As a leader, how you manage your time can significantly affect your ability as a leader to lead and produce results through your team.
If you are ineffective, you will waste time, frustrate your employees, and lose many hours of productivity, both for you and your employees.
If you use good time management principles, your productivity will increase and that will help your employees as well.
And, the more you can help your employees improve their time management skills, the more productive you will be as a team and an organization.
In this article, we will discuss a combination of time management and productivity tips for leaders and their team to help them have better time management and be more productive.
Table of Contents
Know your mission and goals
Vision is powerful. Having direction is powerful. In fact, the main function of a leader is to lead a team to the accomplishment of a goal.
If, as a leader, you have no direction, you really aren’t leading.
You need to know what you are trying to accomplish to be effective. When you know what your mission is, what your goals are, and what you are trying to make happen, then you can make sure your activities and your team’s activities match the goal you are pursuing.
When you have a direction, it can save you all time, because it helps you know what is important to do. It helps you make decisions better and faster because direction gives direction in decision-making.
Effective goals and missions also give purpose. When you have a powerful goal, people (including you) are motivated to work to make it happen. When it’s unclear, you lose that motivation, drive, and initiative.
Also Read: The Definitive Guide To Mission Statements
Know what is important for you and your team
As a leader, you need to know what is important for you as a leader (project and task-wise) and what is important for your team.
Knowing your mission and goals will help with that. But we need to go deeper.
Each person, including you, was either hired for a particular reason to accomplish certain tasks and get certain results or, there are certain tasks that only you can do or that are most important for you to do.
Your goals and mission give direction, but you need to know what activities are most important for each person (including you) to accomplish those goals.
When there is a lack of clarity, a lot of time is wasted on tasks that aren’t important for that person (that maybe someone else should be doing) or multiple people may do the same things (which can cause issues in itself).
When you spend time as a leader on tasks that others could and should do, it takes your attention away from more important tasks.
Make sure you know what tasks are most important for your position. Make sure you know what is important for your employees to do, and make sure they know, too.
Communicate clearly, effectively, and frequently
Communication is vitally important to high levels of time management as a leader and employee. Good communication removes uncertainty, saves time, causes less frustration, and helps your employees be more productive.
It’s important to be clear about one’s mission and goals. It’s important to be clear about what is important for each person in their position.
When there is a lack of clarity, it causes confusion, wasted time, and frustration.
It’s important that when you discuss projects and tasks you are clear about expectations and what the end result should look like. If you are unclear, you are likely to get something you were not hoping to get.
When communication is unclear, tasks and projects may be done “incorrectly”. Then they have to be redone again. Maybe again. That wastes time and causes frustration to your employees.
It is important for communication to be frequent. If something is important to the company, such as your mission and values, it should be repeated frequently. Put it front and center.
If changes are happening, make sure to give frequent and clear updates. When people feel in the dark, it can cause issues.
Don’t expect something to be said once (especially in an email) and for everyone to just get it and remember weeks down the road.
If it’s important, repeat it.
Run effective meetings (and avoid ones that don’t need to happen)
Meetings can be vitally important and they can also be a bane of productivity, depending on how they happen and how they are run.
One simple rule to have is if it can be solved with a quick phone call, email, or chat, then do that. There’s no need to schedule an entire meeting when there isn’t a real need for it. Make sure there is a need for the meeting before calling it.
Secondly, be smart in how you run your meetings.
The frequency, type, and length of your meeting will depend on its purpose and goal; however, every meeting should have some form of agenda.
Now, the agenda can vary. It can be simple as “everyone gives a 1-minute update on what they are working on” to “we will go through X, Y, Z, points on this project” to “Discuss key issues in each department then decide what to focus on from there”.
Either way, you need a plan (agenda).
Make sure to start the meeting on time. Respect your time and your employee’s time. If you are late, you aren’t respecting their time. If others are late, they aren’t respecting people’s time. If you delay a meeting to wait for people, that’s disrespectful to the people who were on time.
Also, if you always delay and wait, many will continue to be late.
Start on time.
Consider daily huddles. Having a quick daily huddle first thing in the morning can save hours of meetings. A daily huddle is basically where everyone on the team meets quickly to discuss what they are working on and any problems they are having. Click here for more information about daily huddles.
Consider standing/walking meetings.
Depending on what kind of meeting, having a standing/walking meeting. It’s been shown that standing meetings usually run faster (find stats for).
Lastly, know who is doing what by when. Make sure when you make a plan, you know exactly who is doing what and by when. If you just leave it open so that someone can do it, it’s likely no one will do it.
Should you have a stop time?
It depends. Some meetings work well having a stop time – it keeps things flowing and on track. Other meetings with different purposes may be hurt by a stop time. If it’s an important issue that really needs to be discussed thoroughly, artificially closing the discussion could be harmful.
Set blocks of focused time for your tasks and projects
Interruptions are a killer of productivity. Every time someone stops by or you get distracted by an email or phone call, you lose focus. In fact, it can take X minutes to get back on task (find stat) at times.
It’s hard to get into a flow when you keep switching tasks or being distracted.
A smart method is to set blocks of uninterrupted, focused time to work on specific tasks and projects. No emails. No visitors. No phone calls. Just you and that task.
You then schedule other times for email, visitors, etc.
This allows you to focus and get tasks done that otherwise may have taken twice as long (or longer) with all of the interruptions.
Also, make sure to enable your employees to do the same. Make it okay to not answer emails or phone calls or visitors at certain times so they can focus completely on their tasks.
Plan effectively (and prioritize)
Planning is VITALLY important to your productivity as a leader and your employees’ productivity.
As a leader, part of your job is to see the big picture, and planning helps you do that. Your employees also need to plan so they can make sure they prioritize what is most important (and you, too).
Planning gives you a moment to step back, look at the overall goal and mission, and see what tasks help you get there.
It helps you prioritize what is important so that you can make sure you spend your time wisely. When you wait for the moment to decide which way to go or what to do, it’s hard to see the big picture at the moment, and it becomes easy to focus on the urgent tasks (which may not be important) or the easy tasks (because, well, they are easier).
Planning doesn’t hurt spontaneity, because, when you have a plan and know what is important, you can adjust as needed. It’s not set in stone. If something more important comes up, you flex. But, by having a plan, you can tell if it’s important or not and avoid doing the tasks that aren’t.
You definitely want to plan the day before at a minimum. But, especially as a leader, you will likely want to think even longer-term to help guide your employees in what they need to do.
As a note, when you plan as a team, make sure you know who is in charge of doing what and by when. Otherwise, everyone is likely to expect someone else to do it.
Know your and your team’s energy’s peaks and lows (and manage it well)
All of us have certain times of the day when we are most productive and creative and other times when we are less of that.
For many of us, we are most productive in the morning, and in the early afternoon, our creativity and productivity are less. For others, they are more productive at other times (such as at night).
The better we understand our peaks and lows, the better we can prioritize and manage our time. If we know we are most creative in the mornings, it is good to do our creative work then.
Tasks that are more repetitive or that don’t need as much creative thought would be better in the afternoon.
If our team is most focused, productive, and creative in the morning, it may not be wise to fill the morning with meetings (depending on the meeting and need).
Know your and your team’s peaks and lows and use them wisely.
We also have tasks that can drain us and that can invigorate us. It’s important to know those, too. If we start the day with a task that drains us, we are hurting ourselves for the rest of the day. Those are best saved till later.
And with all of that, when we know what invigorates us or helps renew our energy (whether certain tasks, a walk, etc.), then recognizing when our energy gets low and doing those tasks or actions can help us stay more at our peak.
As a leader, your role is to lead your team to the accomplishment of a goal or goal. It’s your team’s job to get the results, not you. It’s your job to help them and lead them to get those results.
As a leader, if you are doing everything, then you aren’t leading.
If you are doing all the “important’ work and leaving all the tertiary items for your team, not only does that demotivate and frustrate and tell your team that you don’t trust them, it’s ineffective.
And, as a leader, if you are trying to do it all for your team, that keeps you from doing the most important tasks you should be doing as the leader in your position.
As a leader, it’s important to delegate and delegate well. Delegation doesn’t mean abdication.
You should choose the right person, set clear expectations, provide whatever training and resources they need, provide the needed feedback and checkups, and release them to do the work.
For a guide on how to delegate effectively, check out: The Definitive Guide To Delegation
Focus on the goal, not the method (with your team)
One mistake that many leaders make is that they focus on the method instead of the goal. Focusing on the method is often called micromanaging.
What is important is that the goal is reached, not the method or way your team gets there (in most cases; of course, certain safety procedures, etc. have to happen).
Sometimes leaders try to make employees do it a certain way – their way. If they don’t do it their way, they aren’t happy and it’s not good enough, regardless of the outcome or result.
That removes autonomy from your employees, is demotivating, and hurts initiative and your team’s desire to go above and beyond.
Instead, focus on the outcome. Set clear expectations of what that should be, and release them to do it, providing feedback as needed as they go.
This builds autonomy, increases motivation, and helps your team be more productive. It also saves from wasting time trying to watch everyone to make sure they do it a certain way.
Check out our podcast about Process vs Outcome: What’s Your Focus?
Provide effective, timely feedback
Feedback should be a regular part of what you do with your team. How much and how often will depend on the employee and their need, but it should still be part of what you do.
Feedback lets people know where they are at in their job or task and gives them the opportunity to improve. It can also encourage and give them the motivation to keep moving forward.
When you don’t provide feedback, tasks, and projects can start heading in the wrong direction (and your employees won’t realize it), things could be done poorly for long periods of time (and they will think it is okay because you didn’t say anything), and the ambivalence can hurt motivation.
Also, it shows you care when you talk to someone about their performance with the goal of helping them improve.
Needed feedback should be done in a timely manner. Waiting days to correct behavior is ineffective.
It also causes others to question you as the leader and the importance of excellence if you don’t give feedback and help correct those whose work isn’t excellent.
And even if it doesn’t need correction, just giving sincere appreciation and/or showing what the next steps in growth in it could be can be important as well.
By providing effective feedback, you help your employees stay on task and productive. It can help them manage their time better and help them produce better results faster.
Create an environment where people feel safe to speak up (and encourage it)
When people feel safe to speak up, disagree, admit mistakes, and share problems, you create a much more productive workforce.
Simon Sinek discusses in his book Leaders Eat Last, the importance of leaders creating safe environments for employees. People who feel safe are more motivated, so they will be more productive.
When people feel safe admitting mistakes, they get feedback faster and can correct issues quicker, which causes them to be more productive.
When employees feel safe sharing problems, problems are solved earlier and faster, saving everyone time and pain. When employees feel safe to disagree, better ideas are created.
You want to create a safe environment for your employees.
Remove distractions (don’t just avoid them) for you and your team
Distractions can be a killer of productivity. Trying to avoid or use your willpower to overcome them is, in the long run, often a losing fight. We only have so much willpower.
The best step you can take is to remove distractions for yourself and help remove them for your employees, the best you can.
One easy distraction to remove is notifications on your phone and computer for email, etc. Every ding is a distraction and likely makes you want to check. It’s better to have set times to check and otherwise ignore them (if possible).
If noise is an issue, find ways to try to solve it. Noise-canceling headphones could be an option. If people stopping by is an issue, set specific times for that.
Find ways to remove and limit your and your employees’ distractions so you can work more effectively and focused.
Use emails effectively
There are some simple rules you can implement to help you and your team be more effective using email.
One simple solution is to use abbreviations in the subject line to let people know what you need quickly. The more you can communicate just by subject line, the better.
Keep emails short. Few want to (or do) read essays of paragraphs. Try to keep them to 5 sentences or less (it can vary).
If it is going to be long, let your recipient know and, if you can, provide a temporary TL;DR note till the recipient has time to read it all (and if they don’t or won’t, they at least have a general idea).
Also, if emotions are involved or it’s feedback or anything that could be misconstrued, do it in person or on the phone. That can save you and your team from a lot of miscommunication.
Encourage innovation and ideas
Encourage your team to experiment, to try new ways of doing things, to pursue new ideas, to try and make mistakes.
When your team experiments and pursues new ideas, not only is that providing autonomy and motivation, and trust (which can build loyalty and productivity), but those ideas may work and may make your employees more productive and your organization more profitable.
Take time to learn and grow (constantly)
One key aspect of time management, to really grow, is to always keep learning and growing. When you stop, you fall behind.
As a leader, it’s important to keep growing as a leader. Your team is held back by your effectiveness. It’s what John Maxwell calls “The Law of the Lid” in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
The more you grow yourself, the more effective you will be as a leader and the more effective and productive your team will be.
If you are weak in certain areas that are important to your job, those could easily become bottlenecks. The more you grow in your vital areas, the more productive you become.
And with your employees, you want to encourage and provide time and resources for them to grow. The more they grow, the more effective and productive they will be.
When you grow them in the core areas of their job, the more output they will produce more. When you help them overcome their bottlenecks, their productivity can multiply.
Let growth and learning constantly be part of your and your employees’ life.
Final Thoughts on Time Management and Productivity Tips for Leaders
As a leader, the time management and productivity of your team and employees rest on you.
Their effectiveness rests on you.
The greater your time management skills you have and that you model, the more productive your team will be through that.
The more you practice these tips and help your employees implement them, the more productive and profitable your organization can become.
I hope these time management and productivity tips were helpful. If you have any feedback, questions, or other tips to share, please let us know in the comments below.
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