Your company just promoted you, and you’re a newly minted manager. After a well-deserved celebration and many congratulatory messages, you come face-to-face with one harsh truth that comes with your new role–the lack of empty time slots in your calendar.
In my experience, new managers tend to make one crucial mistake–trying to do it all. They attempt to keep up with their own workload while making themselves constantly available to their team. As noble as those intentions may be, working 15-hour days won’t make you a better leader. After all, no one does their best work when they’re overly stressed.
I learned this the hard way. As soon as I realized that my round-the-clock hours were neither conducive to my work nor my growing family, I made time management a priority. To prevent burnout, I implemented the following five strategies. It’s something that I still live by today, and as a manager, I can attest that they go a long way in keeping you productive (and sane).
Learn how to say no
I get it, saying no to a colleague feels terrible. But if you keep saying yes to requests, you’ll end up with an ever-growing to-do list of work that isn’t mission-critical for you or your team.
You’ll feel better about saying “no” when you realize that as a result, you’ll have more time to do work that’s highly important, but not urgent. Sure, it might feel good to send those emails and cross those “simple” requests off your list–but are those tasks really going to have a meaningful impact on your team or business? Probably not. So the next time a project, request, or opportunity comes your way, picture where it would land in the table below. If it’s of low urgency and low importance, say “no.” It’s not worth your time.
Be super selective with meetings
You know that too many meetings can kill your productivity, but earlier in your career, you probably felt obliged to say yes to all of them. As a manager, you can’t afford to do this if you want to get any work done.
Before RSVPing, ask yourself–is there a clear agenda of what this meeting needs to accomplish? Are you the best person to add value in this meeting? Is this something you can’t resolve quickly via email or messenger? If the answer is no, then the meeting is probably not the best use of your time. If the answer is yes, focus the conversation by setting the meeting objective ahead of time. This way, you’ll avoid going into pointless tangents. If you need to decide on something in the meeting, make that clear in the agenda.
Do a regular calendar audit
Every now and then, it can be helpful to push the reset button on your schedule. There may be standing meetings that are no longer relevant or nonessential “check-ins” that take up your day-to-day. Do a bird’s eye view analysis to figure out which one of those activities are truly the best use of your time, and whether they’re something others in your team can handle.
You should also think about blocking out time for certain projects that don’t require a meeting–whether that be recruitment or catching up on company updates. Without scheduling those tasks in your calendar, you might find it difficult to make progress.
Don’t use your inbox as your to-do list
Chances are, you’ll get more emails, not less, when you become a manager. So if you’ve been using your inbox as your to-do list, now is the time to put a stop to that practice. Organizing your “priorities” trains your brain to be “always on” and look for the next task to knock off the list. It does not train you to think about how those lists relate to your big-picture goals and responsibilities.
I use Trello and have separate horizontal lists for “People,” “Culture,” “Product,” “Sales,” and “Performance.” The lists are side-by-side, which allows me to think holistically about my output in a given day or week without the urge to cross off what’s at the “top” of the list.
Delegate objectives, not tasks
Delegating work should save you time, but you can waste a ton of it if you don’t do it right. For starters, delegating to-dos without providing full context results in a lot of hand holding, and as a result, employees don’t feel ownership over the work. This makes them more likely to check in with you and ask unnecessary questions like whether they are doing it “right.”
On the other hand, if you delegate an objective or mission (and provide a few guardrails), they won’t expect a step-by-step instruction manual from you along the way. They’ll write their own, and might even come up with creative solutions as a result. You’ll probably get a better output, and you’ll find yourself with more time to tackle essential items.
Time is our most coveted resource, and that becomes even more of a reality when you move into a management role. By following these methods, you’ll be able to succeed in your new job while maintaining a healthy personal life at the same time.
Christian Kinnear is the managing director and VP of sales at HubSpot.