What do you think is your greatest time management mistake? Allowing interruptions? Procrastination? Undisciplined meetings? Actually it’s none of these.
The greatest time management mistake you make is all in your head, it is deception. Too many leaders allow themselves to be deceived into losing valuable time on the job.
I mean two things when I say deception. First, I mean when we deceive ourselves about our own level of importance. If you have read my past blogs or taken my “Effort & the Role of Leadership” workshop you know I put a high priority on leaders tracking their time, you need to keep a time log. When you keep on for a week you can then sit down and evaluate each task you did and uncover your highest priority. I believe you’ll have anywhere from 4 to 7 things that only you can do. But, because of deception, I have seen too many leaders get wrapped up in their own importance and feel they are the only one who can do any task.
I was working with Texas A&M and I put the participants through this exercise–I asked them to list the tasks that only they can do. After a few minutes I asked the group, “How many of you have 10 things on your list?” A few hands went up. Then I asked, “How many of you have over 15 things on your list?” All the hands but one went down. I asked the gentleman how many things he had on his list and he said 22! Twenty two things on his list that only he can do, really? What’s going on with this guy? He was deceiving himself about his own level of importance; he was deceived into believing he was the only person who could do the tasks on his list.
Here’s another way leaders deceive themselves. Let’s say, when you were new in business and someone in a leadership position said to you, “A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” So you learn it’s important to always have a clean desk. And so you put important tasks off while you take the time to clean your desk.
Or, let’s say your boss comes to you at 2:00 and says, “I need you in that meeting today at 3:00.” And you think, “Well, if the boss says I have to be there, it must be important.” And then you go to the meeting and find out it has nothing to do with you. It’s because you were deceived into thinking that, if the boss says be there, it must be important. Not enough leaders take the time to ask their boss, “Is it OK if I don’t attend the meeting?’
Deception will steal your time. Make sure you are working on tasks that you and only you can do. Don’t get hung up on minor tasks like cleaning your desk. And take a minute to ask your boss, or anyone, if your presence is required in the meeting.