In my journey as a consultant, working closely with leaders in tech and engineering, a profound realization dawned upon me, one that reshaped my understanding of productivity and efficiency.
This epiphany wasn’t born out of thin air but was influenced by the teachings of John Maxwell, a luminary in leadership wisdom. It was John who illuminated the misconception of ‘time management’ for me, leading me to a pivotal mindset shift: the transition from managing time to managing priorities.
Time, as we perceive it, is an unyielding constant. We each have the same 24 hours at our disposal, no more, no less. The revelation, however, lies in understanding that while we cannot stretch time, we can optimize how we engage with it.
This shift from ‘time management’ to ‘activity and priority management’ is not just semantic; it’s foundational for leaders, especially in the high-stakes realms of tech and engineering.
In the Nordics, where innovation and efficiency drive the tech and engineering sectors, leaders are the linchpins of their organizations. Their decisions, focus, and energy set the course.
Recognizing this, I advocate for proactive priority management, empowering leaders to dictate the course of their engagements rather than being at the mercy of incoming demands.
This proactive stance is not just about efficiency; it’s about efficacy, ensuring that the scarcest resource—leaders’ time—is invested wisely.
John Maxwell once eloquently compared our days to suitcases, highlighting a profound truth about productivity:
“Our days are like suitcases of identical size, yet some manage to pack in more than others.”
This analogy resonates deeply, especially for leaders navigating the complex terrain of tech and engineering. It’s not about the time we have but how we fill it, emphasizing the essence of strategic prioritization over mere time management.
Here are four proactive priority solutions that have been instrumental in my (and my clients) leadership journey and which I am eager to share with you:
1. John Maxwell’s 3Rs: A Guiding Compass for Leader Priorities
In the realm of leadership, especially within the fast-evolving tech and engineering industries, the ability to discern where to invest your energy can be game-changing. John Maxwell’s 3Rs principle offers a compelling framework to navigate this landscape, focusing on three critical questions: What is Required of me? What brings the Greatest Return? And what is Most Rewarding?
What is Required? Here, we delve into the non-negotiables of your role, the tasks that demand your personal attention and cannot be delegated. For a tech leader, this might encompass critical decision-making, strategic direction-setting, or essential stakeholder communications.
What brings the Greatest Return? This dimension urges leaders to identify where their unique strengths can have the most significant impact. In a tech context, leveraging your expertise to innovate, solve complex problems, or mentor emerging leaders could exemplify high-return activities.
What is Most Rewarding? Aligning with tasks that fuel your passion not only enhances personal satisfaction but often leads to superior results. Whether it’s pioneering a new technological breakthrough or cultivating a culture of excellence within your team, engaging in rewarding activities fosters sustained motivation and fulfillment.
I encourage you to download The 3Rs Worksheet, a practical tool designed to apply this method to your daily activities.
By evaluating your tasks through the lens of the 3Rs, you can align your efforts with what truly matters, ensuring a purposeful and impactful leadership journey.
2. The 80/20 Principle: Maximizing Impact with Minimal Effort
One of the most eye-opening principles I’ve encountered in my leadership journey is the 80/20 Principle, also known as the Pareto Principle. This principle suggests that 80% of our outcomes stem from just 20% of our efforts. In the bustling world of tech and engineering, where every minute counts, applying this principle can revolutionize how leaders approach their workload.
Imagine focusing on the tasks that truly matter, those high-impact activities that drive the most significant results. For leaders, this might include strategic planning, innovation sessions, or key stakeholder meetings. These are the efforts that not only propel projects forward but also motivate and inspire teams to excel. By identifying and concentrating on these critical 20%, leaders can achieve more with less, ensuring their valuable time is spent on what truly moves the needle.
Managing a team? Here is how to apply the 80-20 rule to your team. Download my guide: The 80-20 Rule to Leadership – How Effective Leaders Invest in People.
3. The Urgent/Important Matrix: Navigating the Maze of Daily Demands
Another tool that has profoundly influenced my approach to leadership tasks is the Urgent/Important Matrix.
This framework helps distinguish between tasks that demand immediate attention (Urgent) and those that contribute to long-term goals and vision (Important). It’s a tool that brings clarity to chaos, guiding leaders to prioritize tasks that align with their strategic objectives.
In the fast-paced tech and engineering sectors, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of urgent demands. However, the matrix teaches us to pause and assess the true value of each task.
Is attending that impromptu meeting more critical than refining the project strategy?
By categorizing tasks into four quadrants—urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important—leaders can make informed decisions on where to direct their focus, ensuring that the most impactful tasks take precedence.
For leaders and managers keen on mastering these prioritization techniques, I highly recommend combining the Urgent & Important Matrix with the 80/20 principle by applying the last one to the tasks in the Urgent & Important and Not Urgent & Important quadrants for further refinement of your priorities.
This practical way to apply these concepts to your daily activities allows you to navigate your responsibilities with greater ease and effectiveness.
Embrace these strategies and watch as your leadership impact grows, driving success in your teams and projects with precision and purpose.
4. Making Room for Margin: Planning for the Unplanned
In the unpredictable world of leadership, particularly within the ever-evolving domains of tech and engineering, the unexpected is the only constant.
Recognizing this, another strategy I’ve embraced is “Making Room for Margin” in our calendars. This concept, inspired by the wisdom of strategic planning, emphasizes the importance of intentionally setting aside time for unforeseen events and opportunities.
Imagine a week packed with back-to-back meetings, project deadlines, and urgent emails. Now, picture an unexpected crisis or a sudden, golden opportunity arising. Without any margin in your schedule, these scenarios can lead to overwhelming stress or missed chances.
However, by reserving 20% of your time for such unplanned occurrences, you create a buffer that allows you to respond with agility and composure.
For leaders in tech and engineering, this practice can be particularly transformative. It enables you to pivot swiftly in response to rapid technological changes, address urgent team needs without derailing your schedule, and seize innovative opportunities that arise spontaneously.
Moreover, this margin isn’t just a crisis buffer; it’s also space for creative thinking, strategic reflection, and personal rejuvenation—activities that fuel sustainable leadership.
Two ways to create margin:
- Evaluate and eliminate continually
- Fight to keep 20% of your calendar as white space.
I encourage you to consider integrating this principle into your time management strategy. By doing so, you not only enhance your resilience and adaptability but also open up new avenues for growth and innovation. Making room for margin isn’t just about planning for the unexpected; it’s about empowering yourself to lead with flexibility and strength in the face of whatever comes your way.
As tech and engineering leaders in the Nordics, embracing these strategies isn’t just about enhancing personal productivity; it’s about fostering an environment where priorities are clear, the focus is sharp, and the collective energy is channelled towards impactful outcomes.
In the end, it’s about leading with intentionality, ensuring that every moment spent is a step towards realizing your vision for your team and your organization.
Which of these concepts do you like the most? To what extent are you applying it?
Haven’t tried any of these yet? What stops you from giving one of them a try?
If you do, DM me and let me know how did it go. 😉
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