So I thought it might be helpful to share several tips I pass on to my clients to help them get the most out of their busy schedules. I wish I could take credit for them but I learned several from Mark H. McCormack, the former Chairman of IMG. When I got my first promotion to General Manager, a friend gave me a ticket to hear Mark talk about how to be a stronger leader at Harvard Business Club in Cleveland. What impressed me about Mark was how straightforward his advice was. For those who don’t remember Mark, he is the writer of “What they Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. “He also created and led IMG which changed the way business was done with well-known athletes. His early successes with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus changed the marketing world forever.
Here are four tips from Mark McCormack on how to end your day on time.
1. Start an hour earlier. You’ll be amazed at how much work you can accomplish at 6:30 AM. You can return calls, set up meetings, and put together an agenda for your day ahead. For many of my best clients, they invest their first hour in looking at the bigger issues of their business undisturbed. If you’re calling on senior executives, many will answer their own phones at this time. They are more relaxed knowing they are dealing with someone who has a similar respect for their time. It also a wonderful opportunity to set up appointments because many of these very busy leaders can squeeze you in when their assistants wouldn’t. When I’m working with my West Coast clients, I always schedule them for 6:30AM PST and get most of my heavy lifting done early in the day.
2. Work when you have to work. If you have to work make sure you focus on what you have to accomplish. Many leaders are challenged by having time vampires in their lives. By focusing on results driven time management style you can accomplish incredible things in the day and still have time for outside work activities. Guard your work time with your life. Effective executives don’t do everything; they do the things that lead to the results they desire. One of my best known clients has his time broken down into 10 minute increments giving him one to two additional meets per hour. It also keeps his schedule moving and he feels refreshed at the end of a day.
3. Shorten your phone calls. How do you shorten your phone calls? My tip is schedule shorter meeting and keeps a stop watch next to the phone. When I’m working on certain projects I keep an eye on my watch next to the phone so when I talk with people I know how long we have been talking. This doesn’t mean I’m abrupt. I just set out guidelines in my correspondence so that we both know what’s on the agenda. If you client wants a longer time they can ask for it. You would be amazed how efficient you can become when you’re prepared and so is the person on the other end of the phone.
4. Learn to say no. This one is the final tip for today but I can guarantee if you do no other tip and just do this one you will be shocked at how your schedule opens up. One exercise I recommend is figure out your hourly rate. If the activity doesn’t return that amount or more you might not be leveraging your time correctly. For many clients, I find getting them to look at these numbers before they have to creates a significant opportunity to better understand where they are investing their most valuable asset, their time. For many highly successful executives, this is the hardest thing to do. Once they start looking at their ROE or return on efforts, the faster they start delegating the things they shouldn’t be doing. Once you learn to say no you free up your time to do the things that only you can do.
All of these tips are easy to understand and do. But it is also easy not to do them. I find the best way to implement these ideas is to pick the one you want to start with and then do it for thirty days to make it a habit. After you complete the first one add a second one and repeat the process. Once you see how powerful these tips are you will want to share them with your direct reports and so on. I’ve seen executives double and triple their effectiveness in less than thirty days. Once you see the results you won’t ever want to go back to the way you used to run your day. If you teach them to others, you will be gaining more productivity from them but also creating the habit for yourself. This builds value in your relationship with others by providing them with a lifelong skill they can use for the rest of their careers.