I have observed that the most successful leaders I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with often make time not only for their team but also for themselves. As a leader, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks when you go from one meeting to another. You seemingly have zero time to pick your head up and take a strategic look forward.
Taking the time each week to check in with yourself is critical for stepping back, getting out of the weeds and thinking more strategically about your work. I call this the "self-check-in." In other words, you take the time to:
• Reflect on the week that just passed.
• Look forward to next week’s lineup of meetings.
• Plan strategically what you need to accomplish versus what you have time to accomplish.
I suggest setting aside an hour every Friday afternoon or Monday morning on your calendar to make sure you set up yourself and your week for success. Here's a more in-depth look at the three steps to follow when conducting your weekly self-reflection:
1. Reflect on the past week.
Take a look at your calendar, your to-do list and your goals to clarify what you accomplished, what you missed, what you did well and what you’re proud of. This step is designed to help you identify gaps and celebrate successes.
For me, I complete this step by writing a note to myself in a quick journal entry. It’s a simple way to identify gaps and celebrate wins, and yet the act of getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps organize my thoughts.
2. Plan the week ahead.
Look at your calendar for next week. What do you have coming up? What prep work do you need to do? What big projects and small tasks do you need to accomplish by the end of the week?
Create a to-do list that incorporates everything coming up in the next week that needs to be addressed.
Here's a tip: Write it down.
Put your to-do list in a place where you will see it daily and be reminded to take action. There are many applications out there to keep track of your to-dos; the idea is to find what works for you. I, for example, keep it as a simple list in a word document.
If you don’t have enough time to do everything on the list, look to step No. 3.
3. Say no, delegate or delay.
As a leader, you're busy. Based on the meetings you already have on your calendar, your personal or family commitments, and the projects you need to make progress on in the coming week, you’ve likely planned more work than you have time to accomplish. Instead of telling yourself you can get it all done, be a bit more realistic and strategic. Use these four questions to determine what you can complete in the following week and what could be delegated or delayed:
• What takes priority?
Use this question to refocus on the tasks, meetings and projects that are most important for reaching your quarterly or yearly goals. I often attempt to tackle the easier tasks or the ones where there are clear action steps first while pushing off the harder, more thoughtful work. Avoid this by prioritizing your tasks and working on what’s most important first.
• What should you be saying "No" to?
Most of us, including me, have a hard time saying, "No," to people. Yet, when you say, "Yes," to a meeting or project, you are unintentionally saying, "No," to something else. Instead of running out of time and not doing something you said you would, strategically start saying, "No."
• What can you delegate to someone else?
There are likely a lot of tasks you should no longer be doing yourself. What should you be getting off your plate and delegating to your team members? It may take you more time upfront to delegate tasks, but in the long run, you’ll be saving time and stress when a team member can own the work.
• What do you have to delay?
Some projects or tasks need to be done by you, but not all of them necessarily have to be done within the next day, week, month or even quarter. If something isn’t urgent and completing it immediately won’t have a profound impact on your work, save it for later. Just be sure to set a calendar reminder for a later date so you don’t forget.
Once you’ve worked through these questions, you should have a more clearly defined plan of meetings, projects and tasks. You’re now set up for success in the next week.
If you take a few minutes today to put each of these on the calendar, you’ll stop worrying about being there for your people because you will have already set aside time to listen, ask and support them on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. In my experience, scheduling your leadership drives consistency in the way you lead, what you accomplish and what others can expect of you as a leader. You can also gain more clarity and focus on yourself and your employees.
Originally published in Forbes on July 23, 2019.