to let your team know of this window too; make it a calendar event on the company-wide calendar, so others know not to fill it up with meetings and other requests.

hand holding clock over laptop

  1. Avoid multi-tasking

As a manager, you may think you’re duty-bound to take on multiple tasks at the same time. But great leaders know that it’s simply not possible.

While you may think recreating The Myth of Sisyphus is some sort of noble venture, you can only keep pushing that boulder up the hill for so long before it starts tumbling down on you. Put simply, attempting to complete multiple tasks or assignments at the same time can put a massive dent in your productivity and performance.

It’s possible to get more things done while only working on one thing at a time, and complete it to a higher standard too. You can’t give every task your best if you’re splitting your attention between two or more duties.

  1. Use a timer

Using a timer may sound like too simplistic a method to gain any real results, but it’s actually one of the most effective time management tactics there is. Doing so reminds you of breaks, sets time limits, and reduces your tendency to procrastinate.

Timing out parts of your day to know when you should be working, and when you should take breaks is a huge part of managing your time. It allows you to go full throttle, before reminding you to take a break and ease off the gas.

Timers can set constraints for specific tasks too. By giving yourself a set amount of time to complete certain duties, it pushes you to get things done, thereby making you more productive.

One of the best timer-based strategies is the Pomodoro Technique, a simple yet powerful strategy which helps you manage multiple tasks.

stressed businessmen sat at desk

  1. Learn the power of saying “no”

Yes and no are powerful words in the workplace. If your to-do list never seems to dwindle, then it may be because you’re a little too willing to take on others’ requests.

Instead of being over-eager in adding to your workload, try getting in the habit of saying “no”. This allows you to manage your time more effectively, and to do a better job of the tasks you should be doing.

  1. Respond realistically to requests

When ad-hoc requests come in, pushing back deadlines buys us some more of the reactive time mentioned above. There’s a tendency to respond to client and colleague requests of “when can you get this done by?” by blurting out the soonest possible time, without considering our other commitments.

Don’t be afraid to respond realistically to these requests by suggesting a day or two, or even a week or two later, than initially expected. More often than not, the person making the request will be happy to wait. And this way, it’s possible to deliver before any expected deadlines and still deal with other duties.

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