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Everyone gets 168 hours in a week. No more, no less. For manufacturing leaders striving for success in a highly competitive industry, there’s never a lack of people requesting your time, from taking on a new project to networking with colleagues to answering emails and sitting in on meetings. Manufacturing executives lose thousands of hours each year focusing on tasks that don’t add value to their lives or to their companies, and in 2015, I was one of them. As we enter 2016, my focus is on underscheduling my calendar and focusing on the things that are wise investments of my time.
Underscheduling for Success
The concept of underscheduling was made popular by Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, who argues that effectively developing your business requires stepping away from tactical execution to make room for strategic planning. In order to accomplish this, you need to schedule periods of free time on your calendar to think proactively. It’s the difference between working in your business and working on your business.
Breaking up your day into scheduled blocks will make you more productive. If you push yourself to squeeze everything out of every minute of every day, you will burn out in both mind and body. Also, you may lose control of your day and end up in a constant cycle of reactivity. Allow yourself time to have a creative breakthrough, to put together an amazing proposal, or to talk with the team about a hurdle they need to overcome.
Learning to Say No
Creating free time on your calendar can be a challenge if you don’t learn to say “no”. Many business leaders don’t feel like they’re in control of their own schedules because they believe the myth that a leader should always be available and accessible. Take back control by saying “no” more often. Instead of jumping to the rescue every time there’s a crisis, empower your employees to solve their own problems. Surrounding yourself with engaged, dedicated employees will let you focus on the things that matter most.
A common pitfall is worrying that if you don't say "Yes" to every invitation or meeting request, then you aren't doing enough. Overcommitting runs the risk of not following through, or sacrificing other important priorities--like sleep, exercise, or time with family members --to get things done. Saying "No" to anything that is not a wise investment of your time gives you a greater ability to accomplish what is. Freeing yourself from commitments can help you achieve your most important goals on time as well as support your mental and physical wellbeing.
We cannot create any more time, but we can leverage our time by focusing on those things that give us “the biggest bang for the buck.” Avoid getting bogged down in “majoring in minors” and apply the 80/20 rule. Direct your attention to 20% of your clients who will give you 80% of your success. Give special attention to that group of 20% of the people you deal with who have the potential for delivering 80% of what you need. Engaging in social media, spending time with others, and working can be wonderful things. However, if you allow external forces to always dictate your time investment then you’re allowing others to effectively steal your most precious resource. In 2016, take back control and spend your time wisely.