Almost every executive I coach these days seems to have a common management demand—too much to do, with not enough time to do it. Does this sound familiar?

In my 20+ years of coaching executives, I'm convinced that accomplishing desired business outcomes, feeling like you've maximized your workday, and creating work/life balance has little to do with "time" management and more to do with "priority" management. Too often, executives and business leaders spend their days in "Automatic Thinking Mode" (Condition 3 & 4 Thinking if you've read Discover Your Blind Spots) working on "nonvalue add" or "negotiable work" and not enough time in "Deliberate Thinking Mode" (Condition 1 & 2 Thinking) working on "value added" or "nonnegotiable work."

Value added work is work that directly impacts your customers, focuses on what is important, and, as a result, enables your company to maximize profits.

Nonvalue added work is work that does not impact your customers, takes your focus off what is important, and, as a result, erodes your company's profits.

Necessary work is the blocking and tackling that must be accomplished in all cases to deliver your products and services to your customers.

Unnecessary work is the work that results from complying with policies, procedures, systems, and controls that could likely be eliminated.

The ability to "stay connected" to work while at home or on vacation has increased the risk of living a life out of balance and constantly under pressure to respond to others' wants and needs. Without a priority management plan, it will be difficult to shift from a crazy schedule to a high-payoff one, one where we focus more of our time on Value Added Work than Nonvalue Added Work. The following will outline a few steps to start building a priority management plan to help make you more successful on achieving desired outcomes.

  1. Log how you spend your time for 1 week. Record everything you do in 30-minute increments. This won't be fun, but it will surprise you to see what you spend your time on during the workday.
  2. Identify your Value Added and Nonvalue Added activities. From your list, assess each of your activities and identify them as either VALUE ADD or NONVALUE ADD.
  3. Create your perfect week. Take a blank weekly calendar and write out your perfect schedule for a week. You should block out time for the highest priority items in your business and personal life. For example, date nights with your spouse, going to your child's soccer game, working out, personal development, strategic thinking, and the daily disciplines that help you grow your business. Don't forget to block time out for you to review your schedule and plan for the week ahead.
  4. Delegate the nonvalue add activities. Assemble the activities that did not make it into your perfect week and that you consider nonvalue activities and delegate them to someone else. This person might be a personal assistant, a virtual assistant, or an intern.
  5. Communicate your schedule. It is extremely important that you let your clients, team, and family know about your new schedule and priority management plan. People will respect your time if they see you value it. Post your schedule, the hours you are available, and when you are completely unavailable. I find this "communication" piece to be similar to a Goal Statement. Once it's stated, the more likely it will be realized.
  6. Practice delivering solution-based "No" responses. My high-payoff activities become nonnegotiable appointments on my calendar. If someone wants to meet during the time I have a high-payoff activity scheduled, I tell them "No. I can't meet with you then, but I can at ________ or at ________; which of these two times works best for you?" This is a solution-based "No" response, and people prefer it to a simple "No, I can't," or "No, I'm busy then." If an emergency does come up and you have to skip an appointment, then make sure you reschedule time for that high-payoff activity right away.
  7. Review your plan. Your new plan should be reviewed daily for the first 30 days. After that, a weekly review is ideal. Shift activities to different time slots if needed during this review. Assess your energy level at certain times of the day and what level is required for you to deliver maximum results. Make adjustments and reengage the next week.

As you go through this process, you will experience the frustration of not achieving your perfect week and slipping back into doing low-payoff activities. This is normal and something you will improve at each week. Start by trying to win 4 out of the 7 days in a week, 3 out of 4 weeks in a month, and 10 out of 12 months in a year.

A well-executed priority management plan can help you avoid burnout and be a catalyst for your personal and professional success. If you need help developing your plan, please feel free to contact me. I'm happy to walk you through this process more in-depth.

Mike Poskey

Mike Poskey is the President of ZERORISK HR, a Dallas-based human resources risk management firm and exclusive provider of the ZERORISK Hiring System. ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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