Looking back on the last week, what percentage of your time did you spend leading in ways that directly added value to achieving your most important goals?
Subtract that from 100 and the remainder of your time -- or most of it -- likely went to the "Distraction Monster" -- by which I mean the meetings, projects, committees, initiatives, and busy work keeping you sequestered in conference rooms, phone calls, plowing through IM's, emails, or on the road leading away from what you're hoping to achieve.
If you're like my clients, you've noticed that productivity has simply never been so entwined with distraction.
As a senior executive in a large company told me, "We get pulled into way, way too many things that don't add any value to achieving our goals. And because we are so distracted from running our own teams, our actual value-added leadership tends to be in sound bites."
If you're happy and successful leading by sound bite, in the margins between distractions, then you're ahead of the game. If not, then it's time to reclaim your time in a more militant, err, deliberate way. Here are four suggestions to get you started:
1. Look at your calendar for the next six weeks and circle value added activities, and cross out non-value-added ones. Take actions accordingly.
2. Make a list of recurring time commitments that suck your soul or energy away for little or no value and cross them out. Consider and execute tactics and strategies for unwinding yourself from them.
3. Change the way things get on your calendar such that there's a step where you can evaluate the value to you, your team, and the organization, and say "no thank you" or "yes and not now."
4. Develop a set of standards for how you will and won't be available for others (e.g., email, IM, etc.) and organize yourself, your team, and your leader around that. Be open to amending it, but only in the context of a discussion of the value of time spent.
Take these steps regularly and you will notice your time and energy freed for doing your best, and being at your best, as a leader in your organization. And, it's extraordinarily satsifying.