The following is a guest piece by New York Times bestselling author, Kevin Kruse.
Do you ever feel like you know what you should be doing as a leader, but there just isn’t enough time to actually do it?
How do successful people create pockets of time so they can become a leader of people, not just managers of tasks?
I recently had the chance to interview over 200 highly successful people including billionaires, millionaires and many CEOs who were leading small and large teams alike. One of the consistent things I found was that effective leaders are very mindful of time. Most have conscious or unconscious habits and rituals that they use to remain highly productive, without feeling overwhelmed. As Fizzle CEO, Corbett Barr, told me:
I stay productive by developing and maintaining what I call a personal “operating system”, which is a set of processes, tools and checkpoints that define how I get work done every day. The specifics of an operating system differ from person to person, but the important thing is that you have one.
As Barr mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all for time management, but after reviewing the practices of hundreds of individuals, I’ve developed a simplified productivity system I call, E-3C. The E stands for Energy, and the three C’s are Capture, Calendar, and Concentrate.
The first step—the most important part of my E-3C system—is “E” for Energy.
You can’t make more time, but you can increase your productivity by increasing your energy, focus and attention. How do you maximize energy?
- Highly productive leaders get enough sleep.
- Highly productive leaders eat energizing foods.
- Highly productive leaders exercise consistently.
- Highly successful people pulse and pause throughout the day to maintain peak performance.
The first “C” in my E-3C system stands for Capture.
You must “capture” everything and anything into a notebook instead of trying to keep things in your head. In a best-case scenario, trying to remember to-dos, to-calls, and to-buys leads to a higher cognitive load and unnecessary stress—worse, it can lead to forgotten, thus uncompleted, tasks.
Highly successful people keep a notebook with them at all times and write down everything they want to remember. In addition to capturing to-do items, they also record notes from calls and meetings, new ideas, lessons learned, favorite quotes, and other things that might need to be referenced in the future.
Think of your notebook as your external brain. The more you put into it, the less filled your biological brain will be! Additionally, this practice improves your effectiveness, as you no longer forget important things to do, can hold other people accountable, and can learn from your accumulated written experiences.
If you are writing things down that you need “to do,” remember: as quickly as possible, you will want to schedule it as an appointment on your…
The second “C” in my E-3C system stands for Calendar.
What is implied with this step is don’t use a to-do list! If you want “to do” something, immediately schedule it on your calendar.
- Highly productive leaders have clearly identified values, which lead to top priorities and their Most Important Task (MIT). You must time block MIT time on your calendar. Time for other activities that support your top values (e.g., health, relationships, giving back) should also get blocked on your calendar on a recurring basis.
- Highly productive leaders theme days on their calendar, too. At work, Monday might be the day for one-on-one meetings or for a weekly team huddle. Wednesday might be themed as “marketing day” or “product development.”
- Highly productive leaders protect their calendar, knowing and feeling the reality that nothing is more important than time. They say no to anything and everyone who does not align with their goals. They do something only if they aren’t able to drop it, delegate it, or redesign it. They spend time on the 20 percent of things that contribute 80 percent of the value—and they drop the rest.
The third “C” in my 3C system stands for Concentrate; there is no room for multi-tasking.
- Highly productive leaders proactively work from their calendar; they don’t react to stimuli like incoming email, social media messages, or “got a minute” meetings.
- Highly productive leaders concentrate on their MIT and other priorities during times of peak energy, typically in the morning.
- Highly productive leaders pulse and pause to maintain concentration and productivity throughout the day. Most take 5 or 10-minute breaks every 30 to 60 minutes.
We cannot lead effectively if we’re constantly racing from meeting to meeting, frazzled and fatigued. It does take time to lead effectively, and it takes mindfulness. If you don’t already have a “personal operating system” that is working for you, I encourage you to experiment with the E-3C system.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book is “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs”. To learn more about Kevin’s writings and his work, visit his website: kevinkruse.com.
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