As a leader, you only have so many hours in the day. Your success depends on your ability to strategically manage your time. Seek inspiration from Neil Armstrong’s wise words, “Every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine." When you do, you’ll find your leadership abilities and performance reach a whole new galaxy of impact.
1. Time your productivity sessions
There’s a lot of debate about when humans achieve peak levels of productivity. It turns out there’s little rhyme or reason to our individual peak productivity times. We all peak at different hours. As an executive, it's essential to determine your most productive times of the day. There are many effective outlets to help you. Many leaders keep an informal diary that outlines the tasks they accomplish at specific times during the day. They see patterns that help them restructure their work day to align with their most productive work patterns.
2. Strategically schedule your tasks
Once you’ve pinpointed your peak productivity times, schedule your most intensive and important tasks accordingly. Productivity sessions should span approximately 90 minutes. In his now-famous study observing violinists, Anders Ericsson found that the highest performing violinists practiced for no longer than 90 minutes per session.
Why is 90 minutes the sweet spot? There's an intricate relationship between time and our biological rhythms. The human body operates according to ultradian rhythms and, as a result, our brains are only able to focus for 90 to 120 minutes at any given time. After this time has elapsed, we require a break to rejuvenate. Make sure you schedule breaks after approximately 90 minutes. This will help your brain consolidate information, retain it, and rejuvenate.
3. Schedule your creativity sessions
Creativity is an invaluable leadership trait. Research has found that creativity is the single most important leadership quality among CEOs (trumping even integrity). Fortunately, our creativity output can be optimized with appropriate timing. Are you an early bird like Richard Branson or a night owl like Mark Zuckerberg? The answer determines when you should schedule your creativity sessions, according to research. If you’re an early bird, it’s best to schedule tasks that require creativity and original thought in the evening. Night owls, on the other hand, should schedule creative tasks and sessions early in the day. The reason? Our creativity levels tend to peak when we feel most fatigued. When we’re tired, we’re less able to maintain focus and filter distractions.
As an executive, managing your time is mission-critical to your success. By scheduling your tasks and activities appropriately, you can realize major performance gains. As Stephen Covey once said, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
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