23 Time Management Techniques for Busy People

Time is finite...

We all have the same number of hours each day. You can’t store time, borrow it, or save for later use. You can only decide how to allocate it, spending it on activities of higher rather than low value. Time management is a game of choices: projects to pursue, tasks to complete, routines to follow.

Adopting good time management techniques in your life isn’t about squeezing as many tasks as you can into your day. It’s about simplifying how you work, getting things done faster, and doing things better. By doing so, you’ll have more times for play, rest, and doing the things you love. Don’t try to work hard, invest in working smarter.

“Time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends. “— Brian Tracy

Below, you’ll find a list of my favourite time management techniques. They are a set of principles, rules, and skills that allow you to put your focus on the things that matter, get more done and help you be more productive.

Use them as a rulebook of your work. You will improve your productivity, accomplish more with less effort, improve your decision-making ability, reduce stress, and ultimately become more successful in your career.

But remember everyone is different. These are the time management techniques that I find useful in my life, but you might not. Adopt the ones that work for you and always seek to refine your own practices by regularly thinking about how to improve your time management skills.

By writing your own time management rulebook, you’ll discover that there are really enough hours in a day for everything you’d like to do. It just takes a bit of rearranging and re-imagining finding them…

#1 Organize Work Around Energy Levels

Productivity is related to your energy level.

Find your most productive hours — the time of your peak energy — and schedule Deep Work for those periods. Do low-value and low-energy tasks (also known as shallow work), such as responding to emails or unimportant meetings, in between those hours.

For example:

If you are a morning person, do your most critical work when you get in the office. After lunch, your energy might crash a bit so it’s a great time to clean your desk, clean emails or update spreadsheets.

Plan your work around your energy levels, scheduling critical work for peak productivity times.

#2 Plan Your Day the Night Before

Before going bed, spend 5 minutes writing your to-do list for the next day. These tasks should help you move towards your professional and personal goals.

By planning ahead, the night before, you’ll be better prepared mentally for the challenges ahead before waking up and there won’t be any room for procrastination in the morning. As a result, you’ll work faster and smoother than ever before.

Spend a few minutes each evening before going to bed to write down everything you need to get done tomorrow.

Make planning a part of your night-time routine and save yourself time and worries in the morning. Once you wake up, you’ll be able to just get to work.

#3 Start the Day with Critical Work

Mark Twain once said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

This is a golden time management technique: Find your most important task (MIT) for the day and tackle it first. Your MIT should be the one thing that creates the most impact on your work. Getting it done will give you the momentum and sense of accomplishment early in the day. That’s how big life goals are achieved: small continuous efforts, day after day.

Each day, identify the most crucial tasks to complete and tackle it first. Once you’re done, the day has already been a success!

How do you find your MIT? In Elon Musk’s words: “Focus on signal over noise. Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t actually make things better.” Look at your to-do list and decide which tasks help you get close to your goals and make progress in meaningful work.

Put these at the top of your list so you can focus on them first. Resist the temptation of tackling the easiest tasks first.

#4 Prioritize Tasks

Knowing how to prioritize your work is an essential time management technique. Projects, however small or large, need clear priorities. When everything is a priority, nothing is. You want to prioritize your “true tasks” first, the tasks that move the needle of your goals. To help you find them, use a productivity hack called the Eisenhower Matrix.

Prioritize “true tasks”: urgent and important to-dos that have a direct impact on your goals.

Here is the step by step:

  1. Write down all your tasks. Don’t worry about the order (for now), just write everything you need to do
  2. Now identify what’s urgent and what’s important. After each task, mark them with “U” for Urgent and “I” for Important. Tasks can have one, both, or none. If none, you’ll need to purge them
  3. Now we need to assess value: look at your “I” tasks and identify the high-value drivers of your work. You want to find which tasks have priority over others and how many people are impacted by your work
  4. The next step is to estimate time to complete each task. Order them from most effort to least effort
  5. Finally, insert the tasks into the Eisenhower Matrix. You now have a complete overview of all your work tasks.

#5 Delegate or Outsource Tasks

Using the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll find that some tasks are urgent but not important. When that’s the case, the best you can do is find someone who can complete these tasks for you. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegating or outsourcing some tasks can be a great way to multiply your efforts and get more done.

If you work on your own, you can find a VA or hire freelancers. In a team, re-assign specific tasks to colleagues who are better suited to complete specific tasks.

Delegate or outsource urgent but not important tasks to multiply yourself and keep you focused on the most important work.

Here are the top things you need to know to delegate efficiently:

#6 Automate Repetitive Tasks

Technology has finally reached a point where we can automate a lot of our daily operations. By automating a few of your tasks, you save hours per week. You can then use that time for Deep Work or taking breaks. Putting some of your daily tasks on autopilot is key to working smarter.  Use technology to automate daily repetitive tasks and use the newfound time to perform Deep Work or rest. Here are a couple of tasks you can automate in under 10 minutes:

#7 Set Time Constraints

You become more productive when you allocate a specific amount of time to complete a specific task. That’s why we create deadlines.

But Parkinson’s law states: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. So, if you reduce the time you have to complete a task, you force your brain to focus and complete it. Set deadlines even when you don’t need to. Scheduling less time to complete tasks and force your brain to focus.

Here’s an example:

You have to review and reply to an email, a task that normally takes you around 20 minutes. Reduce the time available to 10 minutes, set a countdown timer and work as hard as you can to beat it.

The timer creates a sense of urgency and pushes you to focus and be more efficient, even if you end up having to go back and add a more time later.

Use deadlines and time limits to your advantage. Even when you don’t have a deadline, set one. Your brain will acknowledge it. Knowing you only have one hour to complete a report will ensure you don’t waste 20 minutes on Facebook.

#8 Eliminate Distractions

Distractions hurt your productivity and focus. A study from the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task after getting distracted. Best-selling author Gary Keller illustrated in “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” what happens when you get interrupted:

When you lose your focus, it can take you twice as long to get back into the groove.

Half an hour completely focused on a task is more productive than 2 hours switching between tasks. Eliminate distractions from your work to avoid task switching costs.

Here are a couple of hacks to eliminate distractions from your life:

#9 Make Quick Decisions on Things That Don’t Matter

We make hundreds of small, medium, and big decisions every day. 90% of the decisions we make don’t matter. Success comes from identifying and focusing your energy on the 10%.

Small decisions impact you for a day, such as what to wear or where to eat. Medium impact your life for a year, such as deciding to go back to school or rent a different room. In the long term though, very few decisions matter. Those are the big decisions: they are worthy of serious pondering, discussion, investigation, investment, and decision making.

Invest your focus on big decisions and make quick calls on medium and small decisions.

Busy people don’t spend a lot of time pondering over small and medium decisions. A great time management technique is to train yourself to be quick when making them as well.

#10 Track Your Time

Do you know how much time you spend on each task? Most of us can guess, but our estimates are normally way off. A time-tracking app can help you take out the guesswork. Track your time to have real data on your work and uncover insights on how you can improve your productivity.  After a couple of weeks, you’ll start noticing patterns and knowing where and how your time is leaking. By being aware of how exactly you are using your time, you can devise a plan to attack your leaks and how to get rid of them.

Time tracking is a powerful time management technique that forces you to take a hard look at how your work and how you can optimize it.

#11 Beat Procrastination with the 2-Minute Rule

This one comes straight from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivitymethodology. He calls it the “2-Minute Rule” and it’s a great way to beat procrastination and get things done. It works for both your professional and personal life.

There are two parts to the “2-Minute Rule”:

Part 1: If it can be done in two minutes, just do it. Don’t add it to your to-do list, put it aside for later, or delegate to someone else. Just do it.

Here are some examples of tasks you can do in two minutes or less:

There are a ton of tiny, seemingly trivial tasks that take less than two minutes, yet you need to do every day.

Part 2: If it takes more than two minutes, start it. Once you start acting on small tasks, you can keep the ball rolling. Simply working on it for two minutes will help you break the first barrier of procrastination.

#12 Say No More Often Than Yes

Most CEOs will tell you that saying “no” is one of the most important time management techniques. Saying “yes” often can be counterproductive, especially when you agree to do things that don’t contribute to your work and goals. Your time is a limited resource, and you can’t let people set your agenda in life. Focus on doing great quality work rather than rushing through it all. Quality wins over quantity every single day.

Warren Buffet said it best: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

But how do you know which things you should say no to? What if you are passing on a life-changing opportunity? Luckily, Buffet has developed a two-step rule to help you set boundaries and become better at decision making:

  1. Start by writing down your top twenty-five career goals. Once you’re done, circle the five most important to you
  2. The second step is to eliminate the other twenty goals. Go ahead and cross them off

Say “no” by default to anything that doesn’t contribute to your top 5 career goals.

Anything other than the five goals you circled in the first step are distractions getting in the way of reaching what you truly value in life. As such, start saying no to anything that doesn’t contribute to your “true goals”.

#13 Take Advantage of Gap Time

We have a lot of downtime throughout our days: commuting, lines, waiting rooms, in-between tasks, small breaks in the schedule, etc.  If we add all this time up, we have around 1–3 hours of “gap time” every day. Be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. While these short periods might not be enough to do Deep Work, we can still work on little things that contribute to your work, development, and growth.

Here are a couple of things you can do to use “gap time” effectively:

Use “gap time” effectively to develop new skills, strategic planning, and personal growth.

By taking advantage of your downtime, you end up getting more done and having more free time for fun after work.

#14 80/20 Your Time

The 80 20 rule states that “80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action”. In other words, the little things are the ones that account for the majority of the results.

This is one of the best time management techniques you can use to help you regain focus and work on the things that bring the most impact. Do 20% of your tasks bring 80% of the results? Then prioritize your time to work on them.

Use the 80/20 rule in your life and work to prioritize the input that brings most of the output.

Here are other questions to ask yourself to use this rule:

#15 Automate Decisions

Force your brain to make a lot of decisions and you end up depleting your willpower and suffering from decision fatigue. This hurts your decision-making ability: as the day wears on, you’ll start making fewer smart decisions. That’s why you are more likely to binge-watch Netflix while eating Doritos in the evening.

To avoid mental exhaustion, automate decisions to free yourself from cognitive burden and not rely solely on your self-discipline. Let decisions happen automatically and smart decisions will happen by themselves.

Here are examples of smart decisions you can automate:

You can also automate many other tasks using IFTTT or Zapier. These apps connect many other apps and let them “talk” to each other, creating automation. Here are two automated tasks I use for email:

#16 Single Task

Multitasking is a corporate myth that has evolved over time. The brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time. Switching between tasks can have damaging costs to our work and productivity.

Develop the habit of single-tasking by forcing your brain to concentrate on one task and one task only. Put your phone away, close all the browser windows and apps that you don’t need. Immerse yourself in this task. Only move to the next one when you’re done.

Force your brain to single task in order to do Deep Work and avoid task switching costs.

A really great productivity hack that forces single-tasking is the Pomodoro Technique. Turn off all the distractions and set a timer for 25 minutes. In that time, you can only work on a single task.

#17 Break Down Big Tasks

We all have huge tasks that we get tired just thinking about the amount of work needed to complete them. We procrastinate by doing mindless tasks instead of starting them.

To avoid this, break down your larger goals into small manageable tasks with realistically achievable milestones. This will help you map out all the small activities that need to be done and creating a timeline to do them. As a rule of thumb, each small task should take less than one hour to complete.

Break down big tasks into smaller ones to avoid procrastinating and help you stay on track to achieve your final goal.

Never put a huge project down as just one to-do on your list. Instead, put bit-sized to-dos that you can do one at a time. Take it “bird by bird”.

#18 Work From the Calendar

Another great time management technique of busy people is scheduling their tasks, working from their calendar instead of the to-do list. Using your calendar forces, you to rethink your work from tasks to time units. That small change increases the likelihood of getting things done.

To-do lists are where you list and define all your activities. The calendar is where you identify when you’re going to do those things and how much time is needed to complete them.

In the words of Srinivas Rao: “When an event is consistently scheduled on your calendar, it’s much more likely to transform into an unconscious habit.”

Plan and schedule your calendar ahead of time to avoid distractions and be in charge of your time.  The more you plan and schedule your time with purpose, the less time there is for outside forces to take over your schedule. Don’t try to jam-pack your calendar though. Leave enough room for unforeseeable tasks that demand immediate attention. Move things around and reschedule as needed as your week progresses.

Colour-code your calendar by different types of activities. For example:

If you prefer, you can colour-code using different organizations: by project, by teams, or type of work.  When it comes to productivity, your calendar is your best friend.

#19 Take Fewer (But Better) Meetings

Meetings are the devil of the corporate. Few people like meetings and most dread them.

Truth is that most things don’t need a meeting. If the purpose of the meeting isn’t either to make a decision or complete an action together, cancel it and communicate over email (e.g. updates on a specific project). As for outside the office meetings, switch to phone calls or video conferences

As for the meeting that you do have to take, make them highly efficient and productive by following these simple rules:

Only take meetings that have a clear agenda, and a decision needs to be made. To run better meetings, have an end time and keep the number of participants small.

#20 Let Go of Perfectionism

Perfectionism keeps you from being perfect.

It’s easy to be caught up in an endless cycle of trying to do everything perfectly. But being a perfectionism can delay your work and make you miss important deadlines. The sooner you realize that delivering high-quality work on time is the most important skill, the faster you will advance on your goals and career.

Perfectionism is fear disguised in sheep’s clothing, which shows itself as procrastination. Learn to accept that small details don’t matter, ship faster, and fix things afterward if needed.  Aiming for perfection is a sure-fire way to delay or never complete a project. Choose to chase “good enough” instead. In the words of Mark Twain: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

#21 Have a To-Don’t List

In Mathematics, there is a problem-solving technique called inversion. You start with results and work backward to calculate the causes. Inversion is a powerful tool because it forces you to uncover hidden beliefs about the problem you are trying to solve. You need to think how to minimize the negatives instead of maximizing the positives.

Let’s say you want to improve productivity. Thinking forward, you would list all the things you could do to be more productive. But if you look at the problem by inversion, you’d think about all the things you could do that would diminish productivity.

Enter the To-Don’t List.

Create your own by writing down all the habits you want to quit and activities you wish to eliminate from your life. Think about your possible workday — long meetings with people you don’t like and boring repetitive tasks — and work from there.  Create a To-Don’t list with all the habits you want to remove from your life. Use it as a guideline of what you don’t allow in your life.

Here are a couple of examples:

The reason why inversion works is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs

#22 Batch Similar Tasks

What does process all your emails in one sitting and cooking for an entire week on Sunday have in common? They use a productivity hack known as batching.

The main idea behind this time management technique is to collect up a group of similar activities and do them all in one swoop. You can work efficiently on multiple tasks without losing your flow if the activities require similar mindsets. Batching forces your brain to be focused on one type of task at a time.  Batch similar tasks and complete them at one time. Batching reduces the start-up and slow-down time, daily clutter, and improves focus. To discover which tasks you should stack, start by writing all your activities for the day and week. Now identify the ones that call for similar mindsets and batch them together. Try the batch and rearrange tasks if necessary.

Here are a couple tasks you should batch together:

To process batches faster, work on similar tasks for a set period using the Pomodoro Technique.

#23 Take Time Off to Recharge

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being connected 24/7. We feel guilty during the weekend about not working ahead or completing an extra project. All the time

Our body and mind need rest to function properly. Taking time to recharge is crucial to sustaining motivation, passion, and productivity. Quick breaks during a stressful deadline can help you maintain focus, renew creativity, and make you feel more refreshed when you return to your task.

For longer periods of recharging, take regular work vacations of at least a week off throughout the year. Bill Gates, for example, went into seclusion for one week twice a year to focus and plan. Many of Microsoft’s innovation ideas came from those “Think Weeks”.

Schedule breaks throughout your day to help you recharge and take regular vacations throughout the year. Rest is the best medicine for sustainable long-term productivity.

One Last Time Management Technique

It’s so easy to get caught up in our busyness that we forget to enjoy what we’re doing. The goal of work is enjoyment. You want to spend more time doing things that you enjoy. Work can and should be fun. It’s fun that drives motivation, passion, creativity, and productivity. Dread your job and no time management technique in the world can help you.

Apply these 23-time management techniques to maximize your happiness while at work, not the amount of time you spend working. Use the newfound time in activities you value, such as spending time with your family, working on side-projects, practicing a hobby, or developing your skills. The enjoyment you get from these other activities will in turn fuel your work productivity.

Resources

How To Manage Time | Time Management Tips - Jim Rohn - YouTube

Learn how to Manage l Time Management l Brian Tracy l - YouTube

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Leading with Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Early in my career I discovered the importance of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school, and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

Sound like an incredible tool in your professional and personal toolbox?

Here are the four attributes of emotional intelligence

  1. Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  2. Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.
  3. Social awareness – You have empathy. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  4. Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

As we know, it’s not the smartest people who are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual ability or your intelligence quotient (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to achieve success in life. Yes, your IQ can help you get into college, but it’s your EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions when facing your final exams. IQ and EQ exist in tandem and are most effective when they build off one another.

Emotional intelligence affects:

Your performance at school or work. High emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead, and motivate others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging important job candidates, many companies now rate emotional intelligence as important as technical ability and employ EQ testing before hiring.

Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your emotions, you are probably not managing your stress either. This can lead to serious health problems. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to manage stress.

Your mental health. Uncontrolled emotions and stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand, get comfortable with, or manage your emotions, you’ll also struggle to form strong relationships. This in turn can leave you feeling lonely and isolated and further exacerbate any mental health problems.

Your relationships. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

Your social intelligence. Being in tune with your emotions serves a social purpose, connecting you to other people and the world around you. Social intelligence enables you to recognize friend from foe, measure another person’s interest in you, reduce stress, balance your nervous system through social communication, and feel loved and happy.

Building emotional intelligence: Four key skills to increasing your EQ

The skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any time. However, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between simply learning about EQ and applying that knowledge to your life. Just because you know you should do something doesn’t mean you will—especially when you become overwhelmed by stress, which can override your best intentions. In order to permanently change behavior in ways that stand up under pressure, you need to learn how to overcome stress in the moment, and in your relationships, in order to remain emotionally aware.

The key skills for building your EQ and improving your ability to manage emotions and connect with others are:

  1. Self-management
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Building emotional intelligence, key skill 1: Self-management

In order for you to engage your EQ, you must be able use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behavior. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately.

Think about a time when stress has overwhelmed you. Was it easy to think clearly or make a rational decision? Probably not. When you become overly stressed, your ability to both think clearly and accurately assess emotions—your own and other people’s—becomes compromised.

Emotions are important pieces of information that tell you about yourself and others, but in the face of stress that takes us out of our comfort zone, we can become overwhelmed and lose control of ourselves. With the ability to manage stress and stay emotionally present, you can learn to receive upsetting information without letting it override your thoughts and self-control. You’ll be able to make choices that allow you to control impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.

Key skill 2: Self-awareness

Managing stress is just the first step to building emotional intelligence. The science of attachment indicates that your current emotional experience is likely a reflection of your early life experience. Your ability to manage core feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy often depends on the quality and consistency of your early life emotional experiences. If your primary caretaker as an infant understood and valued your emotions, it’s likely your emotions have become valuable assets in adult life. But, if your emotional experiences as an infant were confusing, threatening, or painful, it’s likely you’ve tried to distance yourself from your emotions.

But being able to connect to your emotions—having a moment-to-moment connection with your changing emotional experience—is the key to understanding how emotion influences your thoughts and actions.

Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?

Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach, throat, or chest?

Do you experience individual feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?

Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?

Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, you may have “turned down” or “turned off” your emotions. In order to build EQ—and become emotionally healthy—you must reconnect to your core emotions, accept them, and become comfortable with them. You can achieve this through the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and without judgment. The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of similar prayer or meditation technique. Mindfulness helps shift your preoccupation with thought toward an appreciation of the moment, your physical and emotional sensations, and brings a larger perspective on life. Mindfulness calms and focuses you, making you more self-aware in the process.

Developing emotional awareness

It’s important that you learn how to manage stress first, so you’ll feel more comfortable reconnecting to strong or unpleasant emotions and changing how you experience and respond to your feelings.

Key skill 3: Social awareness

Social awareness enables you to recognize and interpret the mainly nonverbal cues others are constantly using to communicate with you. These cues let you know how others are really feeling, how their emotional state is changing from moment to moment, and what’s truly important to them.

When groups of people send out similar nonverbal cues, you are able to read and understand the power dynamics and shared emotional experiences of the group. In short, you’re empathetic and socially comfortable.

Mindfulness is an ally of emotional and social awareness

To build social awareness, you need to recognize the importance of mindfulness in the social process. After all, you cannot pick up on subtle nonverbal cues when you’re in your own head, thinking about other things, or simply zoning out on your phone. Social awareness requires your presence in the moment. While many of us pride ourselves on an ability to multitask, this means that you will miss the subtle emotional shifts taking place in other people that help you fully understand them.

Key skill 4: Relationship management

Working well with others is a process that begins with emotional awareness and your ability to recognize and understand what other people are experiencing. Once emotional awareness is in play, you can effectively develop additional social/emotional skills that will make your relationships more effective, fruitful, and fulfilling.

Become aware of how effectively you use nonverbal communication. It’s impossible to avoid sending nonverbal messages to others about what you think and feel. The many muscles in the face, especially those around the eyes, nose, mouth, and forehead, help you to wordlessly convey your own emotions as well as read other peoples’ emotional intent. The emotional part of your brain is always on—and even if you ignore its messages—others won’t. Recognizing the nonverbal messages that you send to others can play a huge part in improving your relationships.

Use humour and play to relieve stress. Humour, laughter, and play are natural antidotes to stress. They lessen your burdens and help you keep things in perspective. Laughter brings your nervous system into balance, reducing stress, calming you down, sharpening your mind and making you more empathic.

Learn to see conflict as an opportunity to grow closer to others.Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in human relationships. Two people can’t possibly have the same needs, opinions, and expectations at all times. However, that needn’t be a bad thing. Resolving conflict in healthy, constructive ways can strengthen trust between people. When conflict isn’t perceived as threatening or punishing, it fosters freedom, creativity, and safety in relationships.

Reference:

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jennifer Shubin

Working with your team leader – where to from here, and how can we get there?

After the first fifty days you are firmly embedded in your new leadership role.  During this phase you have developed a strong and trusting relationship with your team leader.

Perhaps both of you have discussed and have considered the overarching concepts such as developing strategy, change and execution of high-level projects and programs?

This is an appropriate time for projects and initiatives to come together. Quite possibly you will begin to see the team begin to pivot into a new strategic direction.

This is an opportune time to work closely with your team leader to take the team to a new level.  Here are some strategies that will offer practical steps to accomplish this objective:


“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook

“People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.” Michelle Obama, attorney and former First Lady of the United States

After I've started in my new role, what shall I do in the first 100 days?

After I’ve started in my new role, what shall I do in the first 100 days?

In the first 100 days of my new role, l like to focus on critical aspects of the position. I call this phase my listen, learn, and diagnose stage.  As a strategic leader, the first 100 days are crucial.  You need to gain context, develop key relationships and creative positive momentum. Here are some strategies that can set you up for success:

We have discussed a few quick suggestions on how to set yourself up for success in the early days of your new role as leader.  This is not a comprehensive list, but it can be a logical step toward assuming responsibility at the leadership level. There are many important conversations in the first 100 days of a new role. 

One of those conversations will be with your team leader.  We will discuss some of the concepts to consider during those conversations in our next article, Working with your team leader.

Building Self Confidence

Building Self-Confidence.

Leadership can be a daunting and challenging.   While we want to look confident and capable there are times when we must overcome insecurity.  So, how do we shift from being insecure to a more self-confident leader?  One tactic is to reflect and consider how confident we are feeling.  If you have identified a vulnerability, there are several strategies to consider as you stride toward a more confident person.

Building self-confidence is probably a lot easier than you think. 'Non-assertive' people (in other words 'normal people') do not generally want to transform into being excessively dominant people. When most people talk about wanting to be more assertive, what they usually really mean is:

Pure assertiveness - dominance for the sake of being dominant - is not a natural behaviour for most people. Most people are not naturally assertive. Most people tend to be passive by nature. The assertive behaviour of highly dominant people tends to be driven by their personality (and often some insecurity). It is not something that has been 'trained'.

It's helpful to explain the difference between leadership with dominance: good leadership is inclusive, developmental, and a force for what is right. Good leadership does not 'dominate' non-assertive people, it includes them and involves them. Dominance as a management style is not good in any circumstances. It is based on short-term rewards and results, mostly for the benefit of the dominant, and it fails completely to make effective use of team-members' abilities and potential.

The fact is that most excessively dominant people are usually bullies. Bullies are deep-down very insecure people. They dominate because they are too insecure to allow other people to have responsibility and influence, and this behaviour is generally conditioned from childhood for one reason or another. The dominant bullying behaviour is effectively reinforced by the response given by 'secure' and 'non-assertive' people to bullying. The bully gets his or her own way. The bullying dominant behaviour is rewarded, and so it persists.

Dominant, bullying people, usually from a very young age, become positively conditioned to bullying behaviour, because in their own terms it works. Their own terms are generally concerned with satisfying their ego and selfish drives to get their own way, to control, to achieve status (often implanted by insecure ambitious parents), to manipulate, make decisions, build empires, to collect material signs of achievement, monetary wealth, and particularly to establish protective mechanisms, such as 'yes-men' followers ('body-guards'), immunity from challenge and interference, scrutiny, judgement, etc.

Early childhood experiences play an important part in creating bullies. Bullies are victims as well as aggressors. And although it's a tough challenge for anyone on the receiving end of their behaviour they actually deserve sympathy. It is good to remember that sympathy is not proposed here to be a sole or significant tactic in countering bullying. Rather, sympathy is advocated as a more constructive, stronger, alternative feeling to being fearful or intimidated.

Exploring our assertiveness techniques

Know the facts and have them to hand.  Ensure you know all the facts in advance - do some research and have it on hand ready to produce (and give out copies if necessary). Bullies usually fail to prepare their facts; they dominate through bluster, force and reputation. If you know and can produce facts to support or defend your position it is unlikely that the aggressor will have anything prepared in response.

When you know that a situation is going to arise, over which you'd like to have some influence, prepare your facts, do your research, do the sums, get the facts and figures, solicit opinion and views, be able to quote sources; then you will be able to make a firm case, and also dramatically improve your reputation for being someone who is organised and firm.

Anticipate other people's behaviour and prepare your responses

Anticipate other people's behaviour and prepare your own responses. Role-play in your mind how things are likely to happen. Prepare your responses according to the different scenarios that you think could unfold. Prepare other people to support and defend you. Being well prepared will increase your self-confidence and enable you to be assertive about what's important to you.

Prepare and use good open questions

Prepare and use good questions to expose flaws in other people's arguments. Asking good questions is the most reliable way of gaining the initiative, and taking the wind out of someone's sails, in any situation. Questions that bullies dislike most are deep, constructive, incisive and probing, especially if the question exposes a lack of thought, preparation, consideration, consultation on their part. For example:

Have faith that your own abilities will ultimately work if you use them

Non-assertive people have different styles and methods compared to dominant, aggressive people and bullies. Non-assertive people are often extremely strong in areas of process, detail, dependability, reliability, finishing things (that others have started), checking, monitoring, communicating, interpreting and understanding, and working cooperatively with others.

These capabilities all have the potential to undo a bully who has no proper justification. Find out what your strengths and style are and use them to defend and support your position. The biggest tantrum is no match for a well organised defence.

Feel sympathy rather than fear towards bullies

Re-discover the belief that non-assertive behaviour is actually okay - it's the bullies who are the ones with the problems. Feeling sympathy for someone who threatens you - thereby resisting succumbing to fearful or intimidated feelings - can help to move you psychologically into the ascendancy, or at least to a position where you can see weaknesses in the bully.

Aggressors and bullies were commonly children who were not loved, or children forced to live out the aspirations of their parents. In many ways all bullies are still children, and as far as your situation permits, seeing them as children can help you find greater strength and resistance.

Transactional Analysis theory, and especially the modern TA concepts, are helpful for some people in understanding how this sort of childhood emotional damage affects people, and how specific communications can be planned and used in response to excessive dominance, bullying, temper tantrums, and other threatening behaviours.

Several tactics are explained above to tackle bullying head-on, as is often very necessary. Additionally, in most western world countries, and many others besides, there are now serious laws and processes to protect people from bullying, and these protections should be invoked whenever bullying becomes a problem.

Taking Assertiveness Techniques to the Next Level

Non-assertive people do not normally actually aspire to being excessively dominant people, and they certainly don't normally want to become bullies.

When most people talk about wanting to be more assertive, what they really mean is 'I'd like to be more able to resist the pressure and dominance of excessively dominant people.' Doing this is not so hard and using simple techniques it can even be quite enjoyable and fulfilling.

Importantly, the non-assertive person should understand where they really are - a true starting point: non-assertive behaviour is a sign of strength usually, not weakness, and often it is the most appropriate behaviour for most situations - don't be fooled into thinking that you always have to be more assertive.

Understand where you want to be: what level of assertiveness do you want? Probably to defend yourself, and to control your own choices and destiny (which are relatively easy using the techniques below), not to control others.

For people who are not naturally assertive, it is possible to achieve a perfectly suitable level of assertiveness through certain simple methods and techniques, rather than trying to adopt a generally more assertive personal style (which could be counter-productive and stressful, because it would not be natural).

People seeking to be more assertive can dramatically increase their effective influence and strength by using just one or two of these four behaviours prior to, or when confronted by a more dominant character or influence, or prior to and when dealing with a situation in which they would like to exert more control. Here are some simple techniques and methods for developing self-confidence and more assertive behaviour.

It is a good idea is to read inspirational books (or listen to motivational eBooks) that reinforce your faith in proper values and all the good things in your own natural style and self, for example:

Being your unique self is an important part of being a leader. Confident and courageous leaders can be inspirational. Commitment to your personal style will facilitate your confidence to grow as a leader.

Starting a New Role - 2021 & Beyond

Starting a new role?  What can I do before I start?

Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back. – Babe Ruth

I like to be organised and prepared prior to the commencement of a new role.  I do this by clarifying the role, expectations of the role and the resources that will be assigned to me in any new position. Clarifying the role is important.  I want to be clear on what I am meant to do about the role prior to my commencement with the organisation.  I also try to access the capability framework and prepare some talking points to navigate the discussion with my new manager.

Then I discuss the big issues and opportunities I need to tackle. What is the timeframe and who are the resources that I will be working with to achieve these initiatives?  During this conversation I learn about the resources, regarding people, partnerships, budgets, and infrastructure.  The likelihood of success goes up with clear roles, expectations, and resources.  If they aren’t clearly defined, it can be a sign of potential issues and trouble with the role or your future boss.

If I am leading a particular project or programme, I try to learn as much as I can by asking for existing documentation, presentations SOPs, analysis, organisational charts, and financial and operational data relating to the project or program of work.  Similarly, before starting a new role, send the senior leader a ‘data request’.  This will get you up to speed and signal to them that you want to hit the ground running.  Once the data starts rolling in, read and absorb as much as you can and start a log of questions hypotheses, and other data that could be helpful. You can learn a great deal about an organisation and business through a data request.

A new co-worker starts a new role in 2021 an is getting along well with co-workers in an office around a table and laptop

Set up the first few weeks by focusing on building relationships and learning.  I typically schedule 15–20-minute conversations with members of my team, peers, leadership, internal customers, and other important stakeholders.  I create simple interview guides to help with structuring the conversations.  I cover questions like, ‘what are your role and accountabilities?’ ‘What are the biggest issues and opportunities with the team?’ ‘If you were in my shoes, what would your plan be?’ You can learn a lot about the organisation by keeping the questions open-ended and focused on the other person’s ideas.  Also, make sure to get the important weekly or monthly meetings into your schedule.

These are some of the concepts and actions I undertake before stepping into a new role. In our next article we will outline and discuss how to create success in the first 100 days of your new role.

What is leadership?

Peter Drucker suggests that leadership is about shifting a person’s vision to high sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard, and building a personality beyond its normal limitations.

Here are other leadership quotes.  What definitions resonate with you and your leadership perspective?

Leadership can be described as the ability to persuade others willingly to behave differently. It is the process of influencing people – getting them to do their best to achieve the desired result. It involves developing and communicating a vision for the future, motivating people, and securing their engagement. Other definitions (there are many) include:

Do these definitions of leadership span across into your personal experience?  And have you had any leaders who have lived up to these statements?

Throughout my career, I have experienced a diverse leadership cohort.  I have worked for and worked with many people who have fallen short of these aspirational statements.  On the other hand, I have had the privilege to work with some professionals who continue to inspire me to pursue my leadership behaviour.

So, where do we start to craft our leadership position?  I like to start with core values.  For me, core values are about understanding what you value; knowing your cause.  Considering, what is your brand?  Shaping my brand begins with my personal values. Here are some of my deliberations:

Work to your strengths

Character strengths are the personality characteristics that make you authentic, unique and feel engaged.  These are difference tot skills, talents, interests, or resources.  They are the real you or who you are at your core. When you are using your strengths, you enter the ‘flow’.  Research shows that ‘flow’ builds mental health and resilience. More ‘flow’ is beneficial to your leadership approach. Go back to your strengths when you feel low in confidence.  These are the things you can know about yourself.  However, if you would like to explore your strengths further, here is a short survey that could help to reveal hidden strengths that you can explore: VIA strengths survey: http://www.viacharacter.org/www

Work at your own pace

Remember, life is not a competition.  There is no standard time for promotion. Build your career by supporting others.  Celebrate the success of others.  Here are two pieces of advice that I have come to realise later in my leadership question.

  1. Go for the job, not the level.
  2. Choose the leader, not the job.

Finally, it is healthy to be ambitious but try to enjoy the journey of learning to develop your leadership capability.  Be true to yourself. The concept of a leader is synonymous with our working life. However, there are many influential leaders who inspire us in our community (coaches in sport, religious leaders, yoga teachers, exercise teachers).  There are even political leaders that have supported and protected us as national and international citizens. What qualities do you admire the most?  Would you weave these into your own leadership practice?

I Want to be an Authentic Leader When I Grow Up

I want to be an authentic leader when I grow up? But what does that mean?

Authentic leaders are aware of their own and other people’s values/morals, knowledge, and strengths. Leadership theorists perceive authentic leadership to be the root concept or foundation to all forms of positive leadership. Authentic leadership answers whether or not leaders’ intentions are sincere and useful to others and the organisation or are instead negative and immoral. Authentic leaders live life according to their beliefs and feelings and not because of political favours or agendas.

An authentic leaders’ positive moral perspective, self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency, positive psychological capital, and authentic behavior as dimensions of authentic leadership. A key attribute of authentic leaders is their ability to implement balanced processing (this includes the ability to be objective when considering the worth of difference pieces of evidence, listening to others and weighing multiple perspectives before acting on or deciding). Relational transparency (being open and understanding about feelings) and having positive psychological capital are also attributable to authentic leaders.

Authentic leadership has emerged from the frustration of the decades of immoral, unethical corporate decision-making. One difference between authentic leaders and transformational leaders is that authentic leaders understand their emotions and how they inform decisions and affects others around them. This means that authentic leaders are characterised by their behaviours – especially their practice of role-modelling transparent and ethical behaviour that accepts multiple views in solving problems and specifically encourages their employees to share information required to make decisions.

Authentic leaders motivate and empower employees by embedding structures and a culture of bi-directional communication that encourages employees to contribute ideas and perspectives as well as including coaching and constructive feedback.

These types of leadership actively support employees to find meaning at work, and their actions build openness and optimism about what is possible at work and commitment in others. Their management actions are transparent (no favouritism), which in turn, tends to promote employees to have transparent relationships with others.

These actions build trust and employees tend to feel included and a part of a workplace. As such, the workplace is healthier.  In reality, “Authentic leadership is the full expression of “me” for the benefit of “we”.”-Henna Inam, Wired for Authenticity: Seven Practices to Inspire, Adapt, & Lead.

12 Principles of Successful Leaders

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’ Jack Welch

There are many leadership styles and approaches available.  During the pandemic, leadership challenges have increased, and the complexity of leading can be daunting.  Hence, the awareness for change has shifted from orthodox leadership principles and practices to autocratic, transactional, transformational, and building towards a more positive, value-based, authentic leadership approach.

Leaders of today must be committed to a process of continuous change which requires active and visible leadership to find the courage and ingenuity to grow personally and professionally for the benefit of all employees.  Three of the leadership approaches explored in this are article are:

Throughout my career I have worked for leaders who have aligned with these three styles. As I grew my career, I realised that I wanted to take the negative experiences and turn them into positive approaches and weave them into my own leadership style.

While leadership may be regarded as a workplace function, my intention is to integrate positive behaviours into my personal world also.  To tackle this is in a planned and considered way I developed twelve principles that I strive toward in my practice. 

These are:

  1. Be true to character.  For me, this means to be honest and authentic.  We all have good and bad days or even positive and negative moments, but I strive toward a positive approach to all relationships.
  2. Lead with a vision.  At a pivotal stage in my career, I worked on a transformation program and the leader of the organisation said, ‘we are going to transform. 

    I do not know what that looks like, but we are changing nonetheless’. What?  How can we align our function or form if you don’t what the future state will look like? So, second principle for me is to make sure that I have a clear vision of the future before I communicate a change.
  3. Manage with a plan.  I love a good plan.  I like to start program development or project with a strategy map. This map provides critical information for the program or project. 

    For example, I consider stakeholders, program impacts, rationale for the program or project and many other critical considerations.  At the beginning of the project, I share this strategy map with my stakeholders to get their feedback.  Of course, the strategy map is a centrepiece in my discussions with my team.
  4. Prioritise your time.  This principle is not always easy to accomplish.  Time is such an important factor that influences our entire lives. However, while studying and working full time I found that I was more organised than I had ever been in my life.  Why?  Well, I had to ensure that I was rigorous with managing my time.
  5. Live the Golden Rule in business and life.  I am going to leave this one here for you to consider.  The Golden Rule is as individual as we are, so, what is your Golden Rule?
  6. Build and maintain trust.  As I said previously, these principles span across work and life.  Trust is one of the most important aspects of relationship management.  How do we build trust?  There is so much to unpack here. Perhaps this is a conversation for another day? 
  7. Be an effective communicator. It is always best to present your views in a way that is best understood by the receiver.  There are many strategies for effective communication and here are some characteristics of effective communication:


In closing, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ John Quincy Adams

Influence

What does, ‘influence’ mean?  How can we use it appropriately in our lives?

The definition of influence is, the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.’ (Cambridge English Dictionary)

Why is influence important to leadership today? Influence is an essential leadership quality that gives you the ability to move just one individual or a large group.

You can use influence to launch a new initiative, make strategic decisions, and create change in your organisation. Influential leaders perform what others believe to be important.

What are the criteria of influence?  What are the positive and negative considerations for each criterion?

It is important to remember that having influence means more that just talking; it is about taking charge and understanding the role of position power, emotion, expertise, and nonverbal communication and how these components are inextricably linked.  To delve a little further into influence I would like to present these components with some explanation.

Consider the above four criteria of influence as you weave them into your mastery of human interaction which leads to a more influential person. Below I have outlined seven ways to build influence in the workplace.  Also, consider how these seven elements can transition into your personal life:

  1. Build trust with your co-workers (and friends).  Influence is most often and most easily carried through trust.
  2. Cultivate reliability through consistency.  Inconsistency is the fastest way to ruin your reputation.
  3. Be assertive; not aggressive.
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Be personal.
  6. Focus on actions rather than argument.
  7. Listen to others.

John Maxwell reminds us that, leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It is about one life influencing another.’  If that is the case, then it is extremely important to remember that when we influence another person, we hold a powerful position.  In that case, we must be respectful and trustworthy. 

The same power dynamic is true especially when you are navigating your social and familial world, don’t you think?