When you’re running the show, it can feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. You can be up at the crack of dawn or plugging away when everyone else is in bed, but no matter how many extra hours you carve out, you still find yourself behind on projects.
Instead of skimping on valuable sleep time (which you probably don’t get enough of anyway), Executive Management Advisor Jim Alampi suggests taking a hard look at your schedule to figure out where you’re wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere.
“You’d be shocked by how much unnecessary work you do each day,” says Alampi, author of “Great to Excellent; It’s the Execution!” “By eliminating superfluous tasks from our to-do lists, executives and employees free up time for more important projects and may even make it out the door by 5 o’clock.”
If you’re hoping to make it home for dinner, try cutting back on some of these major workplace time wasters:
1. Meetings that don’t concern you
“Leaders need to jealously protect their time and only attend the meetings they really need to be in,” says Alampi. The next time you’re invited to a meeting you shouldn’t be at, have a discussion about the agenda with the meeting owner and ask why they thought you should attend, Alampi suggests. Then set up a system where other executives go in your place and brief you on what you need to know later. It will save you time and be a great “coachable moment” for them.
2. Power Point presentations
Power Points have become embedded in corporate America and are the bane of every executive’s existence. “The purpose of presentations to executives should be discussion, brain storming, [and] collective intelligence,” says Alampi, not listening to someone read notes off two dozens slides. If you can’t muster the strength to banish Power Points altogether, Alampi says, at least implement what he calls the Rule of Fives:
- Anything to be presented at an executive team meeting has to be sent out five days in advance.
- No more than five slides in any presentation.
- No more than five bullet points on a slide.
- If you are asking for people, money, or other resources, this MUST be stated on the first slide.
- If you ever start reading the slides, you will be excused from the meeting; we have all read the slides ahead of time, and it is an insult to read slides to us.
3. To-do lists
“Virtually every company I have ever met with has plenty of time to run the business if they would just stop doing the things that no longer add value,” says Alampi. “In my opinion a ‘stop doing’ list is more important than any ‘to do’ list.” Ask your employees at least once a quarter to come up with a “stop doing” list to find hidden time that could be re-deployed into more productive and relevant activities, he suggests.
4. Answering questions
It’s one thing to want to be helpful; it’s another to hold your team’s hand whenever they run into a problem. “As an executive, if you allow your employees to ask you questions every time they don’t know the answer you’ll end up spending a chunk of your day doing your employees’ work for them,” says Alampi. “Plus, having your employees find the answers themselves allows them to think more deeply, grow, and become leaders themselves.” Alampi suggests making it a policy to answer one question for every 20 asked.
5. Coddling employees
Despite your best efforts to hire only “A” players, sometimes “B” and “C” hires slip through the cracks. Executives can spend too much time trying to fix “C” players when there’s a much better ROI coaching a “B-” to become a “B+”, says Alampi, or better yet, a “B+” to an “A.” Don’t waste your time on “C” players, or you’ll risk losing the stars you do have by making them feel ignored.
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