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3 Strategies To Improve Your Time Management As A Remote Leader

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When you’re a leader, you often feel like precious minutes just slip away. And if you work remotely? You have to double down on your time management skills. Otherwise, you might find yourself struggling to stay afloat.

What makes virtual leadership so demanding? Above all else, it changes your team dynamics. You can’t just stop by someone’s desk for a quick touch-base. You have to make an effort to connect with colleagues. At the same time, you have to get your work done, too. And people may not understand the work you’re doing. In the office, they see you interacting with clients, talking on the phone, and getting pulled into meetings. When you’re not visible, however, they might assume you’re enjoying some leisure time while they work.

Of course, this puts your natural instincts to compensate into overdrive. Accordingly, you answer Slack pings and emails in record time—even if they come at 11:30 p.m. Plus, you do your best to overload your schedule to illustrate that you’re going full-steam even though you’re working out of a made-over guest bedroom. You’re not alone, either. Fifty-five percent of participants in the 2021 State of Remote Work from Owl Labs said they worked more hours from home than they did in the office.

But is all this hubbub and hustle setting a good example for your employees or doing your mental health any favors? Probably not. What you need are new ways to manage your time that dovetail more seamlessly with your hybrid or virtual working arrangement.

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Not sure where to start? Try these strategies.

1. Prioritize and time-block.

Deciding what is most valuable to spend your time on is the first step to using it as wisely as possible. And, when you’re able to spend time on what you value most, you’re less likely to become burnt out in other areas. Barbie Adler, the founder and president of luxury matchmaking firm Selective Search, organizes her time in two-week intervals, starting with what’s most important and scheduling everything else around it.

“At the conclusion of each day and as the week develops, I evaluate my progress and objectives and make any schedule changes accordingly,” Adler said. “Being prepared and having an if-then plan is the best way to manage time, both short-term and long-term.”

With this strategy, she’s able to stay highly productive in her business while protecting her early morning personal and business planning time along with her evening family time.

2. Make use of available technologies.

Even if you’re a diehard physical planner user, do yourself a favor and look into free or low-cost project management tech tools. With ample options available, there’s sure to be one that fits into your workflow. That way, you can let technology not only help you organize your week, but also show you how to become a better time steward. From that point, you can share what you’ve learned with your teammates.

Every Monday, Ben Scully, the president of cloud computing IT platform provider Avatara, writes down up to five tasks he must accomplish during the week. Keeping those tasks in front of him helps him remain tactical with the rest of his hours. However, he also measures how productive he and the rest of his team are with help from a cloud-based tech stack tool.

“We utilize our cloud platform’s built-in productivity reports to understand how workforces are engaging in their work, regardless of if they are in the office or working at home,” Scully said. “This ultimately leads to sharing best time management practices and workflow improvements organizationwide.”

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3. Get comfortable with ‘no.’

It can be very difficult to turn down opportunities and assignments, especially if you’re trying to impress everyone around you. But that’s a fast road to burnout. Growmotely CEO Sarah Hawley knows this far too well. She reached a point of burnout after hustling constantly, then took time to understand her needs and recover. Now, she’s a firm believer that “no” is sometimes the best gift you can give yourself.

Hawley’s advice is to understand your role, what you’re trying to achieve, and what’s important outside of work before agreeing to accept any new responsibility. “Eliminating the excess is the first step to getting a handle on time management and is actually harder than we think, as it requires us to have, hold, and communicate our boundaries,” she said. She recommends asking for space before giving a “yes” or “no” answer to any request.

Don’t be surprised if your team begins to mimic this type of self-discipline, too. It’s a good sign if they do. It means they’re seeing how beneficial it can be to stop filling their plates and start becoming experts at prioritizing their to-dos.

You’ll never feel like you have too much time on your hands. That’s just a part of being human. Nevertheless, you can arrange the time you’re given to live, work, and manage your team to the fullest—even if you’re working from afar.

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