Time is a valuable, nonrenewable resource that is distributed equally to each of us. We all get the same 1,440 minutes every day. Are you using your time successfully, or are you wasting your time and draining your energy?
In coaching top leaders around the world, I have discovered some patterns in how people waste their time and energy. Here are eight of the most common.
1. Being distracted.
Leaders who have a lot to do are easily distracted. No one can stay on task 100 percent of the time, but distraction can pose a serious obstacle to getting things done. It eats away at your time and causes unnecessary stress. Limit distraction by being mindful of how you organize your time and work environment and by preparing yourself to accomplish what needs doing. Develop habits and strategies to minimize your access to distraction, keep your focus on the task at hand, and improve your overall ability to concentrate.
2. Second-guessing their decisions.
One of the worst habits a leader can fall into is that of second-guessing themselves. Sticking to a decision is often harder than making it in the first place, but indecision is costly in terms of time, energy, and resources--your own and your team's. Develop a decision-making process that's steady and deliberate, with room for other people's opinions if you need them. Start with small steps when possible, and nourish your faith in your own knowledge and instincts.
3. Paying attention to naysayers.
Feedback is valuable and worth soliciting and listening to. But there will always be some who simply refuse to support you--maybe from a genuine distance in perspective, or maybe because they hold an oppositional outlook. It can be difficult to deal with negativity, but filter it out from feedback that's helpful and keep your focus on your goals, plans, and current actions.
4. Having a closed mind.
Too often leaders limit themselves by closing off their mind to new ideas and possibilities--and unfortunately, a stubbornly closed mind becomes easier to give in to as we age. If you want to be effective as a leader, you have to stay aware of the limits of your own knowledge and point of view and work to keep an open mind. Broaden your horizons if necessary to give yourself access to a wider range of ideas and experiences. Doing so is good for more than just your leadership: Open-minded people tend to live more exciting, balanced, and inquisitive lives.
5. Trying to please everyone.
People-pleasing is a common trap for leaders, but its pursuit is a huge waste of your time and energy. Whether you validate yourself through the approval of others or were taught to always put others first, it will take some time to shift your attitude. Accept the fact that you won't make everyone happy with every decision and your role as a leader is to focus on the big picture of the overall good. Create healthy boundaries and focus on the kind of approval you earn by being a strong leader.
6. Worrying about mistakes.
You, and every member of your team, will make mistakes from time to time. It's inevitable. But worrying about mistakes--either those that have already occurred or those that may happen in the future--won't accomplish anything except wear you out. Focus on solving problems and putting systems in place that help eliminate mistakes before they can cause problems. With good planning and positivity you can minimize mistakes and deal with them calmly and effectively when they happen.
7. Being disorganized.
Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don't have good organizational skills. In a fast-paced world that is filled with distraction, it may feel almost impossible to keep your concentration intact and your life organized. However, by clearing some space around you--both within your head and in your physical workplace--and working to develop disciplined habits, you can organize and order your life. It takes work and commitment, but few efforts will bring more benefits.
8. Refusing to delegate.
Whatever your leadership style, being able to delegate responsibilities is a critical skill for making the most of your time and energy. Delegation can be tricky, though--it requires trust and support, a balance between letting go of control and maintaining responsibility. It's not surprising that so many leaders think it's easier to do everything themselves. But it's part of your job as a leader to trust others to do their job, and delegating tasks with appropriate support is an important way to help the people on your team develop and grow.
Everyone has habits they'd like to change, counterproductive tendencies, blind spots in their knowledge. Changing these old behaviors isn't easy. But if you put forth patient effort without giving up, it can help you make the most out of each day and clear the way to success--your own and your team's. Make time management a priority and everyone will benefit.