More than 75 percent of executives and entrepreneurs have a schedule that simply exhausts them. If I ask to look at a leader's calendar, it often looks like a box of spilled jigsaw puzzle pieces. Many leaders don't have the ultimate picture they are trying to create. Focusing on time management alone will not help.
In my work over a quarter of a century with Fortune 500 executives, I have found that the secret to rapid growth for a company is not the economy or market conditions; the competition isn't holding the company back. The secret to exponential growth is locked inside how leaders ruthlessly manage their time, energy, and resources in parallel.
This is the first in a three-part series on each aspect of being Thoughtfully Ruthless.
Read the second part here: How to Become Ruthless, in a Thoughtful Way, With Boosting Your Energy.
The most successful leaders are ruthless with every aspect of how they spend their time, intentionally focusing on a particular area at the right time. This ruthless precision allows them to create more time that they can use as they choose. I have captured 17 of the best tips, which any leader can immediately apply:
1. Stop working on the immediate.
Intentionally spend time away from activities and actions that only focus on the next 30 days--look up and look out.
2. Let your team in on the secret.
Tell them what drives you crazy and makes you happy. Let your team know your love/hate list for email, phone calls, meetings, and decisions.
3. Stop rambling emails.
Start every email with purpose: "My question is . . . " "I need . . . " "Will you please . . ."
4. End the day smoothly.
Spend the last hour of your day on your-choice activities, not urgent outstanding work.
5. Don't let your calendar take on a life of its own.
Schedule time to evaluate all of your meetings every two months. Dump those that don't add value.
6. Reduce email Ping-Pong.
Use a presumptive close, such as "Let's meet at noon on Thursday," rather than "What time works for you?"
7. Stop selfish emails at weekends.
Unless it is mission critical. Save it in your drafts, and send it in regular business hours or auto-schedule it for sensible hours. Off-hours email generates more off-hours email. Others may feel obliged to respond, and you will develop expectations that you are always on and available.
8. Learn the power of no.
Say no more than you say yes.
9. Stop driving.
Use a car service to give yourself the gift of thinking, decompressing, and silence during drive time.
10. Get out of your own head.
Improve your thought to action ratio; get faster at not overthinking.
11. Don't abandon your friends.
Don't let months drift by without seeing friends who energize and inspire you. Autopilot your social life with first Monday of the month dinners and Friday lunch dates. Simplify logistics and eliminate endless scheduling emails.
12. Know your deadline reality.
Honestly assess how you meet deadlines. Start tasks at the earliest possible opportunity, not at the last available opportunity.
13. Spend a ridiculous amount of time hiring.
If you have openings on your immediate team, spend 50 percent of your time asking for referrals, interviewing, and hiring. It's not ridiculous; it will propel you forward to that time when you have a complete team.
14. Include an instruction manual.
Create clear instructions for how you want people to interact with you: Can they disagree in public? Do you want data-backed discussions? Tell them your preferences so they are not guessing.
15. Create an end-of-week ritual.
Review your successes, reflect on your insights, and plan for next week.
16. Go and visit your customers.
Regularly prioritize hearing directly from your customers and watching how they use your products and services.
17. Limit your words.
Don't use a paragraph when a sentence will do, don't use a sentence when a word will do, and don't use a word when silence will do.
Remarkable leaders are ruthless, in a thoughtful way, with their time, energy, and resources. You will find more tips, stories, and practical advice for creating a life with the discretionary time to use as you choose in my next book, Thoughtfully Ruthless: The Key to Exponential Growth (Wiley, April 2016). Sign up here to get early access to a free chapter.