If you’re a business owner or manager of a team, you very likely wear many different hats. Especially for small businesses, owners often find themselves needing to go in different directions every day. If this sounds like your days, ask yourself when you were last able to sit down and think ahead? What about actually plan ahead?
All too often, leaders get wrapped up in moment-to-moment tasks, allowing their time to get sucked down the drain of immediate crises. Working in a constantly reactive state can feel good, though. You may be thinking:
I’m a fast and efficient problem-solver!
I’m a doer. I get s**t done!
I don’t let problems bring me down—I face them head-on!
Yes. You probably are all of those things. But when you spend 100% of your time being all of those things, you miss out on time spent being a strategist, a planner, a thinker, and a visionary! How do you expect your business to grow if you can’t think farther ahead than the next problem brought to you?
Reacting to every little thing that comes across your path can feel like you’re getting a lot done. But while you’re focusing on what’s right in front of you, more significant problems will grow in the background, and you may not even notice them developing. And when they catch up to you, you won’t have the time or energy to manage them.
Getting back on track
Although reacting to urgent problems is part of every leader’s job, it’s critical they also make time to manage for the future, not just the current moment. Get a handle on your reactive managing style and start building a foundation for the future.
One of the major issues with reactionary managing is allowing unimportant, but urgent, tasks eat up your time. Start practicing handing off some of these tasks to your team. It can feel scary to delegate, but hopefully, you’ll soon find that your team is more than capable of answering phone calls and emails, calling that cranky client, or fixing a botched order. Save your time for issues that really need your attention specifically—not just attention in general.
2. Re-think your calendar
If you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the time to plan, look at your calendar and pinpoint areas that can be re-prioritized. “But I don’t have the time!” isn’t an excuse.
Yes, you do have the time. You’ve just decided it’s better spent elsewhere. But is it? Really?
It’s a safe bet that you’ve got 30 minutes, or even an hour, every day you could re-allocate to a different activity. If you’re not sure where to start, try tracking your time throughout a week, detailing exactly how you spent each moment at work. Chances are, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by how much time you ended up spending on unnecessary tasks that don’t require your energy.
Block out designated time on your calendar to spend looking at the big picture of your business. Give yourself an opportunity to identify those background problems that are much more easily dealt with before they grow, rather than after they’ve boiled over. Hold boundaries around this time. Tell your team you are unavailable during these blocked-out times and give them time to develop their independence with your newfound delegation.
Treat this time like it’s sacred—because it is! You need it to make sure your company grows smoothly and efficiently.3. Process, process, process
A common issue among businesses that are run reactively is a lack of clear processes for employees to follow. If your management style is running around putting out fires, you probably haven’t had time to build an organized system for solving problems and dealing with spontaneous change.
Every leader, team, and organization will face roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours. But if you don’t have a map for your team to follow to their destination, the efficiency with which they’ll arrive at a solution will take a big hit.
It is time well spent to work out and document processes for your team to follow when issues arise. Proactively planning for potential challenges that your team may face will save you a lot of time and energy when they do arise.
A sustainable leadership strategy
Being quick on your feet and always moving to the next shiny new challenge may be fun at times, but it’ll eventually burn you out and leave you with larger problems. If you want to grow your team or business in a sustainable direction, prioritize time for strategy and proactively planning for your future. It’s the only way to win.
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Photo by Rabia Elif Aksoy