Time. One of the most important resource you possess. How you invest it is critical, because unlike most other resources, you cannot recoup it once it’s gone. And yes, I said “invest” instead of “spend”, because every second is an investment.
Is time investment a challenge to you sometimes? For most, it is. For leaders, it is something that we must try to master. I’m not sure I’m there yet all the time, but here’s what I’ve learned. . .
1. You have to understand what is stealing your time investment from you. In most cases, poor time investment is the result of mismanagement or poor choices. Understanding these is the first part of investing well. To identify these time-stealers, ask yourself:
- What distracts me? Talking to your team or other staff members? Surfing the web? Social media? Fantasy football? Reading? We’ve all got things that distract us. Honestly identify them.
- What bad habits do I have when it comes to my time? Some of those distractions are bad habits. It might also be getting to the office late, or taking too long of a lunch. It might be not getting enough sleep so you can’t concentrate well when you work. Procrastination is a big one, as is letting others dictate your schedule or invade your calendar. What habits do you have that are syphoning off valuable time?
- What unrealistic goals / expectations / estimates do I have with my time? Are you realistic with your time? Do you set a goal of 30 days to complete that program change when you really should allow 3 months? Do you expect that phone call to be returned in 4 hours so you can get back to the 3rd party today…when you really should allow 24 hours for the return call? Do you estimate that setting up for your teacher training will take 2 hours when really it will take 4? Be realistic with the time things take. As a general principle, I have found that, when it involves others, I need to allow more time than I initially think for something to be completed. If it only involves me, I at least need to allow a buffer in case it takes longer.
2. You must actively & intentionally invest your time. Time, like anything else, should be handled on purpose. Here’s some ways I try and invest well:
- Be continuously aware of your time stealers. The process we mentioned above should be a constant and on-going process.
- Do what’s most important first. Every task has a priority. Prioritize daily and do what’s most important first.
- Do what’s hardest next. Some say that this should be first – but that phone call to the Senior Pastor, which is relatively easy, may be more important that the hard conversation you need to have with your staff member. After what’s most important, do what’s hardest. This habit virtually eliminates procrastination, and also leaves us with a real sense of accomplishment.
- Delegate what you can. In reality, a goal of the leader should be to get to a point where you are only doing what only you can do. At the very least, this should be the case with at least 80% of your to-do list. Delegation – to staff or volunteers – is a big part of the process. For some (those of us that like to be in control and have things done our way) this can be a hard step to take. You cannot fully invest your time well until you take this step.
- Don’t do some things. There are things on my “to-do” list that keep getting pushed down. Often I find that, after awhile, they really don’t need to be done. But sometimes I actually feel obligated to do them – they’re on my list! In these cases here’s what I do: if it’s not been identified as very important or very hard, and there’s really no one to delegate it to, I ask myself if it really needs to be done. As often as not, I don’t need to do it.