10 ways to feel more in control as a Leader
Leading a team can be incredibly stressful as there are so many balls to juggle every single day. People to manage, customers to satisfy, projects to complete, budgets to balance and that’s without adding in the endless emails, phone calls, interruptions and the never ending to-do list. It’s really no wonder that there are days when you start to feel really frustrated by it all, you might feel stressed, and overwhelmed and that you’re not actually getting anything done that you need to get done.
But don’t worry…everyone feels like this from time to time, but there are things that you can do that will really make a difference.
So, I’m going to take you through 10 tips that’ll really help you start to feel much more in control…what I will say though they’re not quick fixes. As I’m sure you’ve realised anything worth doing takes a bit of effort, and I’m not going to apologise for this. By putting in the work and building a strong foundation to how you manage your day you’ll really start to reap the rewards but yes you can choose to not bother, but then nothing will actually change.
So – let’s get straight to it and get to tip number 1 which is:
1.Get organised & establish great systems
Being organised is a key step to minimising stress, and that feeling of overwhelm – but I know it’s not something that many of you will look forward to. But, be honest now, how tidy is your desk / drawers? Do you spend time looking for files, and documents that you need? What do the files on your PC look like? Can you find what you need there?
If you’re spending a lot of time looking for things, or pushing paper or files from one place to another it’s time for a re-think. This is definitely short term pain for long term gain. Get yourself a massive cup of tea / coffee, take a deep breath and get organised. I want you to go through your desk and your drawers, file it where you’ll find it, or shred it. There isn’t an in between.
Same goes for your PC….and your inbox. That’s right I said it…your inbox. I know you feel sick just thinking about clearing out your inbox but it needs to be done. Whilst you’re doing this set yourself up some short cuts like groups of people you always email at once, your signature…anything you find yourself doing over and over again, let’s fix it once and for all.
Whilst we’re looking at getting organised it’s also a great idea to create (and stick to) some systems that are really going to work for you. For example – If you have monthly one to ones with your team make sure they’re all in your diary for the next year and let everyone know – and the same goes for your team meetings. You’ll be able to identify all the other routine tasks you do as you go through your day but instead of just doing them on auto pilot for a week force yourself to be really aware of what your day looks like, where you get frustrated and where you’re wasting time and create a system and process to fix it.
2. Take a good look at your calendar
Now that you’re organised, open your calendar to have a look at the meetings you attend. Whilst you’re doing this ask yourself these questions…why do you attend these meetings? Do you need to attend or could you send someone else? And we’ll come on to that in a moment.
Are you there just for the sake of it?
If you can delegate a meeting speak to the relevant people and free up some of your time. If you feel you don’t need to be there at all, step out and empower your team to get it done without you, and just keep you in the loop by sending you the minutes, or if you just need to assign some more time before or after the meeting to complete actions or prepare, block that time out so you feel more in control.
There may be times when you have to accept that you have lots of things that suck your time. If that’s the case, rather than try to squash more things into an already crammed schedule, utilise your team. Delegating is a great way to motivate and develop other people in your team, whilst freeing up some of your time. You don’t wear a cape so you don’t need to do everything yourself, so give delegating a try.
The one thing I’ll say here is don’t just pass on your work to someone else – instead make time to go through it properly with them and build in some time to review as you go along. You might be thinking…but by the time I’ve done that I could have done it myself…and yes of course you could…but you’d always be doing it. This way, you’re getting some support and back up so it really is a good use of your time.
4. Analyse your processes
Sometimes we keep doing things a certain way, just because they’ve always been done that way, and not because it’s the most efficient way of doing it. We just get blinkered and turn our brain off because it’s easier. Now’s the time to really look at all of your team’s processes. Is there anything that you can stream line, change or get rid of altogether? Get your team involved with this and get the creative juices flowing…what can you do as a team to make all of your lives easier and slicker?
5. Monitor your to-do list
Every manager has a to-do list as long as their arm – but now I want you to take a long hard look at it. Do you have to do all of it? Or can you delegate? Is everything absolutely necessary? If not, delete it. Are there things you’ve been putting off? Time to get it done once and for all.
Once you’ve done this I want you to have a go at changing how you go about your to-do list. Have a go at only writing down what you know you can achieve in that day. If you know you get interrupted a lot and they usually take a couple of hours in total and your working day is 8 hours long, only schedule 6 hours worth of work that day. You’ll start to feel happier as you’ll get more done.
[Remember the aim is to leave work with a clear conscience and not a clear in-tray!]
6. Take note of your interruptions
Every manager gets interrupted at work. It comes with the territory. The problem is when you get so many interruptions it leaves you no time to do your day job. So, if this is a problem for you here’s a tip… whenever you do something that’s not on your to-do list write it down at the bottom and highlight it. This will not only show you what you did achieve, but you’ll be able to see if there’s a pattern emerging so you can do something about it to stop it. For example – Are you always getting phone calls about the same thing? Could a Frequently Asked Question page on your website / intranet or phone menu solve this problem? Is a colleague always asking you the same question or support with the same task? Could you solve this with some additional training? Have a look for patterns and give it a go.
Multi-skilling your team is a great way to not only free up your time, develop your team and motivate them, but it also ensures that you’ve got cover in case someone is off sick or on holiday. Make a list of all the activities in your team where there is only one person that is trained to do it, and then make a plan to train someone else in your team. Don’t forget the tasks that you do regularly as well.
8. Be pro-active rather than re-active
I appreciate this one is easier said than done. When you’re constantly trying to keep your head above water it’s not always possible to find the time to be pro-active. So, my suggestion is to start small. Once a week diarise one hour of your time to simply take some time out to think about what’s coming round the corner. Speak to your team about it so you can have their input and potentially managers in other departments that you work closely with.
9.Manage your time
Again, something else that is easier said than done. However, by following the points highlighted earlier you’ll find that you’re gaining time and being more efficient every day. That said, do think about how you spend your time, and more importantly where you waste it.
10.Take time for you
Everyone needs a break, and you’re no different. This last point is a great one for reducing your stress levels but will take some practice. At first you might feel guilty but it will work wonders. Just give it some time.
Make sure you take your lunch every day – try taking it for the next few days, and go get some fresh air and go for a walk. Both of these will do you the world of good.
Finally, diarise an hour a week just for you. Be committed to your hour and block it out. Pretend it’s the most important meeting ever (it really is) and don’t creep into it with any other work / meeting. During that hour learn something new, reflect on your week or plan your next week and give your brain a well deserved break.
So, there are my ten tips for helping you feel more in control –I’d love to hear your tips so please hop on over to barbaranixon.co.uk and leave a comment.