In the animal kingdom, the beaver is the epitome of hard work. Busy as a beaver. And the beaver’s hard work pays off. Their industriousness in constructing dams ensures they have protection from predators and access to food during the winter months.
Like a beaver, your success as a leader depends on your ability to fiercely protect yourself from outside threats. But unlike a beaver, the biggest threat to your survival isn’t a coyote or a fox. It’s distractions and anything that threatens your most valuable resource, your time.
1. Be firm and set boundaries
Warren Buffet is one of many successful leaders who are vigilant about protecting their time. He explains, “You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.” As an executive, it’s crucial to set boundaries. Disruptions can wreak havoc on your days. One study found that we lose up to 10 IQ points when our work is interrupted by small distractions such as emails!
2. Say “no”
As a leader, it can be difficult to say “no”. It’s one of the hardest skills to master. But it’s essential to your success. You need to be able to unapologetically say “no” when your colleagues attempt to infringe on your time
There’s an art associated with saying "no". It all boils down to framing. Research has shown that it’s much more effective to frame your rejection using “I don’t” rather than “I can’t”. When you say “I don’t”, you frame your response as a choice, so it feels empowering. It’s an affirmation of your determination and willpower. On the other hand, when you say ‘I can’t', it isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction. It’s something that’s been imposed upon you. “I can’t” undermines your sense of power.
The next time you find a colleague infringing on your work time, be firm and gain a sense of empowerment by saying “I don’t”. “I don’t attend meetings on Wednesday afternoons” or "I don't check emails between the hours of 12pm and 4pm", for instance.
3. Create email boundaries
As a leader, you know that email is one of your biggest time sinks. It’s important to create firm email boundaries. Commit to checking and responding to emails only during certain time blocks throughout the day. This will help you avoid distractions. It will also help you set the expectation that your team members shouldn’t expect to receive a response from you immediately or outside of certain hours. If you do want to respond to an email outside of your boundaries, store emails in your draft folder and wait to send it until your established blocks.
Your time is your most valuable resource. Harness the beaver and vigorously protect your territory. The key is to continually refine your approach as new distractions emerge and old ones fade. The beaver is constantly adding to and repairing their dams. Follow their lead. Your hard work in building an impenetrable fortress will pay dividends and stand the test of time.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner