Do you ever feel like there is not enough time in the day? Maybe you say to yourself, “I have too much to do, but not enough time to do it.” If you find yourself dwelling on either of these thoughts, then you may be experiencing a time famine. We all experience busy seasons in life, but a time famine is an extended season where our responsibilities outweigh our availability. According to the Families and Work Institute for the Department of Labor, more than two-thirds of Americans feel like they do not have enough time for their professional and personal responsibilities. Being stuck in a time famine can extract a heavy toll and lead to feelings of anxiety, insecurity, underachievement, and even a sense of failure—things we do not want any leader to experience for themselves, their organizations, or their families. Thankfully, a time famine can be resolved and even prevented. Here are a few simple steps that leaders can take to address time famines.
Step 1: Prioritization. Prioritization is the process of creating a hierarchy of responsibilities, acknowledging what tasks take precedence over others. While that may sound complicated and time consuming, prioritization can be as simple as three steps:
- Identify what tasks are time sensitive and/or most important.
- Mark dedicated times in a calendar for task completion.
- Set boundaries with others about those dedicated times (e.g., not accepting phone calls/meetings during scheduled times for task completion).
In addition to combatting time famine, prioritization is a great tool to encourage leaders to say “no” to activities that don’t add value and to gain clarity for Step 2.
Step 2: Delegation. Once tasks are prioritized, tasks that may be delegated to others can be identified. Delegation is a strategic move by a leader to assign roles/responsibilities to team members within their organization. Ask yourself, is there something on my task list that can be handled by one of my team members? If so, what level of authority can I give this team member over this task? This step can create immediate relief by creating flexibility in schedules and time to focus on prioritized tasks.
Step 3: Relaxation. Once tasks have been prioritized and delegated, it is important to not fall into old habits and fill voids in our calendars. Flexibility in a schedule must be embraced and prioritized. We encourage leaders to create time for intentional breaks in a schedule because they are a way to cope with busy seasons and are a worthwhile investment in personal wellbeing. These moments of relaxation can be as simple as a lunch break, decompressing at the end of the workday, and taking advantage of paid time off. Dr. Bryan Robinson, a professor at University of North Carolina, said it best, “Occasional pauses and a calm state nourish a famished mind and body, providing a chance to rest and digest.”
Reflection to Action: Identify what tasks should be prioritized and schedule intentional time to complete those tasks. Ask yourself, what tasks can be delegated to my team members? Take advantage of the created space in your schedule to invest in your wellbeing.