Ever wonder how top performers balance time and manage priorities?
I’m not talking about balancing professional and personal time, here. Just juggling all your work requirements is a feat you could write home about.
Take me, for example…
Several years ago, I took over the management of a second enterprise sales teams. One sales team needed to be evaluated, partially dismantled, re-shaped, and re-inspired. The other took me on the road to the west coast seemingly every other week.
Simultaneously, I oversaw our entire go-to-market sales and marketing strategy for a vertical and ran two global programs that impacted the onboarding and general health of our sales team.
Don’t forget all the standard executive meetings… weighing in on new messaging from marketing… planning for the next fiscal year… re-evaluating our product suite… you name it.
I was busy. And so are you.
Busy is the new chic. It’s the new status symbol, the must-have-bag of the fall, the “I winter in Palm Beach.” If you’re not busy, you’re irrelevant.
None of us is excluded. It’s the top complaint I hear from anyone in my life, clients and friends alike.
With all the demands for our attention, how do we balance time to achieve what needs to be done while being protective of the time we do have in the office?
For me, the Rule of Three is the solution. With it, I can streamline and focus, so I can keep it all (somewhat) in line.
What Does the Rule of Three Require?
Keep reading to learn how to implement it for yourself.
Rule 1: Three Hours
To truly balance time, you need to reprioritize 3 hours a week.
I commit to giving three hours of my week to projects/asks that support someone other than the goals of my team or my direct reports.
When I think through all the things that are asked of us…
- 15 minutes to strategize on a deal
- an hour to interview a candidate for one of your peers
- 45 minutes to weigh in on a better method to do xyz
- an hour to mentor a new hire in a different office
- another hour to interview a candidate for another peer
… There are limitless ways for us to support our organization.
The trouble is, if we see an opening on our calendar and we have a genuine eagerness to be of help, it’s far too easy to say “yes.”
It’s true. I am one of those people. So, I set boundaries for myself.
I shifted to giving ONLY three hours of my week to any such activity. Once those three hours are scheduled, I’m simply out of time that week. If someone needs my help, I offer a slot for the following week.
By the way, I do this even if I don’t have a single meeting planned on a given day (ha!). Saying “no” to someone else once those three hours are gone means I’m saying “yes” to myself and my team’s immediate goals.
This boundary was one of my survival mechanisms when I was overly busy, and it’s proved to be critical to my success (and sanity) today.
Rule 2: Three People
To balance your time with people, you need to connect deeply with 3 people a day.
As a leader, I thrive when I connect with my team. I love talking to them, jumping on quick calls, working deals as a team, sharing stories from the previous day or weekend, or running a million miles a minute during our 1:1s.
One thing that’s unique to my scenario, and always has been, is that I’m a remote leader. Some of my team resides in NYC, some farther north, some farther south.
This brings a unique set of benefits but also presents one specific challenge: how to stay connected.
Regardless of where I am — home or on the road — I make a point to speak to at least three of my team members every single day.
Even if those touch points are 90 seconds to exchange a quick sentiment, I make them happen. I know so many people who struggle with how to stay meaningfully connected in spite of being remote or being habitual travelers, and this practice has always paid off well.
Rule 3: Three Minutes
To balance time lost, you need to regain small moments that are lost in your average day-to-day routine.
You know those days where you’re booked back to back to back, and wonder how you’re ever going to handle the work that’s coming in while you’re in meetings? Well, this might help you.
I’ve picked up a pattern in a lot of my meetings: Many of them end just short of the time allotted and many of them start just a few minutes late.
My 10am runs until 10:52, which leaves me just enough time to hit the ladies, grab a clementine (fine, fine, a wheel of cheese) and head back to my desk by… 10:57am.
I polled a variety of friends and asked, “What do you do during the few minutes before a meeting or conference call starts?”
Almost unanimously the answer was, “I look at Instagram,” (or anything mindless). Frankly, that was my answer, too. So, I shifted.
Every time I sat back at my desk and realized I had a few minutes before my next meeting, I tackled as many emails as I could.
These are my “one dollar activities,” as we say in sales. They’re quick and don’t require an inordinate amount of focus, preparation, or attention.
- I can say “yes” to someone and set them off on a task.
- I can approve a request or an expense or a deal, and keep things moving.
- I can send a calendar invite that I wrote down earlier to get sent.
- I can book my hotel for an upcoming trip.
Here’s the thing I noticed: It energized me to get these tasks out of the way.
Instead of disengaging my brain a bit and mindlessly scrolling through social media, I tackled tasks and felt productive, which made me that much more engaged during my next meeting.
The Rule of Three has worked for me. I’d be willing to bet it can help you too. And it’s as simple as 3 Rules, each governing 3 elements of your day or week:
- Reprioritizing 3 hours a week
- Connecting with 3 people a day
- Recovering 3 minutes of wasted time a day
These three things have paid off extensively in my connectivity to my teams, my ability to be productive, and in feeling like I am supporting my wider organization while not over-extending myself to the detriment of my top priorities.
Because to balance time in the office, you’ve got to keep your priorities in order.
In sales, our #1 priority is people, both team members and customers. And the Rule of Three is designed to put people first.
Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.