Strategy #1: Reserve time for leadership on your schedule
Open your calendar and block out specific times needed for accomplishing leadership initiatives. Remember, there are never 15 weeks until something is due, there are only so many available days and hours within 15 weeks for doing so. At one public institution the president complained his calendar was so full he hardly had time to focus on daily matters let alone long-term planning. We asked if the governor called and asked him to head up a state-wide initiative, is that what he would say?
Today it is the future that is calling. Are you willing to make time to answer? To start, set aside a morning each week to focus on the future. No meetings, no phone calls, no answering email. Use it to read, talk to colleagues, write or otherwise explore what needs to happen to be ready for 2025 or 2030. Look at what vision your people need from you to embrace the changes that will be required. You need to plan for how you will use that time. Keep a record of what you work on.
Strategy #2: Delegate for Results
A lack of effective delegation is the unwillingness or inability of top administrators to hand off tasks that others should be doing. This is usually because these are things they enjoy doing or feel won’t be done well without their personal involvement. We identify this as focusing on PPs (personal preferences) instead of OOs (organizational objectives).
There are two dimensions of delegation. One dimension is to delegate work that gets in the way of focusing on the future; the other is delegating tasks that will help you focus on the future. Identify staff and others that need to be involved and get them on the pathway as well. While they are doing so, they should also make sure to mark off time to fully complete their assignments, for reporting results, productivities instead of activities, and asking for help to overcome difficulties that they are encountering.
Strategy #3: Change the way you manage your availability
Schedule appointments in 20-minute blocks; start appointments at the 10 or 20 minute mark of each hour. Avoid the academic norm that meetings and classes start at the hour mark and last 50 minutes. The first 20 minutes of the hour can be used to make or return calls or catch up on other matters.
Strategy #4: Hold short “stand-up” meetings for staff to report results
What gets measured is what gets done! Make sure that those who are working with you do not confuse activity with productivity. Reporting in a 20-minute block of time tells others that time is a precious commodity. Focusing on results attained keeps the message alive that what you have been asked to do is important to make the time to do it. Holding a stand-up meeting conveys that this is not a social gathering but a high level performance report.
Strategy #5: Educate about expectations and encourage others
The first four strategies are not as difficult to implement as they might appear. Changing behavior, however, is difficult, especially when it is your own behavior that needs to change. Recognize that change involves not only what we want to change but how we need to change to make it happen. A successful component of time management is taking time to educate those who will be most affected why it is necessary under pressing conditions and how it will work and benefit the organization. This is a change for those whom you deal with. The first response to change is “how does it affect me.” It can liberate and/or paralyze. Dialogue and sensitivity are important as we ask people to change to make change.
Strategy #6: Set organizational priorities and limits
It has been said that the nice thing about not planning strategically is that failure comes as a complete surprise. Planning time management allows for determining if commitments exceed leadership or organizational capacity. Strategic planning of human resources committed to change initiatives is a critical task. There are limits to performance capacity. People need to know how to work harder or smarter.
Strategic planning allows organizations the ability to determine what can be done and what cannot be accomplished. It provides the basis for recommending additional resources that will be needed or what priorities need to be reordered or eliminated. Since organizational capacity has its limits, inability to demand performance beyond those limits is not failure but poor leadership planning.
Strategy #7: Reduce or eliminate unnecessary meetings
Meetings can be hard to schedule. Getting things on people’s calendars can be a challenge. We have often heard “it takes as much time to schedule a meeting as to hold the meetings since no one wants to change their calendar.” Ask what can be done to make sure all meetings are value added. Leaders should not agree to attend a meeting without a clear understanding of why it needs to be held, its agenda, and the anticipated results it hopes to achieve. Ask yourself, is this meeting really necessary?
Take the next step
What are you prepared to do to take control of your time and leverage it to advance your goals? The landscape of higher education is changing fast and there is not a moment to lose in getting ready for it. I invite you to contact me to learn more.