Why Your To-Do List Should Contain Less "Doing"

Time management isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to successful leadership. If you think truly effective leadership means being entrenched in projects and tasks, with little time to come up for air, you’re operating on a misconception that could result in failure. In fact, extensive research proves that if leaders religiously follow a time management program, they actually decrease their ability to be effective.  

This is because true leaders, and especially executive leaders, understand the need for down time. Surprised? Well, the truth is that while it may look like wasting time to an outsider, these leaders know that investments in the following activities actually improve the performance of their teams, their organizations, and themselves.

Developing relationships and making connections

For a long time, organizations approached client relations solely with a front-line of customer representatives, while keeping executives hidden in the ivory tower. Over time, however, many organizations have realized that it’s critical for these executives to have visibility. It builds trust by showing a deeper level of commitment and care.

In the same vein, making connections with front line reps is just as imperative for these leaders. Doing so empowers them with the knowledge of who his or her people ‘are’ as well as the unique perspectives each person owns about the customer, product, and organization.

Saying thank you

People want to be appreciated. How many times have you heard the statistics about declining job satisfaction due to people feeling unappreciated? There’s a reason, and it’s often because ‘leaders’ get so bogged down by the bottom line, they overlook the need to acknowledge the work it takes to improve it.

Effective leaders set time aside not only to get to know their people, but to acknowledge contributions and say thank you. It doesn’t take a grand gesture. A simple pat on the back and a ‘thank you’ or ‘great job’ is all it takes.

Strategizing and focusing

When you are head-down and ‘doing’ on a non-stop basis, you risk running off the road. Effective leadership requires time to reflect on what is happening, reassessing what should be happening, and working on the ever-evolving strategy to get there. Down time to spend with your thoughts should happen on at least a daily basis, but beginning and end of the work day are best.

Meditation and mindfulness

Before you scoff, clear your mind of everything you think you know about meditation and consider only the following: “Meditation creates space?space in one’s mind to think. A few minutes in the morning and again in the evening is all that is necessary to help center yourself and to help you focus.” Meditation is simply the practice of breathing, clearing the mind, and regrouping yourself from the challenges of the day.

And, then there is this buzzword of ‘mindfulness’ we keep hearing. It’s just as simple; defined as: 1) the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2) a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

It can, therefore, be assumed that in meditation, we achieve mindfulness. The need for such a tactic in the lives of the average executive is real and successful leaders make the time to include it.

In the end, the goal is simply this: successful leaders do more by focusing less on what they can do and more on how they should be.