‘I’ve got so much going on at the moment and I’m finding I just don’t have time to make any real progress with the strategic priorities. I simply can’t fit them in.’
I’m hearing this, or something similar, from many executives I’m working with at the moment. And I get it. There is a lot going on. There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of opportunities. The world of business is ramping up after a challenging few years, and now is the time to make the most of the abundance of opportunities.
It is more important than ever that as CEO, the leader of your organisation, you are very clear about what you should be focusing on. Not only clear about it, but also making the proactive choice to take action.
What I notice when I am working with CEOs is that they are generally clear on what they need to do. What happens though, is there is a difference between what they know they should be doing and what they end up doing. There is a disconnect between the intention and what is practically happening each day.
It goes back to basics in many cases.
Let’s consider your calendar, which is a representation of your time, a representation of you and what is taking up your time. This is often where the disconnect happens. Between those important things that you know as the most senior leader you should be focused on, and how you actually end up spending your time.
This is the place where you need to take your big vision and turn it into practical action.
You know what the strategic priorities are. You know what it is going to take to deliver them. (Well, I hope you do.) So this is about keeping your eye on the horizon in your day-to-day activity.
To take back control of your time, and the strategic impact you have in your role, I suggest you broadly map out your next six to 12 months calendar against your key priorities.
Use a simple table to map this. If you have done any detailed planning for your own strategic priorities, that will be helpful at this stage. It will support your personal planning.
Take your top, for example, five priorities, and list them down in this table. Then on the other axis, you have your timeframe, 6 or perhaps a 12-month timeframe to get you into the strategic space.
Now, based on what you understand you need to do and how much time it is going to take for each of those key priorities, how much time do you need to allow each month for each of those top priorities?
Is it five hours a month? Is it 10 hours a month? Is it more?
Map this out across your six or 12 month timeframe. You will probably have a fair few hours in there. What is likely not happening at the moment, is that these key priorities are not going into your calendar first. These strategic priorities are your big rocks. This is your big vision being turned into bold decisions of what you will and will not spend time on. You cannot take brave action if you do not have time for it.
My suggestion is you do this high level priority horizon work, and then figure out where these hours of priority work are going into your weekly plan. How many hours do you need to spend each week on your strategic priorities?
If you have 20 hours for the month of strategic activity, you need to allow roughly five hours each week for those strategic priorities. It might be more, it might be 10 hours each week that you need to allow for the strategic priorities. If these priorities do not go into your calendar first, you are faced with running out of time to get them done…because you are too busy.
Get your strategic priorities into your calendar first and take control of where you invest your own focus, effort, and energy. Focus on the most important, the most strategic elements of your role. Everything else then fits in around this. If you do not do this first, this high impact activity is less likely to happen and that is why you may find your strategic priorities either not progressing, or you find yourself doing them after hours.
With burnout on the rise, you cannot afford to continue to have loose boundaries. You need to be firm, and you need to make clear choices. Make bold decisions about how you are going to spend your time. Strategic priorities first.
What is the first step you need to take to help you focus on, and make progress with, your strategic priorities?
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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