Probably one of the greatest challenges the leaders of today face is to manage their time. The very moment you think you’ve managed critical tasks for the day you’re faced with a whole bunch of new e-mails, somebody standing in the doorway with a question, telephone calls and so forth. The key here first is not to get distracted, but to maintain your focus  on what’s important. That sounds easy, but in practice is actually very difficult. There are many methods, from the Eisenhower matrix (used to prioritize tasks by what‘s urgent and what’s important), to gathering and writing your tasks on a sheet of paper( as a means to get clutter out of your head that you can’t think clearly enough to deal with effectively).

These concepts by themselves are very helpful, however, there’re often used in an isolated way, ignoring the connectedchallenges. Let’s say you are working on three different projects and some of these projects are actually part of your goals for this financial year. Let’s further presume that some of these projects have been constantly evolving and have become increasingly difficult, so you will have had to add further follow-up projects all the time. Now, concurrentlyyou are getting more and more single tasks coming in, some tasks are regarding projects of colleagues, and so forth.

So what happens now with the priorities that were set up in the first place for the original projects? The truth is that priorities are changing, things are dynamic and many new or changing priorities just don’t show clearly enough for people actively to manage them. The key here is never to lose sight of your goals: you constantly have to work on your strategy, meaning some way to achieve your goal, while adapting routinely to evolving tasks and projects. Never forget what you’re being measured on. Never forget your key performance indicators, the measure points that are used to judge at the end of the year how well you’ve done.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say you’re a leading manager of a business division and one of you key goals is to reduce churn. One of your key performance indicators turned red and may be measurable not only in terms of money, but also in sheer numbers of lost customers. You need to rely on strategies to help avoid losing these clients. A couple of milestones of your strategy may be to get the feedback of your managers on the status of customer relationships.

Another one may be to build a plan with the Marketing Department on how to keep current customers posted regarding the company’s work for other customers including other customers’ opinions of the work.

The third milestone may be to set up a series of meetings with key decision-makers among your customers to get their feedback correctly and to make suggestions on how to improve the collaboration. All these projects need to be prioritised and broken down into much smaller steps, and many of these steps need to be delegated properly to the right people in order to move the whole thing swiftly forward.

Another example: if one of your clients has indicated the desire to switch suppliers, you may need to upgrade the priority of that particular project at the same time in relation to other tasks, according to the current situation.

The key thing is to integrate the tasks that your project comprises, in order to integrate them too with the many line management tasks and routine jobs of an ongoing plan. That plan must be managed properly at least once a week and priorities need to be reviewed with care. But in our highly standardised world routine management usually has priority. Anything new must first prove that it is worth following further. And that is quite unfair, considering that new ideas and projects first need to go through the learning curve in order to be run as smoothly and efficiently as long-practised processes.

Aim to separate innovation management from routine management, particularly when allocating time and money. Make sure you don’t put your innovation stream on the guillotine. You may need it – and you may need it sooner than you think.

Further reading

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