How to Protect and Maximize Your Time

What is your most precious asset as an executive?

Some say money and investments. Others believe their professional relationships and networks top the list. Still others put personal health, vitality, and energy as number one.

However, there is one asset that is not renewable and that makes it more precious than any other:  Your time. Every second you use up is a second you cannot get back.

While money, relationships, and health are valuable and even precious, they are all renewable to some extent. For instance, you can earn back lost money and can find new opportunities and investments to replace others that went south. You can renew relationships by repairing strained ones and by meeting new people to bolster your network. Additionally, you can make healthy choices regarding diet and exercise and can manage stress to enhance or maintain your health, vitality, and energy.

You know time is precious. Yet, at work, you act as though you have all the time in the world. You insert yourself in situations that are more suitable for or best left to others. You waste time doing things that are not essential to further your career or to achieve your company’s strategic priorities. You spend time handling tasks that are not the most important things for your particular leadership role.

The results? You feel overwhelmed. You lose focus. You fail to move the important or high-impact items forward. Consequently, your other assets suffer as well. The stress of too much to do causes a corresponding loss of energy and vitality. You do not relate as well with others because you are distracted and cannot give your full attention. Ultimately, you are apt to make poor decisions that cost money.

Time is indeed your most precious asset. To protect it, treat it as respectfully as you would your money, relationships, and health by doing the following:

  1. Measure how you use it. You routinely use data when analyzing the performance of your company, your employees, and yourself.  In the same way, gather data to measure how strategically you spend your time. Two or three weeks’ worth of data is usually enough to get an idea of the types of activities you pay attention to. Go longer to get a fuller picture. You may be surprised at what you think you spend time on versus what you do in practice.
  2. Analyze your decisions regarding how you use it. Based on your company’s strategic priorities, are you spending time on role-related tasks that move those priorities forward? Chances are you could create better alignment.
  3. Make more strategic choices going forward. Adjust the use of your time to reflect the things that are most important for your life, your role, your career, your company at present. This might mean you decide to delegate tasks to an administrative assistant or other direct report. It might mean you intentionally schedule appointments with yourself in your calendar to define and protect the time necessary to attend to priorities that are important for you.
  4. Do what it takes to set boundaries to execute those choices. Some of the biggest time wasters are interruptions, “emergencies” (usually not yours), poorly run or otherwise unproductive meetings, poor work processes, and hours spent perfecting your work product, such as memos or other reports that don’t need to be perfect.  Also set boundaries by signaling your unavailability when you need time to concentrate by shutting your door or by using your administrative assistant as a gatekeeper.

In the case of time, sunk costs are truly sunk forever. For more impact, maximize the time you spend at work. You will be surprised at how your personal productivity increases.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.