When new team leads are promoted, I interview them to discuss the challenges of being a leader. I usually mention something a mentor told me long ago about success in life and the workplace — focus on these three traits: be honest, hard-working and smart. These principles are a simple version of Warren Buffett’s values on hiring new employees and are critical to your success — and your team’s and company’s success.
Honesty is the most important, because even criminals can be hard-working and smart. Honest people will contribute the most to the company or client they’re working for. Are you stealing time when no one is watching? Is the company getting what they’re paying for?
Are you working at a comparable rate to what you’re producing? Are you smart? Are you efficient at what you do, but not afraid to look for new ways to do things and improve efficiency?
If you feel like you can get away with slacking in any of these three areas, the results will eventually show. Good time management skills are critical to success as an employee, especially for those working from home. When you become a manager, time management becomes increasingly crucial, because fewer people monitor your every move.
Also, for those working from home, distraction is all around. The dog needs attention, the dishwasher needs to be emptied, the kids are home from school, etc. Here are some essential tips I’ve found to help managers make their time – at home or in the field – more focused:
Dress for the day
Over the past year, remote work has increased for many companies to accommodate pandemic restrictions. When working from home, dress just like you would for the office. If you wear business attire in the office, wear it at home. For me, I do the same things I would as if I were going to the office. I prepare a lunch, shave, and dress in my usual office attire.
Dressing for the day sets my mind appropriately for the workday ahead. It helps me stay focused on the things I need to do. It gives me the right kind of attitude.
Be prepared for meetings
Look at your weekly calendar on Friday to prepare for the week ahead, and review tomorrow’s meeting schedule at least the day before. For each meeting, determine what preparation to do or homework to complete, so you’re ready to deliver what’s expected. If you come prepared, you’ll reduce the need for future meetings.
Don’t always do the easy tasks; focus on the hard things
Often, we’ll clear out the inbox or do some easy tasks to feel like we’re accomplishing something. That habit gets magnified when under a lot of pressure. We think if we knock off a couple of easy things first, then we can feel equipped to do the hard stuff. While that may be true, the easy things keep coming, and before you know it, the time has run out for the hard tasks. Here are some suggestions:
- Block off some time on the calendar to accomplish the hard stuff.
Make an appointment with yourself, so nobody schedules it with you—mark it on the calendar and don’t be late. Close email, turn off text notifications and spend time thinking only about this task. You’ll be amazed at what you accomplish if you focus entirely on one task. Many times, you’ll discover that you got more done in an hour of focused time than you could with two or three hours of distracted time.
- Break up the hard stuff into manageable work.
Take a larger task and break it up into smaller tasks, especially if it has a later deadline. Let’s say there’s an assignment due in four weeks. Break it down into smaller tasks. Then, schedule time to complete a couple of those tasks each week. When the four-week deadline approaches, there’s no need to cram all the work into one day. You’ll get a feeling of accomplishment each week as you make progress toward the larger goal.
- Get the harder stuff out of the way.
Some experts recommend doing the hard things first thing in the morning. That works in a couple of ways. Use the morning time with fresh, focused energy before your boss or other people have started to ask about things. Knocking off the most crucial task clears your time the rest of the day and allows you to choose which items you want to address going forward.
Over the past few months, much of our work life has changed. We’ve had to balance more. Those who work from home have eliminated their commute each day, gaining back some time. On the other hand, being at home can bring a different set of challenges and distractions. Use these time management tips to keep work and life more focused, productive, and balanced. Be an honest, hard-working and smart employee—the kind that someone like Warren Buffett would like to hire.