Your Leadership Time is Critical

by | Feb 14, 2021 | Blog

Introducing an Agile Prioritization Model that Works for Leaders

Does this Feel Familiar?

You wake up.

You try to get the day started in a healthy way.

Maybe that means drinking a glass of water, eating a good breakfast, spending some time meditating, or studying. Then, hopefully getting a workout.

Maybe you accomplish that. Maybe you get interrupted.

Then you head into the office. Your calendar is full. Lots of meetings. Feeling pressure to get to the really important things you want to do. Feeling stress about the things you must do.

It feels like you have very little time open to you. 

You attempt to block out time on your calendar but it gets overridden by a colleague or a supervising leader who really needs to meet with you. 

You find yourself with only 30 minutes here and there to work on your valuable priorities.

As you finally sit down at your desk with a tight window of time to be productive, you’re so overwhelmed or exhausted with all of the busyness of your day that you just sit there. Your mind is flooded with all of the work you should do, as well as the work you really want to do. You feel slightly paralyzed. 

So, what do you do?

You begin to answer a few emails. After a few minutes you try to work on something important.

You put a less than half-hearted effort on starting to work on your important stuff. You browse the internet for research, make a few notes, but really, you kind of just poke at the most important work you have to do. Your effort suddenly reminds you of a little child at supper time moving their vegetables around their plate, hoping somehow that they will disappear, but knowing the reality that nothing much is going to change.

Depressed. You end up wasting the rest of your open time.

You go to your next meeting.

At the end of the day you go home with a few more things added to your plate, some that are kind of important, and some that are kind of exciting. But, you feel no closer to being able to get work done than you are to win the lottery. 


Everyone Has Had Those Kind of Days 

We’ve all had days like that. Knowledge workers, those who work with information, regularly get overloaded and lose hope of being able to ever get to the really good stuff, the really important stuff, or the highest value stuff. The reason is they are flooded on a regular basis with the noise, meetings, tasks, mixed-priorities, and the latest-greatest idea that needs their attention.

How do you deal with this? How can a leader not only survive, but get more of the important work done throughout their day?

Agile Models Work

The key is to take a lesson from the agile programming model. In my technology career I had the opportunity to lead a software project. We outsourced the development work to a high quality software development company, Atomic Object. The lead developers on the project taught me the art of creating and grooming a backlog of priorities so that we were always working on the most important things.

I have successfully used that model in my personal life now for nearly a decade. The idea is really simple and you don’t even need a tool, though I prefer to use THINGS.


I follow this process every day.

I take the first few minutes of my work day, prior to opening emails or anything else, to do this process.

Then, periodically throughout the day I do this process again. The process is called “grooming your backlog,” and It will challenge your priorities and make sure you get to work on the best stuff even in tight windows of time.

Step 1 Make a list of what I HAVE to do.
Step 2 Drag the most important thing I WANT to do to the top of the list.
Step 3 Drag the next most important thing that I WANT to do and put it in second place. 
Step 4 Drag the next next most important thing that I WANT to do and put it in third place. 
Step 5 Is there anything else on that list that probably should get done… most likely it’s a HAVE to item, like scheduling a trip, paying a bill, or the like. If it is time sensitive, I have to move it to the top – sorry. But, I also have to be careful, sometimes we all get stuck in the trap of thinking things are time sensitive when they are not and we let them run our life. Many routine things that are not high-value will wait another day just like everything else. Don’t let routine things destroy your time for opportunity to accomplish value things.
Step 6 I work on the thing right at the top. I frequently use the 15-Minutes of Power, which forces me to focus (in a guilt-free way) on the number one priority that will bring me the most satisfaction and joy.  


The Bottom-Line

The point of this method is to force those things that can wait another day to do just that – wait another day. At the same time, to get to the best work, drag something really valuable, important, or fun to the top. A tool is not necessary, but can be useful. Take control of your time by knowing the most valuable things to work on when you have time that can be productive. Finally, remember powerful productivity can occur within 15-Minutes-of-Power.

Continue Learning

Looking to develop more leadership skills in this area? Check out our Lead the People series. We recommend a LeaderPod like Prioritizing, Planning, and Executing.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

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