How often have you heard the response, “busy”, to a simple question, “How are you doing?”

Recently I read a great blog, “Leadership Resilience-Step One” by Dave Schrader, here is an excerpt. Does this describe your schedule?

“In the busyness and pressure of leading and working on any organizational transformation, it is a severe temptation for us to fill our schedules to the brink of overflowing. Remember the early video game called Tetris? The goal there was to slot every odd-shaped block into an available space that could accommodate it. You won when there were no empty spaces left.

No spaces left.  This was considered success.

We’ve trained ourselves to do this with our schedules as well: day-in and day-out, our habit is to say “yes” too often to requests for our time, our presence, our advice, and our approval.”

When our schedules are full, when do we have time to think and reflect?  In the busiest of times we can barely react to every scheduled meeting, much less plan and thoughtfully prepare. The impact leads to many nonproductive behaviors and results:

  • Impatience – rushing others, cutting them off before they are finished.
  • Ineffective communication – sharp tone of voice, harsh word choices.
  • Disrespect for others – interrupting, poor listening, rude behavior.
  • Over controlling – no time to delegate, sending the message others aren’t capable.
  • Excessive work hours – work hours overscheduled so meeting preparation and other important tasks need to be completed after work hours or brought home to work.
  • Poor decision making – no time to thoroughly review alternatives.
  • Lose creativity – the schedule doesn’t allow for thinking and innovating.
  • Collaboration – limited time for true collaboration – true listening, sharing, and discussing.
  • Conflict – impatience and ineffective communication, limited time for discussions and collaboration often result in conflict.
  • Burnout – eventually even the highest performer will grow weary of an overscheduled life.

Consider another way:

  • Schedule blocks of time in your schedule for thinking and reflecting.
  • Allow space in your schedule for planning and preparation vs. back to back meetings
  • Build in time blocks for the unexpected important items that may occur
  • Focus on one thing at a time with your goals and objectives in mind.
  • Complete the tactical tasks that only you can do and schedule time for the strategic, ensuring that both tactical and strategic receive the time needed in order to achieve desired results.
  • Be intentional in the way you communicate with others, recognizing their communication style preferences.
  • Actively listen to others, repeat back your understanding, ask questions to clarify
  • Truly be present when in meetings, put your phone away, reading materials, or other distractions, being fully present is a great way of showing respect.
  • Delegate tasks that others can do
  • Develop the skills of your team members so they can take more of your load.
  • Redefine success, not “No spaces left” approach to success.
  • Establish good boundaries, it is okay to say no and suggest an alternative (e.g., “I won’t miss my daughter’s soccer game to do…, but I can have that completed by…” “I can’t meet today, but how about ….?)
  • Schedule time for journaling, meditation, exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep and social connections.  (The Leadership Circle research found effective leaders adopt these practices to maintain their health and strength in the midst of change)

Make an effort this year to implement some of these ideas and you will be happy with the results, you will feel better and be able to lead better by being more intentional.