Let’s face it. There’s way more to do in any given week than you can possibly do. What you can do, however, is manage your week in a way that gives you the best chance of living and leading at your best.
For example, I recently talked with an assistant general counsel during a leadership workshop that I was doing for the big company she works for. We were talking about time management strategies and she shared how she organizes her week.
She manages a pretty large team of corporate attorneys and, like most managers, has a lot of meetings she needs to participate in. She tries to fill up every Thursday with those meetings and schedules as little as possible the rest of the week. As she described what her Thursdays are like – back-to-back meetings for 8 or 9 hours – I could sense that that was not her favorite day of the week. I asked if her energy was more extroverted or introverted. She said it was the latter and I responded that she must be pretty exhausted by Thursday night. She said she absolutely was but she recovers on Fridays by working from home and following up on all the commitments and to-do’s she gathered in the Thursday meetings. By doing that, she ends her week with a relatively clean slate and can focus on herself and her family over the weekend. Finally, I asked her what she’s usually doing Monday through Wednesday and she immediately answered, “I coach my team.” She keeps the first three days of the week clear to deal with whatever challenges or requests for help her attorneys have.
So, her story is just one example of how one leader organizes her week to live and lead at her best. While your conditions and mileage may vary, I think there are some core lessons you can take from her story that, if applied, will help you to have more of your best weeks:
Know and Honor Your Big Rocks: The leader in my story is clear about what the big rocks or priorities are that she needs to attend to each week – her team, her other colleagues, the decisions she needs to make, her family and herself. She schedules herself so her big rocks get first dibs on her time and attention. That’s a proactive rather than a reactive approach to calendar management. Taking a proactive approach around your big rocks is pretty much the only way you’re ever going to have your best week.
Batch by Energy Impact: One thing this leader was extremely tuned into was her energy. As an introvert, she recognized that larger group meetings were energy drainers for her. So, rather than having several hours each day of energy drainers, she batched almost all of that on one day of the week. A key to her success was working alone the next day so she could recover from all of the interaction the day before while still getting important work done. Focusing on herself and her family over the weekend further renewed her energy for the one-on-one and small group coaching sessions she did with her team Monday through Wednesday. Of the things that you typically do in a week, which ones create energy for you and which ones drain your energy? As much as you can, batch your activities so you can manage your energy in a way that leads to your best week.
Set and Enforce Boundaries – Here’s a secret that’s not often discussed. All of the great leaders set and enforce personal boundaries. They know what they need to live and lead at their best and plan their weeks so they can invest time in those things. It might not be their optimal amount in any given week, but, in almost every week, it’s at least some amount of time. These leaders know and understand that the only person who’s going to take care of them is them. They establish boundaries that enable themselves to do that and then enforce those boundaries. The woman whose story I shared here does all of that.
I regularly work with groups of high potential leaders who are on the road to running flat out until they crash. We’ll talk about the pace they’re keeping and how they’re struggling with it and, almost invariably, someone in the group will say they don’t manage their life that way. Instead, they set boundaries at work that, unless there is a legitimate emergency, they don’t cross. They end up with time for their family, time to take care of themselves, time to think, time to relax. They’re still viewed as high potential leaders and many of the ones I know who organize their weeks this way have gone on to top level roles in their organizations. If you want to have your best weeks, you need to set and enforce some boundaries. What would make a difference for you on that front?
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