I’ve never heard a leader complain about having too much free time and not enough work to do. To a large extent, that’s the nature of the 21st century workplace (do more with less), however that’s also the nature of a leader’s personality. When there’s always work to be done, it’s often easier to focus on a revolving to-do list and answer the barrage of incoming requests than to take charge of the day.
Here are seven things all leaders should do daily to keep the ship on course:
Plan for the day. Whether it’s over a cup of coffee or after a healthy breakfast, taking time to strategically plan for the day before it begins is essential. Identify the best possible use of your time and ensure your activities align with your key strategic goals for the week. Additionally, spot areas of risk on your calendar where certain action items may take more time and which action items can flow over to another day, if necessary. This is also an ideal time to ensure that everything you’ve taken on is necessary. Are there any tasks that can be delegated? Are you taking on too many projects?
Check in with the team. Whether it’s a simple hello or a more structured, formal one-on-one, it’s imperative that you check in with your direct reports as often as possible. This may be difficult when you have dozens (or more) direct reports, but not impossible. Even a morning email with a supportive message and reminder that you’re available to remove barriers can help preserve the relationship between you and your team.
Read. The most successful leaders, CEOs, and investors are voracious readers. Some aggressively consume news and reports relevant to the industry, and some prefer to read topics completely outside of their industry to help spark creative thinking. Regardless of which topic you choose, make sure you learn something new every day and find a way to apply it to your work.
Share. The legacy you leave in this world is dependent on the selfless actions you take every day. Share your knowledge with someone every day. This could be a tweet, a LinkedIn blog post, an anecdote shared in passing, or a formal mentoring session with a high potential. The life lessons you’ve learned should be shared with your team to help them avoid all the lessons you learned the hard way. Set a goal for yourself to make your replacement a better leader than you are.
Forecast and Adjust. Leaders in a sales role are very familiar with forecasting, re-forecasting, and re-re-forecasting. What some leaders do on a quarterly basis, sales leaders often do weekly. While it can seem like a redundant task, assessing the accuracy of your forecast on a daily/weekly basis will help you stay focused on achieving your goals. Daily/weekly forecasting also helps you adjust based on the most recent data available to you.
Be mindful. In each activity, stay mentally present in that moment. During the team meeting, resist the urge to check that text message that just came in. While planning for the day, don’t start reading all of the emails that came in overnight. When an employee is sharing a problem that is bothering them, don’t let your mind stray to your next meeting. Stay mentally present and dedicated to the moment at hand.
Reflect. At the end of the day, carve out time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what you’ll do differently tomorrow. No matter how hectic the day was or how behind you are, do not neglect the time you dedicate to reflection every day. It’s the easiest time to overlook, and potentially the most important. “The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.” -Thomas Carlyle