Improving Leadership Skills: Focus on Planning, Prioritizing, and Delegating

Think of the meaning to these five simple words, “I didn’t have enough time.” Why is it that some people never have enough time to establish clear-cut goals or daily priorities – yet successful people always manage their time productively to achieve their goals?

Efficient time management enhances the quality of your life by maximizing your productive time and minimizing your wasted time. Everyone has the same amount of time, and each segment of time we must use instantly. Your success in life will  be determined substantially by how you utilize the time you receive every day. Anyone who wants to improve their leadership skills will need to master the steps of planning, prioritizing, practicing efficient daily work habits, and delegating.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Successful people realize they must use their minutes and hours wisely to move them closer to their goals. When you begin to manage your time productively, you will undoubtedly gain a sense of control over your life.

I would like to share with you what I learned from the following list of recommended readings: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, 18 Minutes, by Peter Bregman, and Success is not an accident by Tommy Newberry.

Consider that your daily work habits determine your outcome. Your present work habits are obviously producing your current level of results. If you are going to create a higher level of success you are going to have to change some work habits. The first step is to make a list of all of the habits that lead to unproductive time, for example procrastinating, disorganization, taking unproductive phone calls, becoming engaged in unproductive meetings, working on too many projects at one time, spending time on tasks not aligned with goals, doing jobs someone else should be doing.

The second step is to utilize the following tips to help you improve your work habits, allowing you to utilize your time more productively while also improving your leadership skills.

The Planning steps

1)    First, you must know where you want to go in the next 3-5 years. Your goals must be specific and be in writing; your goals should focus on just one or two major things; they must be measurable.

2)    Break your goals down into smaller steps. Any goal can be achieved if you break it down into a series of small achievable tasks that can be accomplished one step at a time. Think in terms of a one month time frame.

3)    As you plan your actions, pause to stop and think what is important, where are you going, how are you going to get there, what actions are the most important to give you the biggest return on your time.

4)    To achieve your shorter term goals, compile a weekly to- do list and at the end of each day convert the weekly list down into a daily to- do list. Each evening, or each morning, develop a written daily plan where you are going to spend your time.

5)    Prioritize your daily list down to 1-5 things you must do that day. Then pick one thing you absolutely must finish; do that task first. Remember, being busy does not equate to productive work that will achieve desired goals. The 80/20 rule will almost always apply: twenty percent of the to do tasks on your list will produce eighty percent of your results, so it makes sense to focus your efforts on the top twenty percent to receive the best return on your time. Prioritizing the tasks helps you spend your time doing the right things.

6)    The to- do list is a good selection or direction tool to guide you. But to get tasks done you must not only prioritize but also make decisions regarding when and where.  Planning when and where is critical to getting things done. Place your priority tasks on a calendar to decide what days they will get done and where they will get done. Set appointments for items that need to get done outside of your office or home.  Start with the tasks that are a priority. Place the most important tasks at the beginning of the day on your calendar to make sure they get done before anything else

7)    You need an in- progress list to help clear your mind to stay focused on your priorities. Your in-progress list is comprised of tasks you have started but are stalled while you wait for a reply to an email, more information, etc.

8)    Uncompleted tasks bog us down and hold us back. Many times tasks pile up because you do not have adequate knowledge, the right processing systems in place, or positive work habits. To keep moving forward, you must declare  all projects either to do, delegate, delay, or dump. Developing an ignore list can be just as important as your to-do list to help you stay focused on what is important. For example, tasks that never seem to make it to your daily priority list or your priority calendar are probably not vitally important to where you want to go. Move these tasks to an ignore list where they will not clutter your mind, making you think you have more to do than you really do. You can review your ignore list periodically, but usually these items will end up eventually dumped.

Managing your day

1)    Return your phone and email messages first thing in the morning. Your goal is to remove routine tasks as early in the morning as possible so you have the majority of the day to focus on your daily priority list.

2)    The next most important thing is to remove yourself from interruptions and distractions. If you find your days are usually consumed by the need to constantly put out fires, chances are your training, delegating,  empowerment skills, and business processes need to be improved.

3)    Learn to say “no.” Most people suffer from taking on too many projects, too many distractions, and too many interruptions – meanwhile your top priorities go unfinished. If you are going to be productive at what you do best, you are going to have to eliminate time stealers.

4)    Organize yourself. You cannot manage your time well and work efficiently if you are disorganized. Most disorganization comes from indecision: what to keep, what to discard, what to file.

5)    Read more efficiently. You simply cannot read everything that comes your way and be time efficient. The secret is to scan the title of key articles quickly, cut out articles pertinent to your goals, file them and  discard everything else. Eliminate duplicate handling.

6)    Reconnect and recommit yourself to your priorities several times during the day. Periodically ask yourself during the day, what should I be doing in the next hour that is important?

7)    Set aside time at the end of each day to pause and think about your progress for that day relative to your shorter term goals and daily plan. Examine where you have been spending your time, learn from your successes and time wasters to help you plan your next day to be more efficient.

Delegating

1)    We all have a core talent. Your core talent or strengths are what you enjoy doing over and over again. Focus on doing that and delegate everything else to other people. Your productivity and efficiency will be derived from spending at least 80% of your day working in the primary area of your core talents

2)    High achievers build a powerful, knowledgeable, productive team of followers who do the bulk of the work. Delegate to them to free up time to devote to your talents as well as searching for new sources of income,  new opportunities, and self-improvement.

3)    Choose your team members carefully and trust them to get the work done. Use your team members to solve problems and create ideas for the future.  One of your most powerful tools to being successful is to get more heads involved, empower, and delegate. Anyone will stall when they try to go it alone. Use your group to hold each other accountable; set deadlines, establish goals, review your progress together.

Start to improve your leadership skills today by placing these productive work habits into practice.

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