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Time Management as a Leader: 12 Best Practices from Supermanagers

Every intelligent leader knows that one of the best skills in their arsenal is managing their time.

By Mara Calvello  •   January 6, 2022  •   8 min read

Of course, doing so can feel easier said than done. If you’ve been feeling like there’s simply never enough time in the day for everything on your to-do list, it may be time (no pun intended) to consider what other leaders do to prioritize the tasks on their plate. That’s where our Supermanagers podcast comes into play. 

We interview leaders from various industries in different roles to learn more about their habits, thought patterns, learnings, and experiences that help them be extraordinary at the fine craft of management. Many of these stories have to do with time management, so we’ve compiled 12 best practices that may help you develop better strategies to manage your time. 

12 tricks for time management as a leader 

We’ve learned a lot throughout our Supermanagers podcast, and we’ve rounded up the best advice, tips, and tricks for effective time management skills. See which best practices you can start implementing today!

1 Book meetings for less time than you think

Our first tip comes from Chetana Deorah, Director of Product Design at Coursera. This episode of Supermanagers was all about leveraging the power of influence and storytelling, but there are exceptional tips for time management, too.

When it comes to your team’s perception of you, how you walk, talk, and even how free or busy your calendar is are all factors in play. Chetana mentions that the busyness of their calendar should not measure leaders. Whether your calendar is full, empty, or somewhere in between, no matter how intense a schedule may look, whether someone is a good manager or not doesn’t necessarily reflect how jam-packed their calendar is.

So, in the world of time management, managers, c-suite executives, and regular employees should try to book meetings for less time than they think they need. This way, time isn’t spent in unproductive meetings where attendees talk over one another. But instead, an agenda is used to keep everyone on track and discuss action items that matter.

Be efficient with your time

Showing up to meetings prepared can save loads of time! Send a collaborative agenda everyone can contribute to and save time in your day.

2 Set clear priorities and goals

Next up we have David Robinson, a former Commanding Officer at the United States Marine Corps. Today, he is the CEO of Vertical Performance Enterprise. This Supermanagers episode focuses on leading in high-pressure environments

David discusses the “three P’s” — prioritization, preparation, and passion. All are important in ensuring your team is laser-focused on the most important tasks for organizational success. Because we live in a world where the velocity and volume of information is always on overdrive, it can be hard to know what to prioritize. However, without setting clear priorities and goals for your team members, everything becomes a priority, which means nothing is a priority. 

3 Create a short task list

Our next tip for effective time management comes from the episode with Amanda Goetz, former VP of Marketing at The Knot and currently the Founder of House of Wise, a luxury CBD brand for women. 

Amanda’s episode of Supermangers focused on ruthless prioritization and how to use clarity, intention, and OKRs to remain as productive as possible. Amanda recommends creating a task list of the must-have things that need to get done and then time blocking in your schedule for that day for when you’re going to sit down, focus, and make as much progress as possible on getting tasks accomplished. 

Whether you set 20 minutes or 3 hours, time blocking can go a long way in prioritizing what needs to get done during the day. 

4 Delegate like a boss

Sometimes, managers struggle with delegation, but doing so is an important part of time management as a leader. For this tip, turn to Paul Lem’s episode of Supermangers, which is all about deciding what’s worth pursuing and how to set smarter goals.

As you take a look at your list of tasks, remember this advice from Paul, who shares, “80% of results come from 20% of actions. So that means 20% of actions are worth your time, but 80% should be dropped or delegated.”

When you apply this advice, go through and see which action items on your list are the top priority, which can be delegated to other team members, and which can be dropped entirely. Doing so makes it easier to spend your time on what matters most.

5 Eliminate long emails

We’ve all heard the line “this meeting should have been an email,” — but what happens when that email becomes long and tedious. Chances are, no one’s going to take the time to read it.

Which is what Joe Martin, VP of Marketing and Strategy at CloudApp, an instant video and image sharing platform, does his best to avoid. At CloudApp, they drink their own Kool-Aid and integrate CloudApp as much as possible to save time and eliminate lengthy emails.

Instead of long emails no one reads, they started having one or two lines of text, followed by a CloudApp video explaining key points, answering important questions, or sharing information that someone needs to know.

Not only does this save time, it makes information easier, and more fun, to access.

6 Process your emails

While we’re talking about emails, let’s consider the Supermangers episode with Mark Horstman, Co-founder and Host of Manager Tools, a podcast with more than 1,500 episodes.

Whether you get ten emails a day or 600, consider how you behave with your inbox. Mark suggests taking 30-90 minutes a day, preferably in the morning, and doing your best to get through as many emails as you can. Beyond this timeslot, you leave your inbox alone and focus on other, more important tasks.

7 Use your calendar wisely

Our next tip is from the Supermanagers episode with Melissa and John Nightingale, founders of Raw Signal Group, best-selling authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management? An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership.” and editors of The Co-Pour.

Their tip on managing your time as a leader comes from calendar blocking. John mentions that when you block time on your calendar, those looking to meet with you at the last minute have to work around and respect the blocks you put in place for yourself. You can even do so by looking a couple of weeks out where your calendar has some space and block off time to be productive and work on some tasks on your to-do list.

8 Take a break

Burnout is real, and it’s something leaders across all industries have to consider how to ensure their team doesn’t experience it.

The episode of Supermanagers featuring Danielle Leong, Director of Engineering at Github, shares that she has a policy where her team must take a minimum of one day off a month to avoid the feelings that come with job burnout. As a big advocate for mental health, she works that into how she manages her team. Even though Github has unlimited PTO, she noticed that people weren’t taking time off during COVID. 

This policy has been in place for the last 15 months. Making sure your team takes a break makes it possible, when they are working, for them to be as productive as possible, feeling refreshed and ready to roll up their sleeves and get started on what they need to accomplish. 

9 Book back-to-back meetings

Our next tip comes from Hareem Mannan, Senior Director of Product Design at Twilio. 

Hareem is a big fan of booking back-to-back meetings because your calendar is your work at the end of the day. This form of time blocking sets a chunk of each day just for meetings, allowing you to have uninterrupted time the rest of the day to focus on high-priority tasks. 

10 Question your recurring meetings

It’s common for managers to get accustomed to the recurring meetings on their calendars. However, these are the meetings that can lead to unproductive time management. During our Supermanagers episode with Ross Mayfield, Product Lead for Integrations at Zoom, he recommends having a very healthy balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication.

To do so, be conscious that every meeting potentially is a massive tax on people’s time. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Should this meeting exist?
  • Do we have the right people in attendance?
  • Do we have a plan for how we’re going to be communicating with people that are not in attendance? 
  • Do we have an agenda for the meeting?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether you should have the meeting or not.

11 Ask questions first

Ready to set the right mood for your meeting? Steven Rogelberg, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings and Chancellor’s Professor at UNC Charlotte, shares on Supermanagers why the energy in a meeting matters.

While most agendas are structured as a set of topics to be discussed, Steven frames his meeting agenda as questions. This makes it possible for leaders to think strategically around why everyone is meeting, which provides a better sense into who needs to be attended and who can be emailed the meeting notes later. These questions can also answer if the meeting was a productive and solid use of everyone’s time.

12 Don’t solve it all

Last but certainly not least is founder coach Dave Bailey, who came to Supermangers to discuss how managers can use questions as a powerful tool. As part of time management as an effective leader, Dave recognizes that delegation isn’t easy, but it’s an essential tool to empower others to solve their problems.

It can be challenging to work and manage other people, so it’s all about delegating problems, not tasks. “As a general rule, if you want to empower your team to solve their problems, you want to delegate problems back to them.” This strategy helps to allow your team to build the skills they need in their role. Without this skill, your team will keep coming back for your decisions, leading you to become more bottlenecked.

You’re giving yourself more time to solve what you actually need to solve by not solving it all.

There’s only 24 hours in a day

So make sure that the time you’re spending at work is spent as effectively as possible. No matter which of these 12 best practices you decide to implement, chances are good that, as a leader, you’ll find it easier to manage your time and focus on what actions items are a top priority.

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