From my own experience of being MD in the family business, I know that one of the major challenges of being a next-generation leader is finding the time to work on the things that we SHOULD be working on…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone could ever have accused me of not having a great work ethic or not putting in enough hours.

To the untrained eye, I was a hard worker.

But if you were to dig a little deeper, you’d see that whilst I was dedicated, hard-working and committed, I was investing almost no time in the activities that I SHOULD have been as a Managing Director or Senior Leader within the business.

On activities like strategic planning, creating systems, improving processes, developing the team, innovating and introducing new services and offerings.

Instead, it feels like most of my time was spent dealing with the day- to-day minutia – replying to emails, teams messages, answering questions, phone calls, sorting out staffing issues, fixing spreadsheets, dealing with IT issues…

I know you know what I’m talking about!

I could have been working 24/7 and I still wouldn’t have had enough time to get through it all – let alone dedicate time to pro-actively working ON the business.

So often I’d get to the end of the day, having not stopped all day and kicking myself that yet again, I’d crossed nothing off on my to-do list – despite setting off with the best of intentions at the beginning of the day.

I’d get home feeling exhausted and then if my partner, or one of the kids, asked me what I’d done that day – I’d rarely be able to think of anything productive that I’d achieved.

The challenge is that for a lot of next generation leaders, we started at the bottom of the business and had to work our way to the top.

We didn’t start off in a “glamorous” leadership position. We had to work our way up and earn it.

In fact, most of the next generation leaders that I spoke to have made more cups of tea than anyone else in the business.

And when you’re working IN the business, that mindset and attitude to work – of just working harder and getting more done – is what eventually leads to earning that position at the top of the table.

But, what so many fail to realise – and I’ll gladly hold my own hand up for this one – is that when you transition into a Leadership position..

“What got you here, won’t get you there…”

There’s now a difference between being “busy” and being “effective”.

A very distinct difference and if you want to be an effective leader that drives growth and can build on the foundations that have been placed before him, just being in a constant state of being “busy” will no longer cut it.

Yes, the reactive work still needs to be addressed – but you also need to balance that with investing time in working ON the business.

Otherwise, at best the business will plateau along with your own development as a leader and that’s  incredibly dangerous because as Tony Robbins so eloquently puts it,

“We’re either growing or dying….”

There’s no status quo. No staying static.

But things change when you learn how to take control of your day, instead of allowing your day to take control of you by putting in place the systems and structure that allow you to take care of the reactive work and STILL find plenty of time to work on the business and do what you’re being paid to do as a leader in a senior position.

So, if you want to make the shift from being a busy leader, to being an EFFECTIVE leader – the following 5 tips (and I might have added a bonus one into the mix for you as well) will help you to begin to master your time-management and start to spend time working ON the business.

Time Hack #1 – Schedule Some Sacred Time

I already know what some of you might be thinking here, because I got stuck in the trap of thinking the same thing.

“Look Benjamin, this all sounds great – but I just don’t have the time…”

But the truth is that you DO have the time. You just don’t think you have.

I’m not suggesting here that you go from 0-100, drop everything else you’re doing and focus only on working on the business.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

But what I am suggesting is that you go from 0-1.

And we can ALL manage that.

When I first work with clients, this is ALWAYS one of the main challenges that they’ve been struggling with.

And my first recommendation is that they block out one hour in their calendar, the same time every week for the next 90 days.

Just 60 minutes a week.

Think about it, if you had to leave early one day to pick up the kids or your alarm didn’t go off and you were a little late in – would your business fall apart and go into chaos?

I expect not (although if that’s not the case for you – we should definitely have a chat!).

So, really for you to block out one hour a week is actually doable. You’ve got at least 39 more hours in the week to make up for it

Now a couple of things here.

This hour has to be SACRED.

It can’t be over-written, or moved or postponed.

Remember, this is the most valuable work you will contribute to the busy the entire week.

You HAVE to treat it with the respect it deserves or you’ll just fall back into “busy” mode making excuses and justifying to yourself that it’s OK to put it off for a couple of days.

Trust me, if you put it off – it just won’t happen and you won’t make any progress.

This is the time that you’re actually going to get down to business on the work that you’re being PAID to do as a leader of the business – the work that your team is expecting you to be doing to be growing the business to safeguard their futures and provide better opportunities for them!

Next, get away from the office so you can’t be disturbed.

Shut down, not just minimize, actually SHUT DOWN emails, Teams, Slack, put your phone on do not disturb and sign out of all your social media profiles.

Remove ANYTHING that might distract you or tempt you to lose focus and waste time.

The ONLY exception is if there really is an emergency that can’t be dealt with without you.

Knowing this, define to your team what an “emergency” is and how they can contact you if there happens to be one – which is unlikely, but still possible.

Also, you’re going to be doing some actual thinking and using your brain power during this hour so pick a time of day when you know you’re usually feeling energetic, positive and motivated.

If you tend to feel a little sluggish after your lunch – don’t do it then because you won’t be in the right state of mind or mood and you’ll be far less productive.

It might be first thing in the morning for you.

It could be later on in the afternoon – it’s different strokes for different folks.

The important thing is that you do what’s right for you.

Now, once you’ve blocked out your sacred hour, and you’re disciplined and determined enough to see this through – you’ll soon realise that your business can survive without you for an hour.

Contrary to what you first thought, the world did not collapse around you the moment you stepped away to put in some proper leadership work!

And after a couple of weeks, you’ll start to realise that you can bump it up to two hours a week. Then three. Then maybe half a day. Then maybe a full day. Until after a while, you’ve got a healthy balance of time dedicated to being on the tools and working in the business, but also driving the business forward, innovating and working ON the business.

So, right now – before you read on. Before you do anything else I need you to open up your calendar and block in a recurring SACRED hour that you commit to me that you’re going to stick to!

Time Hack #2 – Figure Out What You’re Going To Work On

OK, so you’ve blocked in your working “ON” the business time.

The next challenge – what are you actually going to spend this time working on?

It’s a tricky one and unless you figure this out, you might as well go back to where you were because there’s no point booking yourself out and then not using it productively.

And funnily enough, that’s what can often happen.

 You get that sacred hour (or two hours, or whatever it is for you) booked in.

Then when the time comes around, we get stuck for what we should be doing and instead of that, we fall back into the same work routine that we already knew isn’t right for us or producing the results we want!

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where you should be focusing your efforts. Every business is different and we all have different goals and ambitions, challenges and opportunities.

But, I’m willing to bet that you already have a number of projects filed away in your brain in the “important but not urgent” file.

You know, those projects that you’ve been meaning to start for a long time, some you maybe even made a start on – but then soon get forgotten about and dropped to the bottom of the to do list because of all the chaos. Even though you know they’ll have a positive impact on the business!

I recommend that you write out a list of everything that’s in your head.

Prioritise based on which would yield the best results and go to work on the top one.

Another great idea that is always a big hit with my clients is facilitating a structured, weekly workshop where the whole team gets together to talk about where the biggest opportunities and challenges lie in the business.

The team on the front line will usually have a much better finger on the pulse of what’s really happening in your market and they may have outstanding ideas and suggestions that you’d have never come up with if left to your own devices.

Don’t feel pressured to have to come up with all the ideas and opportunities yourself. Use your people.

Now, a couple of important final pointers on this based on experience.

We all over-estimate what we can achieve.

There’s a great quote that says;

“We over-estimate what we can achieve in a year, and under-estimate what we can achieve in ten…”

Don’t start more than 1 or 2 projects before you move on to the next one or you’ll just get overwhelmed and fall back into the same trap.

It’s far better for your business if you can focus on one project each quarter and actually complete four in a year, then to start twelve and get none of them done – the latter of which is what almost all of your competition will be doing too.

Another great tip is, depending on how much time you can commit, to focus certain days on certain areas of the business.

If you get super-organised and disciplined, there’s no reason you couldn’t commit half a day each day to working on the business.

Monday you could spend planning. Tuesday could be your marketing day. Wednesday could be sales. Thursday could be systems and processes and Friday could be spending time with your people.

Again, it’s about finding out where you can make the biggest contribution to the business and creating a schedule that works for you.

And the final tip on this one.

I’m often asked;

“If I could focus on solving a problem, or taking advantage of an opportunity – both of which have equal gravitas – which should I pick?”

My answer would be always to go with taking advantage of the opportunity.

A business that focuses solely on new opportunities will quickly outgrow a business that only looks to fix problems.  

So, figure out where you can make the biggest contribution to the business and then take action!

Time Hack #3 – Put Boundaries In Place

So, now we’re making some progress.

We’ve got some sacred pro-active working on the business time scheduled in and you’ve figured out where you can have a big impact and start to move the business forwards.

Now, before we get into tip number 3, this is a message to all you workaholics out there.

You’re setting a terrible example to the rest of the team and you’re impressing no-one.

I’m far more impressed by a leader who works less than everyone else but still manages to get the important stuff done.

Ouch.

I know some of you might have felt that and it might have riled you up a little – but I was once the same and it’s no good for anyone.

I know for a fact that if we left this at just the two tips we’ve explored so far – a lot of you are just going to work more hours in your own time to make up for the hour that you’ve spent on the business.

That is not what we’re trying to achieve here.

You’re going to sacrifice more time with your family, working on your health, relaxing and recovering in the evening to get more “stuff” done.

Don’t do it.

Working harder just produces more work. It doesn’t get you out of the whole, it just digs you deeper and trust me on this one – I am speaking from painful experience.

All you do is work yourself further into a bottomless pit that will eventually leave you burned out, disillusioned and depressed.

There is more to life than work and if you want to become an effective leader and set a great example of how to be successful to the rest of the team and the people close to you – you HAVE to set boundaries.

You should be creating your schedule to accommodate the life that you want to live.

Not building your life around how much work you can get done.

So, as well as scheduling in your sacred time that we talked about earlier, schedule in the activities outside of work that will make you happy and help you to become a better person – spending time with the family, going to the gym, meeting up with friends, going on a bike ride.

Trust me, if you don’t look after yourself, your health and your family – it will impact your work and limit your success.

They’re all equally important components to living a truly fulfilled life with no regrets – and being successful in business.

You’re no good to anyone couped up in a hospital bed because you’ve paid no attention to your health or your wife/husband and kids have packed up and left you because you never spend any time with them.

But when you put boundaries in place and approach them with discipline, as if by magic, you’ll find that you’re much more focused when you need to be and your productivity will ramp up.

You won’t catch yourself flicking through LinkedIn 10 times a day when you know you’ve got stuff to get done because you need to be at the gym for 6pm.

By putting boundaries in place, you force yourself to focus on being more productive and figuring out better more efficient ways of dealing with the rest.

Take Jonathan for example. He’s the next generation leader of a successful property business and it wasn’t too long ago that he was spending his evenings and weekends ringing clients back, answering messages on social media and replying to comments.

He felt he HAD to do it.

We worked on putting some boundaries in place to address this and now he’s a far more effective and productive leader, setting a much better example to the rest of his team and also enjoying so much more of what else life has to offer like raising tons of money for charity and spending quality time with his son.

If you were to ask the Jonathan of back then whether he thought it would be possible for him to get there, he’d have said “no way” – he was a self-confessed, workaholic.

But once he saw the impact of making just a few tweaks, he never looked back.

Once he realized that clients were only contacting him in the evening because he’d allowed them to and he himself set that expectation.

Once he’d realised that it was totally acceptable to reply to an email the following day and still provide a great service – he realised that his habits of long hours and never switching off were self-inflicted because of his own beliefs and the expectations that he was setting.

The great thing about boundaries is that if you set them, communicate them effectively and then meet them – everybody is happy.

But if you don’t consciously set them, everyone else will set them for you – and that’s your fault!

Now don’t get me wrong – there are times that will call for late nights and early mornings – but it shouldn’t have to be all the time. It should be the exception and not the norm and you’ll know when you get it right because it becomes a conscious choice, not feeling like you have to or feeling guilty if you don’t.

Being a workaholic isn’t something any of us should aspire to or wear with pride like a badge. It means you’re doing something wrong and eventually, we ALL live to regret it. It doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Put yourself some boundaries in place to make sure you’re being effective in every area of your life that’s important to you and I can assure you that “you”, the people around you and your team will be so much better off for it.

Time Hack #4 – Check Emails Once A Day (Yes, It Can Be Done!)

Dealing with your email is the biggest productivity killer on the planet.

Mastering time management is all about taking control of your schedule and your work. It’s about prioritizing and executing on what YOU deem important.

Your inbox is like everybody’s else’s checklist for you and the more time you spend here, the less you get done.

First of all, I bet (and this is a bet I’m yet to lose) you are spending WAY more time in your emails than you think you are.

Second of all, the more emails you send, the more you get back.

Trying to be productive by replying to more emails only results in receiving more emails, which requires even more time – which is not productive.

When I send an email to anyone in a senior position, I can usually make a pretty accurate guess on how EFFECTIVE they are by how long it takes them to respond to my email.

And it’s probably not what you think.

If someone emails me right away – I know there’s a pretty good chance that whilst they may be “busy” and always talking about how much they’ve got on – they’re not effective.

Remember that distinction from earlier?

There’s a profound difference between being busy and being effective. And I’ve had to learn that the hard way.

If I get a reply straight away, that suggests to me that the sender is not planned and organized with their time – otherwise they wouldn’t be checking their inbox.

It says to me that they’re easily distracted by “stuff” and rarely get anything productive done because they’re too busy taking care of everything that’s urgent but not important.

It tells me that they’re letting the day run them, instead of running their day.

On the flip side, if I’m emailing a leader and I only get one response a day at the same time of day, THAT’S when I know I’m dealing with someone who’s got it figured out.

Even better, if I can’t even find the email for an owner or CEO – I know that this is a well-trained CEO who is laser-focused on doing what’s right for the business because they’re not investing their time (which is expensive) replying to emails that don’t move the business forwards.

Do you think you can email Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson – not a chance.

Let me ask you a question.

If you didn’t answer any emails for a week and invested that time in working on the business – those projects that you know will make a huge difference – do you think the business would be better or worse off?

It’s an interesting question – but I’m not advocating that you just ignore your emails for a week.

So, here’s the solution.

Block in one hour every day, the same time every day, that you’ll tend to your emails.

Don’t open your inbox until that time and stay disciplined to sticking to just one hour to begin with so you have a gauge to measure it by – you can then adjust if you really need to.

If you’re expecting an urgent email or some information that’s relevant to the project that you’re working on at that given moment, fair enough – but for anything else, leave those emails alone!

I guarantee you that you won’t miss anything important.

That you’ll still be able to reply to any emails in a timely and completely acceptable manner – and if you stay consistent to it, people will be “trained” to know that if they email you, they’ll receive a reply at roughly “X” o clock.

You could even add it to your email signature – “I check my emails daily between 4.30pm – 5.30pm” – so if you’re worried about people wondering why you’re not responding – well now they can see why.

Again, it comes back to boundaries and expectations – you have to take charge in setting these instead of letting everyone else set them for you and end up running around like a headless chicken.

Let’s go back to the business titans we mentioned earlier.

IF you sent an email to Jeff Bezos, and you got a personal email from him back in 15 minutes – I’m pretty sure we’d all be thinking;

“Has he not got more important things to be working on then tending to his emails?”

And yet we don’t apply that level of thinking to our own habits.

If you’re on the fence on this one, I can assure you that I felt the same way too.

But once I implemented this rule and stuck to it (which takes some work) the amount of time it freed up in the day was literally mind-blowing, and I guarantee it will be the same for you.

If one hour a day isn’t enough, that’s fine – adjust it to what’s right for you.

Maybe you could do one hour first thing and then one hour at the end of the day.

Constantly dipping in out of your inbox, losing focus and then having to re-gain is where most of us waste so much time and energy, hours a day – and it’s affecting every single one of your team members that has access to email.

So do it, you’ll thank me later.

Set up your schedule so you have fixed times and a time limit every day for dealing with email. You’ll be far more productive in dealing with your emails and far more effective as a leader.

Just don’t thank me via email!

Time Hack #5 – Schedule “Got A Minute” Meetings

“Boss, have you got a minute?”

How many of these conversations do you have to have with your team – that never end up just being a minute?

Whilst you may think you’re being helpful and serving your team well by dropping whatever you’re working on to engage in these conversations – you’re actually holding both them and you back.

You’re NOT helping.

And for a number of reasons.

First of all, how many times do people come to you with issues that never actually amount to anything? It was a conversation that didn’t actually need to be had.

Second, how many times do people come to you with issues or questions that they could have solved for themselves?

But they choose the lazy option of coming to you instead because they know you’ll be happy to do the thinking for them?

By indulging in these conversations and issues, you’re actually training your team to seek you out whenever there’s some thinking required – and you’re not going to get very far in business if you have a team of zombies that can’t think for themselves.

Here’s how you deal with that.

Every day, schedule into your calendar two half hour blocks of ten minute meetings.

So essentially, you have six, ten minute meetings available every day.

If a member of the team needs to speak to you about something, they have to book in one of these ten minute meetings in your diary.

Now, this can seem like you’re trying to put team members off from talking to you, which can feel like a bad move – but there’s actually plenty of benefits for BOTH sides.

Here’s what you’ll find happens.

Firstly, instead of dipping in and out of often pointless conversations that distract you and cause you to lose your focus all day every day, you’re now only having to invest an hour a day at most, and you can be prepared for that. This, of course, frees up more time to be working on the business.

Yes, it’s a barrier you’ve put between yourself and your team – they can no longer collar you whenever they want – but it means that instead of speaking to the you that’s distracted, not really present and with a mind elsewhere because they’ve interrupted you when you’re in the middle of doing something else – they actually get you’re undivided attention and will not only feel properly listened to, but you’ll be able to advise better and share more valuable input.

The quality of the conversation will be inherently better for both sides and so will the output of that conversation. It’s a win-win for both sides.

Secondly, you’ll find that you come across far less of the trivial issues that don’t actually require your input because your people will now start to think for themselves and come up with their own answers and solutions.

Which is exactly the sort of culture that you want to encourage and nurture because it’s what you’ll need if you want to take your business to new heights and not have to be there 24/7.

However, should someone feel that they DO have an issue that warrants booking in one of these ten minute conversations with you, it means they’ll come far more prepared having properly thought it through.

You might even want to introduce some conditions to booking a meeting which says that they have to bring with them at least one solution they’ve already thought of so you’re still encouraging and empowering your team to be self-sufficient, even if they need a little guidance or input from you.

And for the remaining issues that lie in the middle – that can’t be solved by the individual and don’t quite warrant 1-2-1 time with you – they can be brought up with the whole team in your weekly team meetings and get input from the whole team (which should be another sacred appointment on your calendar if they’re not already).

Here’s the thing;

If you just tell your team that from now on, they need to book in an appointment to speak to you without communicating it in the right way, adding context and selling the benefits – it’s not going to go down well.

However, if you tell them that you’re doing it so that you can be fully present and help them to the best of your ability, to aid them in their own self-development and become more effective members of the team, to give you more time to focus on the work that makes it to be a better business to be a part of, create more opportunities, earn more money and to set an example of being organized and efficient with your time as it’s everyone’s most precious commodity – you can’t go wrong.

Whether you’re conscious of it or not – you’re either training your team to not think for themselves, to not value time, to not be organized, not be consistent and not be efficient – to not value the importance of being able to focus on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.

Or you’re training them of the opposite.

For most business owners, it’s the former.

If the business has to come to you for all the answers, you’re doing it wrong and that’s a heavy weight for anybody to carry on their shoulders – and you’re going to stifle any growth whatsoever.

Take control of your schedule and start training your team to think for themselves. As a leader of the business your time is precious and you cannot afford to waste it.

* BONUS * Time Hack #6 – Get Some Accountability

Regardless of how “busy” you tell yourself you are right now, I hope that these tips have been able to provide some light at the end of the tunnel.

Some hope that no matter how chaotic your day is, you CAN actually start to get it under control and make that shift from being busy, to being an organised and EFFECTIVE leader.

The key is to start small and work your way up.

Take one of the ideas we’ve talked about today and make a start because if you try to do too much in one go, you’ll fail. It happens all of the time.

Remember, we always over-estimate what we’re capable of so bear this in mind and start with less.

You’ll make much better progress because you’ll be able to ramp it up much quicker.

Like any change in life that’s worthwhile – the concepts that we’ve talked about here are not new, or even complicated.

In fact, they’re quite simple and have been the makeup of effective, successful business owners, CEOs and leaders for decades.

But making them happen, now there’s the challenge.

If you’ve worked in a certain way for a long period of time, making a lasting change to that way of working, even though you know it’s right, is always a huge challenge.

And that’s why people like me exist.

To hold you accountable to making sure you execute on the actions that you KNOW are going to bring about positive results.

Very few of us, if any, have the resolve and willpower to make changes like this on our own, without support.

Because implementing change is uncomfortable and you WILL face resistance.

Those are two things I can almost guarantee you of.

And when we face resistance, almost immediately we fall back into our old ways.

Right back into the old comfort zone – we’re all guilty of it.

But remember this quote because if you want to make any positive changes to your own effectiveness, to your business – or even your life…

“Growth and comfort DO NOT co-exist…”

And therein lies the beauty because if stuff like this was easy, everyone would be doing it. That’s why those who are willing to face that discomfort and not give up are the people who become more successful than anyone else.

And almost every time, they do it because they have someone behind the scenes holding them to account, keeping them from straying back into their comfort zone and sacrificing all of the benefits that come with staying true to what you know is right.

Trust me on this one when I tell you that when I talk to clients about what was the biggest impact of working with me – no matter how successful they go on to become – making that shift to understanding the importance of working ON the business and then actually creating the time to do it is when everything changes because it sets the foundation for which everything else is built off.

So, to recap on everything we’ve covered, here’s what to do next…

Step 1. Book yourself in one hour of “sacred” on the business time that repeats same time, same day, each week for the next 90 days.

Step 2. Figure out where you’re going to invest that time to generate the best possible ROI.

Step 3. Put boundaries in place to help you level up in all areas of you life.

Step 4. Schedule an hour a day to deal with your inbox (and adjust if necessary)

Step 5. Schedule two half hour slots of ten minute meetings each day for “Got a minute” meetings

Step 6. Get some accountability to make sure you don’t fall back into old habits and routines

And if you’d like some help in making any of the above happen for you, we should talk.

At the bottom of this article, you’ll see a link to apply for a “Business Breakthrough Session” with me.

We’ll jump on a ZOOM call for 90 minutes and figure out what needs to happen to help you become a turbo-charged, super effective and powerful leader and take a look at where the quick wins are to help you scale up your family business in the right way.

There’s no charge, no sales pitch and no catches.

Some of you might want to explore working with me afterwards, some of you won’t but either way I have no attachment to the outcome.

My one and only focus is to serve you as powerfully as I can and give you the kick-start and tools to get your rolling and move towards changing your business and your life for the better!

So, click the link below, complete the short application and I look forward to seeing you on the other side!

At the very least, make sure you subscribe to my VIP weekly newsletter for more content like this that will help you to become a more powerful, high performance leader and scale your family business in the right way to help you create more time for yourself, generate more income and enjoy more freedom.

To your wealth, health and success!

Benjamin