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In previous articles, we discussed the most important skills a leader must develop to effectively carry out their tasks. As we mentioned at the beginning of this saga, leading involves greater responsibilities and generally a higher number of tasks. 

Our attention is constantly being pulled by others, and if we let ourselves be carried away by this without managing our time and energy, there’s no doubt that we will fail. We need a framework for managing time and energy.

I firmly believe that such a framework must be tailored to one’s role, personality, the situation of the project(s) they are leading, the situation of the company they belong to, their personal routine, among other aspects. However, throughout my career, I have found a way to organize my calendar and tasks that allows me to work on multiple workflows in parallel, managing different priorities, and maintaining a constant and healthy delivery stream

Its composed of just two things:

  • Managing and blocking the day’s schedule (calendar)
  • Tracking, prioritizing, and defining tasks (notion)

Calendar Organization

When you become a leader, you’ll have to get comfortable with the idea of being organized, as your memory and capacity to keep ideas in your head are limited. You will need clear organization to not go crazy.

What does the construction of this agenda depend on?

  • Your role: Are you involved in multiple projects? Do you lead at an organizational level or a team level?
  • Your personal life: Are you more productive in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you go to the gym? Do you cut your day short to take your child to school?
  • Recurring meetings: Do you have recurring meetings with other areas or team members? What time works best for you to have them?
  • Among other things…

How do I organize my agenda?

  1. I’m a night owl: I start my morning slowly, with my peak productivity in the mid-afternoon. Strategically, my day begins with light/shallow work, management meetings, or work that is not at all stressful but rather creative, such as advancing the objectives of the technology area or focusing on sales engineering work. This also allows me to “warm up” for deep work.
  2. But can everyone have meetings with me in the morning? Generally not, and I must adapt. A key for me is not to have 4 meetings separated by 1 hour, for example, as it’s a productivity killer. That’s why my calendar has 2 slots for meetings, early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  3. Perfect! With this, we have the meetings organized, and therefore a big gap for deep work. During this time, I set my status on Slack to focus mode, not because I won’t respond to anything, but rather to tell myself “now is when you focus on the hard problems, this time is yours, take care of it.”

organize your agenda

     4. Finally, if I manage to tackle all the problems in my deep work time, I end the day with light work as a cool-down and some synchronization meetings with the team.

Here is an example of my current agenda:

current calendar

Do I always respect this? No, but when I go from juggling 3 balls to having 10, it helps me a lot to stay productive, avoid analysis paralysis, prevent the balls from falling, or getting overwhelmed.

Many other leaders at LoopStudio also follow this format, and we always try to take into account each other’s agendas, especially for meetings of great importance.

For example, meetings with sales to evaluate offering our staff augmentation services are generally in the mornings to respect the timezone of my colleagues in Europe.

Similarly, if I’m working on a design sprint proposal or for the creation of an MVP, it’s generally necessary to involve many areas of the company, such as operations, design, and sales, so finding a schedule that respects my agenda is difficult and it’s necessary to be flexible to adapt to the times of others.

Task Management

Once we have the time reserved and organized, we must see what to spend it on. Many people use a notepad, physical or virtual, a TO-DO list, tools like Trello, Notion, or Jira.

In my case, I like to keep it simple, my priorities, and workflows change frequently and I don’t want to spend too much time on inflexible task organization. That’s why I organize my tasks in the following way (illustrative figure, not real):

task management

  • Not prioritized: tasks not prioritized, similar to a backlog. Here fall non-urgent requests or with no defined date, as well as ideas that I would like to exploit or implement in the future. This is where I take work to do when my TO-DOs are empty (this never happens).
  • Delegated: list of delegated tasks, it’s interesting to track them to see how the delegation is working, synchronize with the collaborator, and make any adjustments.
  • TO-DO: self-explanatory, tasks that need to be done. I generally order them by priority.
  • Doing: tasks I’m focusing on during the day/week, also ordered by priority.
  • Day: I use this column when my tasks correspond to many different workstreams, and it’s necessary to define what I need to complete each day without fail. I use it only in times of heavy workload.
  • Done: simply for satisfaction and tracking of what has been done.

8 Extra Tips

Some other good practices we promote at LoopStudio, important for time management and healthy work are:

  • Learning to say no, a phrase often repeated by managers, which never translates into actually saying no: I recommend this article.
  • Avoid multitasking as much as possible, work on many tasks in the day, but do so sequentially.
  • Delegate: constantly ask yourself “can only I do this?” if the answer is no, delegate it.
  • Define clear goals: key to being able to delegate, otherwise, you will depend exclusively on the interpretation of whoever takes the task.
  • Monitor your time management framework, audit it, challenge it. Constantly monitor the recurring meetings you have, are they useful? Are you indispensable in them, or can you avoid them?
  • Take short breaks, go for a walk, meditate, eat, chat with a friend, spend some time with your dog.
  • Don’t stay doing overtime unless it’s really super critical, the extra effort and energy spent will take its toll on the rest of the week, and what you gained in productivity you will lose in the following days.
  • If any task is causing you a lot of stress, is very difficult, or very urgent, ignore your agenda and organization and focus only on that. Notify the rest that you will be focused on it to avoid distractions, everything can wait.

Conclusion

Although time management is often associated with management roles that seem to live in meetings, the reality is that any leadership position involves an increase in responsibilities, interactions, and demands.

This increase in tasks and expectations can initially seem overwhelming, leading many leaders to feel overwhelmed, unable to advance in multiple workflows.

This can be due to concentrating on a single task, ignoring others, or trying to cover too much, trying to meet everyone’s needs without leaving space for deep and reflective work. Therefore, it is essential that, in addition to developing managerial skills, leaders learn to organize and prioritize their time, attention, and energy effectively.

Adopting this approach not only improves productivity and progress on projects but also preserves the leader’s well-being and promotes a healthy and efficient work environment.