I’ve been busy over the past several months. I accepted additional areas of responsibility in my role, and all of the new demands have forced me to become more disciplined in how I execute my priorities.
It’s been a long time since I’ve actually developed a comprehensive, written work plan to organize my own time; but, I have once again been carefully planning the work, and working the plan. Monthly milestones, weekly targets, and daily task lists have been keeping me focused on achieving the outcomes that I need to deliver. It has felt good to check things off that list, and to visibly see progress toward my goals.
I’ve learned that the more responsibility you accept, the more people need your time. Demand for a leader’s time often translates into unplanned interruptions to their work. Telephone calls, emails, meetings, and groups of people landing in your doorway all create barriers to executing on a detail-oriented work plan. It can become frustrating. As pressure to meet deadlines builds, the natural response is to want to close the office door and to block out the calendar. I need to focus on the work to get it done.
I had an employee come to my office last week. She was anxious and asked if she could have a few minutes. Despite the irritation that I felt over the interruption to my work on a very complex issue over which I had wrestled for months, I gave her my full attention. We spent about 10 minutes discussing a project that she was leading. Her problem was solved. My problem was not solved, and I struggled to regain my focus.
The Real Interruptions
And then it struck me, again. I had been behaving like the interruptions to my important leadership work were those unplanned demands on my time from other people. The real work of a leader is the time that we spend helping other people accomplish their work. The real interruption to my leadership work had been the busy, task-oriented, check-list mentality that I created to try to manage new demands.
Patient Care Interruptions
The trap into which I had fallen is not any different that what I sometimes hear from clinical professionals in healthcare. All of the regulatory paperwork, documentation, and computer work required of their roles prevents them from spending time with patients. This is very frustrating to healthcare workers who largely went into their profession to take care of people, not regulations.
Whether it’s learning how to accomplish the detail work required of leadership, or managing the compliance and documentation demands of clinical care, the fact remains that we need to get that work done. But, I am reminded about how important it is to maintain the right perspective. Leadership, like patient care, is about taking care of people. When our complaints and frustrations turn against those “pesky” employees or patients, then we have lost our perspective. The good news is that our employees and patients are willing to remind us of our purpose, if we are willing to listen.
How do you manage the demands on your time?
How do you maintain the focus on what’s most important in your leadership or patient care work?