Does your calendar fill up with demands on your time that don’t seem vital, squeezing out the time needed to advance the goals that you have to drive? I think – by default – that’s true for most of us unless we do something very deliberate to take back control of our time and our focus. If we are not careful, our time during the workday and workweek becomes time that others control, pushing our own priorities and goals into evenings and weekends, or not getting done at all.
But there is another way. We can choose to be very deliberate about those things that we must invest our time and focus and energy toward. Those things that we need to drive or contribute toward to shape the outcome. Those priorities that require us to really personally commit ourselves and our time.
Some years ago I attended the Global Leadership Summit and picked up a small and simple technique that I have now used for many years – creating a single 6 x 6 grid.
|Priority 1||Priority 2||Priority 3|
|Priority 4||Priority 5||Priority 6|
Here’s the idea:
- What are the 6 priorities that are going to personally pour your energy and focus into to help achieve a strong outcome over the next 6 weeks?
Sure … it could be a 4 x 4 (4 priorities over 4 weeks, etc) … make it work for you. But I learned the 6 x 6 and come back to it regularly to check my focus, especially during more demanding times.
It’s not a list of everything you might do, or everything your team might be working on. Just those things that require your time and attention. Often some of these are things that no one will schedule your time for. They require you to take an action to carve out time for thought, focus, planning. It’s also a terrific and easy way to share your areas of focus with your manager or members of your team.
- Maybe there is a particular member of your team you want to invest coaching time in, or
- a critical initiative that requires some forethought on approach, or
- something that’s not going quite right that you need to invest some focused time around to reshape the approach.
Here’s a sample 6 x 6 with some space to declare what you will try to do around your top 6 priorities.
In some ways the list is just as important for what it excludes as for what it contains. If something does not make that list but its consuming your time, you should reconsider why your time is being spent there. Maybe your team can handle it without your direct involvement? Perhaps it needs to be re-prioritized behind some of the more critical areas of focus? Maybe you just need to see meeting materials and it doesn’t require your direct participation.
People are notorious for multi-tasking on conference calls. If you are doing that, perhaps ask whether you need to be there at all. Either commit to be engaged, or step back if not needed. Otherwise its just wasted effort – and time is our most valuable asset. Invest it wisely.
No matter what action you take, I have found that the exercise of doing this forces me to get clear on my priorities and be thoughtful about where I commit my time.
Try it – see what you find.