Ever wonder how much time your employees are wasting at work? Try Googling “wasted time at work” when you aren’t otherwise being productive, and the statistics may amaze you! Between cell phones, Facebook, and simply surfing the internet, employees these days waste an inordinate amount of time not focused on work while at work being paid to work. Research over the last few years has shown that this wasted time is costing companies billions (yes, BILLIONS) of dollars every year.
Now, what if you too have fallen into this familiar time-sucker trap? And what if you are a senior executive or other functional leader at your company? The cost of your being distracted instead of focused goes well beyond your own work tasks. It likely impacts everybody on your team and around you!
So let’s imagine how much more effective you could be as a leader if you knew how to focus your attention. The following are 5 powerful strategies successful leaders use to increase their leadership capacity, greatly impact their performance, and achieve more optimal results.
1. They Work Within Their Strengths
One of the main reasons many of us lose focus is we try to perform tasks that are outside of our areas of strength. Of course, it’s not a perfect world, and sometimes we have to do things we are uncomfortable with and/or not necessarily good at. The trick isn’t to completely avoid these areas. It’s to stay in our own lane as much as possible. You wouldn’t put your best pitcher with a mediocre batting average in the batting cage at practice. You would put him on the pitching mound where he excels. Who cares if he can’t bat well? His role is to pitch. He will only perfect his pitching when he pitches. The goal is to identify what you are really good at and work within your strengths. When you do, you will be able to focus better and achieve your goals quicker.
2. They Delegate Their Weaknesses
So, what do we do with those weaknesses? We can’t just ignore the fact that our businesses need financial reports simple because we’re not good at accounting. The key to staying focused and productive is to delegate our weaknesses to those with different and complementary strengths who excel in these other areas. For entrepreneurs or those who are not in positions to staff up for their weaknesses, you may have to do things you’re less comfortable doing some of the time. The key is to spend 80% of your time in your strengths and build around your weaknesses whenever you can. Just remember it may take more time for you to complete certain tasks when you are working from a place of weakness rather than strength, so prioritize more time free of distractions to perform these tasks.
3. They Do the Right Thing at the Right Time
All of us have our “sweet spot” when it comes to time. Some of us hop out of bed in the morning with energy and excitement and gradually wind down throughout the day. Others wake up dragging and gradually achieve their peak energy late afternoon. If you’re a morning person, wake up early, start early, and finish early. If you’re a night owl, wake up late, start late, and finish late. The secret is to identify at what time of day you are at your best and then focus on your most complex and effortful tasks then. Don’t save them for when you have less energy. The key is to focus at your peak and produce the best results you can with the time you have. Whether we start at 5:30am or 2:30pm, we still have the same 24 hours in a day!
4. They Divide Their Day into Time Slots
Sometimes we don’t attempt certain high-impact tasks because we don’t have sufficient time to complete them. If, for example, we need to complete something that requires 3 hours of focused effort, we tend to put it off until we get 3 free hours of time. But getting that much time open in today’s world lies somewhere between extremely difficult to completely impossible! So how do we fix this problem and focus on big tasks? The key is to divide your day into separate time slots. You can set 16 slots of 30 minutes a piece, for example, or maybe 8 slots of 1 hour if you work an 8-hour day. You may not be able to complete that 3-hour project all at one time, but you can set aside 1 or 2 time slots in the morning and maybe 1 or 2 more later in the day. By doing this, you can easily complete that task within 1 or 2 days. Dividing your day into these separate slots of time will keep you focused on one thing at a time, and this, in turn, will greatly improve your overall productivity to deliver more optimal results.
5. They Schedule Time for Media
One of the main ways to lose focus and decrease productivity is to engage too often with emails, texts, social media, and the like. Breaking your concentration for 20 seconds to answer a text may not seem like it distracts you too much, but the amount of time required to refocus and get back into the flow of work will hurt you. Highly productive and focused leaders check all their correspondence just a couple times a day – maybe first thing in the morning, mid-day, and end of day before shutting down for the day. You will find you are much less scattered throughout the day as you focus on being productive without the constant interruption of external media, so schedule specific times to engage your phone, email, media, etc. You can literally put placeholders on your calendar throughout your day/week for these “planned interruptions”. And don’t forget to set reminders or other alerts to stop at specific times too, otherwise you may get lost in your emails or the Internet for hours without realizing it.
By implementing these 5 strategies into your regular routines, you can greatly enhance your focus and thus your overall performance as a leader. Give us a call at 310.589.4610 or email us if you have any questions about how best to manage your time and attention. You can also visit the Executive Coaching page of our website to see how we coach our clients to implement new leadership practices and produce better results. Whatever you do, pick at least one thing to do differently if you want to get different results.