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10 Time Saving Habits of Business Leaders

By REDC Business Advisor Kerri Salls

Notebook with To Do List started on a yellow desk near a laptop

The value of your time escalates as you move up your career path and/or your business becomes more successful. You learn to automate, delegate, and focus. Here are ten time-management habits that become more valuable as you model them for your team to emulate.

1. Make a most important things list, daily.

A century ago, a renowned efficiency expert Ivy Lee, approached Charles Schwab who at the time was President of Bethlehem Steel with this idea. He insisted that managers and executives would learn how to apply this tool to eliminate procrastination in themselves and everyone on their team. He said to make a list of the 6 most important things you need to get done today and do them above all else. If you keep at it for 90 days you will see savings and dividends for everyone.

2. Use a weekly plan sheet.

We each have 168 hours per week. How we spend them is directly correlated to how committed we are to our goals. When you block out time for every aspect of your life over the week, check that it is balanced and that it includes time for important tasks and events. When you tackle important things first, fewer things slip to the critical list. Plan your work each day to fit the blocks of time allocated and to stay on track. When you work your plan, procrastination won't derail you.

A planner open

3. Touch each paper once.

When you open/read/handle each item, decide what action it requires and, if at all possible, get it done now before moving on to the next piece. Putting it aside is procrastination and just clutters up your desk and your mind. Automate, delegate, tackle, schedule, file or delete. There is no reason to keep anything in your desk inbox nor do you need to save files in your email inbox. They don't increase in value or solve themselves while they sit there.

4. Open snail-mail when you are ready and have time to address it.

Don't ever open junk mail, trash it first. Instead, use the block of time assigned to this task to get all mail off your plate, not postponed. As you persist, this will get easier and require less time.

5. Only check email at certain times, such as before your workday, at your afternoon coffee break, and before leaving for the day.

Discipline yourself not to check email at any other time. Certainly, a leader should not spend the most productive hours of the day reading email. It can very seductively eat up your time (as much as 40%). And if an email sender feels it's urgent, they will find another way to reach you (knock on your door, telephone you, text you, etc.).

Close-up image of an Email Icon on phone

6. Use a spam filter and a firewall.

Protect your business from viruses, hackers, and junk email that will degrade system performance, halt productivity, or drop sales. Protection up front is insurance to minimize cost and downtime risks in addition to lost productivity that you can't recoup.

7. Answer phone messages at specific times, like just before lunch or late afternoon.

You are in control of your time, not your team, vendors, or board of advisors. Let people know you 'always respond the same day' or 'before you leave for the day'. Taking control demonstrates you are the leader and in charge.

Woman looking at her cell phone outside

8. Don't take calls/ interruptions during your most productive hours.

That's not to say you refuse emergency calls. Rather it is the point that, if your most productive hours for writing proposals, closing sales, or analyzing data is 8-10am or 2-4pm, let the answering machine take your calls and turn off the volume on your computer during those times. Don't get yourself scheduled into meetings that conflict with your most productive time. Schedule that time in your calendar first so it takes precedence over any other scheduled activity.

9. If you have a door, use it.

To minimize distractions, close your door or turn your desk away from the corridor. Your boss (even if it's you) pays you to get the job done. If you can be more productive by limiting distractions, interruptions, noise, etc. for specific chunks of the day, you are setting a new standard without giving a lecture, posting a rule, or isolating yourself. Even in a small company where there are no offices or even walls, you can achieve the same effect by placement of your desk/monitor and wearing earphones (whether you are listening to music or nothing).

Man in office on computer, with the door slightly ajar

10. Organize your desk at the end of each day.

It is an effective habit to put away files and reference material and write your most important things list for tomorrow before you leave at the end of the day. It puts closure on the day, gets you ready for tomorrow, and reduces stress. It also makes it much more appealing to come to an office day after day when that office is pulled together, organized, and ready to get to work.

When you can do these things for yourself, you can teach them to your team. By setting the example and sharing the benefits with your team, you make each new habit relevant and valuable to them.

An office team meeting


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