Smashing Through Goals – 4 Tips to Achieve Yours
As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and our team. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals – 4 Tips to Achieve Yours

As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and for our team. This can be a bit of a learning experience. Once we start setting the goals, we don’t have anyone checking up on us to follow through. After several years in the Air Force, I gained more responsibility and had more people working for me. I was the one setting the goals but no one was really chasing me to achieve them. When I was starting my own business, I had a goal to write a business plan. No one else was looking for it, was just something I thought was a good idea. I had to figure out a way to get that business plan done without anyone else following up with me. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #1 – Well Written Goals

This is a bit of a review, but you need well-written goals. When I talk with people about setting their goals, I make sure they are clear, measurable and achievable. I won’t go into all the details of what that means. I’ve got another post on setting goals where you can more information on what clear, measurable and achievable are all about. There are other methods for writing goals like SMART, but I like the idea of clear, measurable and achievable. It’s simple and easy to remember. With this method, you’ll quickly build tools and systems to track your goals which are critical to achieving them.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #2 – Build Tools & Systems

Tools and systems are key to sticking to the actions you need to take to achieve your goal. When I was writing my business plan, it never would have gotten done without a system.  I made a contract with myself that each night after dinner I would work for an hour on it. Using that system, I actually knocked it out in just a couple of weeks just working an hour a night. There were a lot of nights that I would say “I’m really onto something here. I’m going to work for a little longer.” That was a system that worked great for me. You need to figure out what works for you. If you’ve tried a system for a couple of weeks and it’s not working, don’t be afraid to reevaluate. Maybe throw that system out and try something new to help you get to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #3 – Track Your Progress

Everyone talks about this, everyone hears about it, we all know we need to do it. It’s one of the things that often doesn’t get done. Tracking your goals doesn’t need to be elaborate. It just needs to be appropriate for what you’re trying to do. In the video, I show you how I’m tracking my social media audience goals this year. You want to make tracking easy. If you can find there’s a data out there already, like social media platform analytics, use it. I’m just bringing that data together to create a snapshot to see how I’m doing. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if someone’s already collecting the data. When using other people’s data, it probably will not answer your questions directly. You may have to pull in different sources of data and make some assumptions to apply it to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #4 – Assess and Adjust

Tracking your progress is useless unless you use the data and conclusions to assess your progress and adjust. Each month I assess if I achieved my social media goals. If I didn’t, I’ll decide what changes to make to meet those goals next month. When it comes to adjusting, you may decide you need to adjust your goal because it was too lofty. That’s a reasonable approach, but consider adjusting your actions in the future to reach that goal. That can be a little bit of an iterative process. As you continue to assess, take some different actions or increase the intensity on your actions.

So there are your four tips for smashing through goals. Remember it’s important to make sure that your goals are well written, that clear, measurable and achievable. Build tools and systems that help you follow through on those goals. Track your progress to see if the tools and systems you’ve built are working. Look for trends the data, assess and adjust. Instead of changing or throwing out your goal, adjust where you’re putting your effort instead of making radical changes to your goals or your life plan.

When I was in the Air Force, taking care of myself and healthy living didn't always happen. Those are the first things that I let go when I got busy or traveling a lot.

Healthy Living Tips – 4 Tips to be a Healthy Leader

Summer is coming and lots of fun activities are coming up. It’s more important than ever that we take care of ourselves. When I was in the Air Force, taking care of myself and healthy living didn’t always happen. Those are the first things that I let go when I got busy or traveling a lot. Financial advisors say you’ve got to pay yourself first. We’ve got to do that with our health as well. These four areas to focus on will help improve your health, reduce your stress and keep your energy level high. Follow these tips and you’ll have the energy for fun summer activities while still getting the job done.

Healthy Living Tip #1 – Get Enough Sleep

We’re almost all guilty of not getting enough sleep. It’s important to do what works for you.Many people advocate eight hours of sleep. Others say that you only need four. Try this exercise. Go to bed and don’t set an alarm, just sleep until you wake up. See how much sleep you need to feel refreshed, and adjust your schedule around that. Also, it’s not just about your sleep schedule. You’ve got to find the right times of day to take a break based on that rhythm. I like to take breaks in the late morning, and mid-afternoon about three o’clock. That’s where I usually schedule workout time or other things where I don’t have to be focused on one task. Try to find those natural break points in your day where you need to get a break.

Healthy Living Tip #2 – Drink Enough Water

No matter how much water you’re drinking is probably not enough.  I live in Las Vegas and I don’t think I can ever push enough water through my system. Water is really important many of the body functions we take for granted. If you feel fatigued or get headaches while you’re working, you’re probably not getting enough water. Before you start popping a lot of pain relievers, make sure you’re hydrated and see if that solves that problem. It’s really important, no matter where you live, that we all get enough water this summer.

Healthy Living Tip #3 – Get Enough Exercise

This sounds really obvious. You’ve got to get some exercise to get your body working efficiently. Exercise is going to start help you use your energy much more efficiently. You may find that instead of needing nine or ten hours of sleep, you may be able to use less. You may find that your body changes and those natural rhythms change if you’re getting enough exercise. Try to mix up cardio and strength training based on your fitness goals. Talk to a trainer or someone who understands exercise physiology to help set those goals. Regular exercise will help you reach peak efficiency when you’re working through really tough times or if you have to surge.

Healthy Living Tip #4 – Eat Healthy Food

Eating healthy fuels everything you do. That’s where all your energy comes from. So the sleep, the water, the exercise, all that isn’t going to tie together unless you’re eating healthy. It’s really hard to eat healthy, especially if you travel a lot. I still need tools and systems to eat healthy. I go to the grocery store every Sunday and buy exactly what I need for the week for all my meals. This limits any overeating because I’m out of food by the end of the week. Figure out what your nutritional goals are and build a meal plan around it accordingly. You don’t have to use my method, but if you’re having trouble sticking to a meal plan, give that a try.

There are your four tips for healthy living as a leader. I’ve tried to live them the best I can. I fall down just like everybody else does once in a while, but that’s part of being human. When I wasn’t trying these tips, I wasn’t unhealthy, but I’m much happier now and have more energy. Try to get enough sleep, get enough water, exercise, and eat healthy. Try this for 30 days and see how you feel at the end of it. I bet you’ll feel a lot better and you’ll be able to stick with it for even longer if you do it for 30 days.

These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you've got great teamwork skills.

Followership – 4 Tips to be a Great Team Player

In our last post, we talked about how managers can understand Millennials, as well as build strong working relationships with them. Working relationships and respect are a two-way street. This week we’ll talk about how to be a great follower and team player. This is important for everyone, no matter what generation. Whether you’re Millennial, Boomer or Gen X, these tips are going to help you be a great team player. Even if you own your own business, you are still responsive to customers, clients, and possibly even investors. These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you’ve got great teamwork skills.

Followership Tip #1 – Know Your Organization’s Mission

We all get really head-down sometimes working on our tasks. Sometimes we divert in a direction that’s not really productive because we’ve lost focus on our mission. We focus so much on details, we forget we’re serving a larger purpose. That’s why we’re part of a team, to achieve something that we couldn’t do on our own. Recognize what your organization’s mission is. Focus your efforts on enhancing that mission. Don’t be afraid to speak up if an idea doesn’t align with the mission. Work with the people around you to ensure all your ideas and efforts serve your organization’s mission.

Followership Tip #2 – Know What Your Boss is Held Accountable For

Do you know how your organization measures your team for success? You may all be working towards a stated mission, but your team leader might be accountable for things outside of what your awareness. Your boss’s boss may be measuring the success of your team and your leader on other factors. What is your boss held accountable for? It may not just be what’s going on your team. Understand the metrics used to measure your team. Keep track of the metrics that senior leadership uses to measure success for the whole organization. You will learn how your leadership makes decisions as well as how to present your ideas so they will be well received.

Followership Tip #2 – Show Initiative

There’s always a lot of tasks to do in any organization. We all appreciate the people who step up and do them. Those people show strong leadership potential and we select them to be team leaders in the future. Find uncompleted tasks and do them. Don’t worry if it’s not in your job description. Or put together a small team inside your team to get it done. This comes back to what your boss is held accountable for. If there are things that are falling by the wayside, show some initiative and get them done. Show senior leadership you’ll be a great leader by exhibiting good followership.

Followership Tip #4 – Present Fully Formed Ideas

Last week we talked about how leaders should be coaching and mentoring young Millennials to fully form ideas before presenting them. Ask for mentoring and coaching, but also try to meet your boss halfway. Be as thorough as you can when you put together ideas to pitch to your boss. Recognize what the impacts will be, not just to you, but to your team as a whole. Also, consider impacts to other stakeholders outside of your team. Define those impacts in terms of money, time or any other important metrics, as well as solicit the perspectives of others. Talk with the other teams and find out how your proposal will impact them. Will they support your proposal? Bring all the relevant information and perspectives together and present it in a clear and easily understandable format. This will help you make a very strong case for your idea to your boss.

Followership is the core of leadership. In the Air Force, we worked very hard to create great followers that understood the principles of good leadership and became great leaders later on. and I hope that works for you too. Next time you want to propose something to your boss use these tips to make a strong case. Show initiative and put together a really well thought out plan. By meeting your boss halfway, you’ll have more conversations about great ideas, instead of just getting quick yes or no answers.

It's definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling. Here are some business travel tips I found effective when leading from the road.

Business Travel Tips – 4 Tips for Leading From the Road

I used to travel a lot for work when I was in the Air Force. We called it TDY, which was short for temporary duty. At one point I was traveling 3 or 4 days each week, at least 3 weeks out of the month. In this assignment, I was Director of Operations for a squadron. I kept 60 people all moving in the same direction to accomplish our mission. It was amazing to travel to all those places, but it’s definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling.  I found these four business travel tips effective when leading from the road.

Last week we talked about some tips for leaders when taking some time off. Those tips were mainly about disconnecting effectively. This week we’ll focus on staying connected, but some tips from last time are still valuable in this case too.

Business Travel Tip #1 – Prepare Your Team

Have a plan before you depart, just like when you’re heading out the door for vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Get that positive handoff we talked about last time. Make sure they know where to find all of the information they might need to make a decision. Delegate authority to make decisions while you’re gone and be clear what they need to contact you about. Provide a way for your team to reach you in an emergency. Just like last week, discuss what constitutes a real emergency so they don’t contact you over every little thing that pops up.

Business Travel Tip #2 – Stay Connected

Tip #2 is to stay connected. This is a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago. Back then even with a cell phone and Blackberry, it was challenging to communicate and get information to make decisions. You couldn’t really read attachments on a blackberry, coverage was spotty and public wi-fi was rare. It’s a lot easier now with cloud storage, smartphones, and video chat. Take advantage of all of the tools you have at your disposal to connect and communicate with your team. If you’re not using these tools and you travel a lot, consider trying them out next time you travel.

Business Travel Tip #3 – Stay Engaged with Your Team

Staying connected is about more than just using the latest tools. There’s some time management that goes along with it. Plan time during your trip to connect with your team members. You may not need to connect each day with everyone, but checking in while traveling is a good practice. You may be uniquely suited to solve a problem for your team because you’re in a location where you can address the issue face-to-face.  I know how tiring travel can be. The last thing you want to do make calls or read email after traveling all day, but the insight you’ll get from your team can make your trip even more productive. It’s okay to be selective with what you discuss with your team. If it’s a conversation that can wait until you get back, it’s okay to say so.

Business Travel Tip #4 – Use Downtime Effectively

Travel is almost always an exercise in hurry up and wait. Flights get delayed, we wait for cabs and ridesharing. There’s always a few minutes here and there to take care of little things. I will usually triage emails and do social media engagement when any time I’m waiting. This downtime is great for taking care of quick little tasks that often fall by the wayside. If you know ahead of time that you have a longer period of downtime, you can plan on doing a larger task. You can even use this downtime to engage with your team to answer their questions or give them some guidance.

There you go, 4 tips to help you lead your team while you’re traveling. Nothing is ever a perfect solution and these aren’t substitutes for being at home face to face with your team, but these 4 tips can help you stay connected and engaged with your team while you’re gone and I know they’ll appreciate it!

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind.

Rest and Relaxation – 4 Vacation Tips for Leaders

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. This week I’m on spring break from my MBA program and really looking forward to it. I’ve planned a few fun activities for myself and friends. I also have a few things I’d like to accomplish for my business with the downtime. Like a lot of people with big goals, I sometimes forget that a break is about resting and recharging. Sometimes I have a hard time getting my mind off of work.  I’m using these four tips this week to help me relax instead of falling back into work habits. I want to come back to school next week refreshed instead of more stressed out. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind when you go on vacation.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #1 – Prep your Team

The first tip happens before you even leave for your vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Look them in the eye and get a positive handoff. Give them any background they need to have.  Make sure they know where to find any information they might need to make a decision. Spell out how much authority they have to make decisions while you’re gone and what should wait until you get back. (for more on this see our Delegation video) Also, make sure they know how to reach you in an emergency. It’s probably a good idea to discuss what you think a real emergency is. You don’t want them calling you over every little thing that pops up.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #2 – Commit to Fun Activities

Commit yourself to fun activities during your time off. This is really important if you’re like me and find your mind wandering back to work. Before your vacation starts, pick a few things that you really want to do and commit to doing them. Put them on the calendar, or pay in advance for them if that helps you follow through. If I don’t make that commitment to myself, I’ll just let each day come and go. I’ll kind of putter around and do regular things and at the end of my vacation, I’ll wonder where the time went. For this week I’m doing some day trips and have some other fun meetups with friends planned. I’m more committed when I involve other people. If you have a hard time committing, Ask a  friend or family member to join you.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #3 – Cut the Cord

Cut the cord from your workplace and leave your laptop and phone behind. And if you can’t do that, make some time during the day that’s electronics free. Checking email and messages will keep you focused on work and won’t let your body and mind recharge. If you use your phone in your personal life, log out of your work email accounts to avoid distraction. There are apps you can try that will block certain apps when you choose. You can have your phone to take great pictures and post on social media while avoiding those work emails.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #4 – It’s Okay to Learn a Little

Your time off doesn’t have to be frivolous. It’s okay to do a little personal development on your vacation, but don’t let it take away from enjoying time with family and friends. Read that new leadership book you’ve been wanting to while you’re sitting on the beach or by the pool. Don’t focus too much on it. Put it down when it’s time to go do those fun activities you’ve committed yourself to.

I know it sounds a little crazy to put so much thought into how to relax. There are a lot of us who will gravitate back to business if there isn’t anyone to remind us to let go. If you’re like me, these 4 tips will help you stay present and engaged with your family and friends as you all enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation!

Great teams just don't happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.

Building a Team – 4 Tips to Build Your Dream Team

The great thing about being a leader is all the great people on our teams. Great teams just don’t happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. In the military, we very rarely had the same people on a team from beginning to end. People were always moving in and out or getting reassigned. We were always in a mode of developing talent on our team and building our leadership capacity on those teams. Hopefully, you have a little bit more stability on your team. The tips in this post tips should help you build your team, whether you’re starting a new team for a brand new project, bringing new members to an existing team, or looking to do a little bit of development and training with your current team members.

Building a Team Tip #1 – Assess Your Needs

First and foremost, assess the needs of your team. Your needs could be skills, experience or knowledge. This is helpful if you’ve already got an existing team and you need to bring in a new member. We don’t always get to choose the members of our team, but if you do, look at the skills you need on your team. Find someone who’s got that skill set or at least some of those skills. If you can’t find someone with exactly the skill set you need, don’t worry about it. Find someone who has most of what you need.  Develop the rest of the skills in them or in another team member.

Building a Team Tip #2 – Find People Who Complement You

When looking for people for your team, find people who complement you and the other members of your team. Look for people who complement you in areas you’re not as strong, as well as areas where you complement them. This relates not just to technical skills, knowledge, and experience as mentioned above, but also personality, attitudes, and behaviors. If you’re not really a people person, you might want someone on your team who is a little warmer and personable to help make people feel more welcome.  Build your team with people who complement each other so that you’re all working as a team and providing all the support that everybody needs

Building a Team Tip #3 – Think About Culture

Think about the culture you want on your team and to bring in people who match that culture. If you’re a startup there will probably be a lot of late nights. Your team might be jumping on a plane at the last-minute, so bring in people who are going to be comfortable with that unpredictability. If you’re in a bigger organization that prides itself on excellence, being thorough and discipline, much like the military, those are going the kind of people you want to bring in. Culture doesn’t have to match perfectly. You should look for people who complement the existing culture as well. People who might be a devil’s advocate or have a different perspective than the rest of the team can drive innovation on your team.

Building a Team Tip #4 – Have a Plan

Make a plan to develop each team member. Consider their leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It’s important to have a plan to ensure everyone on your team gets leadership opportunities to grow and move up into a leadership position when the time is right. Without a plan sometimes we can unwittingly play favorites or overlook people. Work with each member of your team to develop an individual plan for their development and career advancement. Include soft skills like leadership skills, presentation skills, and communication skills that don’t lend themselves easily to technical analysis.

Building a Team Bonus Tip – Know When to Let Go

Don’t be afraid to let your team members move on when they get a great opportunity take a leadership role somewhere else. A lot of leaders want to keep their team together because they’ve got things working well, but we need to let our team members move on to greater opportunities so they can do great things in the world. There comes a time when every person needs to move on and do something else. As leaders, we should embrace that and help our team members prepare for that day.

Try these tips for building a team whether it’s a pre-existing team or you’re getting to pick your dream team to start a brand new project. Assess your needs and put that team together so that the members complement each other in terms of skills and personality traits. Stay conscious of your team culture and develop your team members you can all move on and grow together to greater opportunities.

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals.

Comfort Zone – 4 Tips to Step Out of Yours

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire to feel safe keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals. Sometimes I take a long time to get push past what is comfortable for me. Whenever I start a new job or activity I spend much more time watching and listening than participating. It really frustrates me sometimes.

When I was in my early twenties, I read some of the Clive Cussler books and wanted to scuba dive. I wanted to explore shipwrecks, take pictures and see the world in a new way, but was cautious moving forward. I realize now that scuba diving was out of my comfort zone. The good news is, I found ways to get past it. Now I love diving, even though I don’t do it as much as I would like to.

Comfort Zone Tip #1 – Ask Yourself “Why?”

If you find yourself not doing something you know you want to do, ask yourself why? Some of it is just basic human nature, whether it’s part of our natural personality or learned behavior. In ancient times, taking risks could result in injury or death. Even in the modern world, proposing a new idea could subject us to criticism or other social consequences.

So ask yourself, is there real life-and-limb danger and are there ways I can mitigate it? There are many exciting pastimes like skydiving, rock climbing, scuba diving that people do every day successfully. They find ways to manage the risk in those activities. So what are the real risks and how can you reduce them to make it safe and fun?

What about social consequences.? You may not think that there would be social consequences to scuba diving, but what if your family doesn’t approve? Someone you care about might feel it’s too dangerous. Even if you’ve done your homework, you may have to alleviate their fears. Share with them the research you’ve done to mitigate the risk.

If a new idea or activity excites you, but you’re holding back, ask yourself why? Address those reasons rationally and objectively. Not convinced to step out of your comfort zone yet? That’s what our other tips are for.

Comfort Zone Tip #2 – Take Just One Step

Next, take just one step forward, even if it’s a small one. I’ll stick with my scuba diving example. At this time in my life, my family came to California to visit me. One day we went to Catalina Island. For some reason, while they were looking in a shop I stepped into the dive shop next door. I started looking at some of the equipment and got to chat with one of the guys in the shop. He shared a lot of information and told me about the material in scuba certification courses. The internet was still pretty new back in these days so there wasn’t a lot you could search for then. I took a couple more trips to dive shops before I signed up, but that step helped me out of my comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #3 – Build a Team

Don’t try to get out of your comfort zone alone. Find friends interested in the same activities. Build a team to help encourage each other to step out of your comfort zones. You can support each other, learn from each other and talk about what makes you nervous. Working as a team and supporting each other’s goals is one of the best ways to get over that fear that keeps you from getting out of your comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #4 – Try It Someone Else’s Way

The last tip is to just try things someone else’s way, just once, and see how it goes. The people who really care about us are always giving us advice because to help us succeed. We may not want that advice. We may not think it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s best to just give it a try. This is helpful if we’re not making progress on a goal and don’t realize we’re stuck in our comfort zone. I know how hard it is to follow through on this one. I catch myself all the time not taking other people’s advice so don’t feel bad if you experience some resistance to this one. Testing out the advice that other people give us, just once, can help us realize we have been holding back and can open new doors that we didn’t even know were there.

So now you’ve got 4 new tools to use when you feel like you’re not moving forward on something and not sure why. Whether you’re looking into scuba diving, or not making progress on your career like you envisioned, it could be because you’re stuck in your comfort zone and don’t even know it. Give these tips a try this week when you’re making decisions and see if they help you step out of your comfort zone!

For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating – 3 Tips to Delegate Effectively

We’re always talking about how busy we are. There’s such a thing as being too busy, especially when we have a team around us who can help. When I was in the Air Force, staying late at work had become a badge of honor. The truth is, people’s personal lives, relationships, and health suffered. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t times that being busy is appropriate. When there was something really urgent, I worked a lot of nights and weekends.  That’s what you sign up for when you’re in the military. In a lot of cases, though, delegating could have helped out immensely. For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating Tip #1: Set Clear Expectations

When you choose to delegate, clearly identify the problem you want solved. Also, define when you want it completed and the parameters of a successful solution. Clear and detailed are not the same thing, though. When you place restrictions on the solution, you tie your team’s hands. If you tell them exactly how you want them to solve the problem, you may as well do it yourself. This defeats the purpose of delegating. Figure out what your deal breakers are and communicate those clearly. Then let your team figure out the solution based on that guidance.

Delegating Tip #2: Delegate Authority as well as Responsibility

A lot of new leaders and managers forget to do this. To delegate effectively, you need to give your team authority to act without getting approval on every little thing. Making every decision yourself ties their hands and takes up time that you were trying to get back. One approach is to decide ahead of time what decisions you feel like you absolutely have to keep for yourself and then let the team make any other decisions. If it’s a long-term project over the course of a few weeks or months, you can schedule in some “vector-checks”. This allows you to understand their thought process and offer advice so they don’t head off in the wrong direction over time.

Delegating Tip #3: Let Your Team Make Mistakes

Every time you delegate it’s an opportunity to grow your team and their leadership skills. One of the ways that people learn best is by trying new things, making mistakes and correcting them. While I think we’d all prefer our team didn’t make mistakes, it’s an important part of the learning process. Better that they make mistakes now when the stakes are low and we are there to help them. This also requires a commitment on our part to be patient when things don’t go as planned. When delegating, consider the stakes of the project and how much tolerance you’ll have for mistakes. This will help you choose who to delegate to and how much authority to give them.

If you are doing more supervising than you’d like, try these tips next time an important task comes up. Setting clear expectations, consciously deciding how much authority to give your team, and letting them learn from mistakes will set you up for long-term success as a leader!

When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they talk about their teams needing the most.

Time Management – 5 Tips to Get More Time Back

Time is our most valuable resource. Once it’s gone we can never get it back and we all want to make the most of our time. When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they say their teams need most. If you feel like you need help in this area, you’re not alone. I think almost everyone wishes they had a little better handle on where their time goes.

When I was in the Air Force I had one assignment where I was traveling at least 3 days a week, 3 weeks a month. It was an amazing job but it took a lot of time management skill.  I’m usually been pretty good at keeping track of where I need to be and when I need to be there. I’m not always good at figuring out how long something will take. These five tips will help you with both of those areas.

Time Management Tip #1 – Get a Calendar

Before you read any further, get a calendar. It can be electronic or paper, it doesn’t matter. I suggest using the one on your phone because it’s easy to make changes and we all pretty much have our phones with us all of the time. Put everything that’s important to you on this calendar. Focus on appointments when you have to be in a certain place at a certain time. Enter all the info that’s important. Use the repeating and recurring features and color codes too. Don’t go crazy with this at first. Start out by putting in appointments for tomorrow or this week. Don’t start trying to put your whole year in right now.

Time Management Tip #2 – Track Appointments

Track how long your appointments actually take and adjust them as necessary. I almost always underestimate the time it takes to complete something. Recording the time an appointment actually takes compared to what I planned helps me estimate time better. You don’t need to do this forever because you’ll start to develop a database in your mind. When you’re setting appointments for the first time keep track of their duration.

Time Management Tip #3 – Don’t Delete Appointments

Don’t delete appointments, especially ones with yourself. One rule that I use is that I’m not allowed to delete anything off the calendar once I’ve put it on there. I’m absolutely allowed to move things around, but I’m not allowed to just remove it. This still lets you take advantage of opportunities that pop up or handle time critical situations when they arise. There will be emergencies or unusual situations where you have to delete something, but it’s pretty rare that you can’t find a new day or time for something, especially if it’s important to you.

Time Management Tip #4 – Make White Space

Remember how I said put everything that’s important to you on your calendar? The emphasis is on the word important. Meetings, phone calls, time critical tasks are all good for the calendar. I even include my workouts and when I schedule appointments to meet up with friends so I don’t accidentally schedule something at the same time. Putting in all of your regular activities like “work” at your workplace will fill up your calendar and it will be hard to differentiate the most important events. White space also provides places that you can move appointments to when you have to reschedule something.

Time Management Tip #5 – Set Priorities

This is really the most important of the 5 tips, but I think it’s important to have a handle on the first 4 before addressing this. Know what’s important to you and what needs to be on the calendar. Understand which things are more important to you than others so that once you start moving things around on the calendar you have an idea of when to move them to. Also, understand what the priorities of others are and factor that into your decision-making process. Your boss may not agree with you that your workout is more important than the big client presentation and he probably expects you to show up to that.

There are your five tips to help you get a handle on your time and use it effectively. You won’t actually be getting any more time, but you’ll feel like you are. Your calendar is really just a tool in all of this. To really manage your time well it’s important to make commitments to yourself and your priorities. If you live up to those commitments, it will be easy to find the time to get them all done!

Most of us dread going to meetings. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings

Most of us dread going to meetings because we feel like they’re going to be a waste of our time. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

When I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force I was talking to one of the other Lieutenants. He said, “I try to keep all of my meetings to an hour or less. I feel like any meeting that runs over an hour isn’t productive”. Looking at my experiences at the time, I found that I agreed with that philosophy. This became one of the main guidelines I used for meetings throughout my career. It’s not always possible to keep a meeting to an hour or less. Here are 4 tips to have an effective meeting, no matter how long it is.

Effective Meetings Tip #1 – Have a Clear Purpose

The most important tip for effective meetings is to have a clear purpose. Make sure everyone coming to the meeting knows that purpose. Meetings sometimes drag on because attendees bring up topics that aren’t related to the purpose. People often see an opportunity to handle an issue while others are together in the room. As the meeting leader, it’s our job to keep the meeting on purpose and avoid extraneous conversations.

We need to make sure we’re calling a meeting for the right reasons. Meetings are for making decisions or bringing together work that individuals can’t complete on their own. All too often we end up doing work at the meeting that should have been prepared ahead of time. This can prevent us achieving the purpose of the meeting and often is a waste of time for the attendees. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a group together to complete the work that will support a decision. In this case, we must be clear that the team will present this work to support a decision in another meeting.

Effective Meetings Tip #2 – Have an Agenda

Creating an agenda for a meeting is more work up front, but it pays off during the meeting. Add each decision required to the agenda. Also, include any presentations or information that support those decisions. It’s important to set not just a time limit for the meeting overall, but also a time limit for each item on the agenda. There are times that should extend a topic because it is critical to making a decision. As the leader of the meeting, it’s our job to make sure that we stick to the agenda and keep things moving in line with the meeting purpose.

Effective Meetings Tip #3 – Manage the Guest List

To successfully achieve the purpose of our meeting, we need to make sure that we have invited all of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. The meeting organizer should invite the decision maker, presenters, and people impacted by the decision. It’s also important to keep people out of the meeting who don’t have a contribution to make. In large organizations, people will often show up to a meeting because they heard it was happening. These individuals sometimes cloud the information being presented by the meeting and often derail the agenda because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. The meeting organizer’s job must bring all the right people to the meeting and keep the wrong people out.

Effective Meetings Tip #4 – Don’t Speculate!

Speculating about facts or information can impact the decision-making process and often result in bad decisions that are costly or time-intensive to fix.  When leading a meeting we must avoid speculating about facts and discourage others from speculating. If information critical to making the decision has not presented, we need to go get it. We may be able to do this in real-time. If not, adjourn the meeting and reconvene later when the facts are available. Speculation often turns into circular arguments and people trying to prove each other wrong. Taking the time to get and verify the information we need will result in better decision-making.

These 4 tips have been mostly focused on someone who is a meeting organizer. If you find yourself in a meeting that is going off the rails, try to use some of these tips to help the leader get things back on track. Following these tips will help your next meeting be productive and efficient. Your teammates will thank you for being considerate of their time and making it a valuable experience.

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