Why Leaders Need to Protect Their Time

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Podcast

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Leaders need to protect their time. Why? In the fast-paced realm of leadership, the adage “time is money” transforms into an even more profound truth: time is opportunity. But in an era where the average person is bombarded with emails, meetings, and constant interruptions, how can leaders safeguard their most precious asset? We discuss why leaders need to protect their time during this week’s episode of Reflect Forward.

The Leader’s Time Conundrum

Leadership often shoves leaders into the paradox of availability: the more accessible you are, the less available you actually become for the things that truly matter. A study by McKinsey revealed that senior executives spend more than 28% of their working hours reading and answering emails. That’s nearly a third of their workweek, not strategizing, innovating, or leading, but wading through an inbox!

And then there’s the myth of multitasking – the revered skill in the modern job description. Yet, neuroscience debunks this myth, particularly for leaders. Research indicates that task-switching can reduce productivity by up to 40%. For leaders whose decisions carry weight, the cost of diminished focus is not just in hours lost but in opportunities missed and errors made. As it turns out, our brains like focusing on one thing at a time.

And what leader doesn’t need to do deep work? Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” concept – the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks – is a clarion call for leaders. Strategy is born in deep work, where innovative solutions to complex problems are found. Yet, in a survey, 65% of senior managers confessed that meetings keep them from completing their own work. Leaders must become the architects of their time, carving out blocks for uninterrupted thought and creativity.

The Ripple Effect of Leadership Focus

Leaders set the tempo and tone of their organizations. A leader buried in administrative tasks and endless meetings signals that this is what valued work looks like. On the contrary, a leader who prioritizes strategic thinking, team development, and high-impact projects inspires their team to emulate these practices. It’s not just about protecting your time; it’s about modeling how to use time effectively for your entire organization.

Strategies for Time Protection

Audit Your Time: Keep a log for a week. You’ll be surprised where the hours go. Identify time-drains and strategize how to eliminate or delegate them.

Time-Blocking: Dedicate specific blocks of time for emails, meetings, and deep work. Guard these blocks fiercely, as you would a meeting with your most important client.

Learn to Say No: Every “yes” to a new commitment is a “no” to something else, potentially more important. Evaluate opportunities through the lens of your strategic priorities.

Leverage Technology: Use tools to automate repetitive tasks and manage your schedule efficiently. But beware: Technology is a servant, not a master.

Cultivate a Culture of Respect for Time: Encourage your team to adopt similar practices. Make it known that you value deep work and strategic thinking over mere busyness.

Protecting time isn’t just about finding more hours in the day; it’s about ensuring you spend your hours on the work that truly matters. It’s about leading by example and setting a culture that values depth over breadth and quality over quantity.

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