The key to SMART time management is simple; you need to be present, and you need to be able to justify to yourself that each task you perform is time well spent. However, this can be a hard ask when you are the driving force behind a business, when your opinion is continually in demand and when you need to be accessible to your people.

5 steps to being SMART:

Step 1: Self aware

A strong leader needs to be constantly alert to changes within their business, their team and the market. This is a given. However, how often do you take the time to assess your own personal style, values and priorities?

When it comes to gaining control over your time, self reflection is critical. By understanding what is constantly challenging you, while also acknowledging what is most important to you in life, you can start to prioritise the tasks of value and distil the waste.

Once you have a sense of your values and priorities, consider how far you currently are from living them.

Step 2: Map

You know you are busy. But just what is it that you do each day that generates this busyness? If you don’t know in detail where you spend your time each day—including how long you spend on each task—you can’t know what changes you need to make to reclaim control over your time. This isn’t just a matter of looking at your diary for the last week. Keep a time spreadsheet next to you and map your time in detail. You might be surprised by the result.

Step 3: Analyse 

Analysing and categorising your mapped time will give you a clear picture of exactly what you do each day, and importantly, provide insight into what you can let go and what you can start doing differently. Categorise each time spend in to 1 of 4 categories: musts, wants, delegates, and rejects.

Your ‘musts’ are the tasks you need to do, for example: drive to work, attend board meetings, and meet with the head of finance.

Your ‘wants’ are the things you would like to do more of for yourself, for example: go for a jog, attend your child’s sports day, and date night with your partner. By definition, your ‘wants’ are where you will be spending the least amount of your time.

Your ‘delegates’ and ‘rejects’ are where all the gold of lost time is buried.

You will quickly start to see patterns and habits which may not be consistent with the values and priorities you identified in Step 1.

Step 4: Reframe 

Every task you choose to perform each day will have a cost associated with it, whether it’s a financial cost (is this task really the best use of my time in dollar terms?); an opportunity cost (what opportunity am I foregoing by spending my time on this task?); an emotional cost (what am I missing out on that I will kick myself over later?); or a physical cost (is this task doing physical or mental damage?).

Bearing these 4 cost lenses in mind, reflect on what tasks you can ‘delegate’ or ‘reject’ altogether from your day. This will free up your time for your ‘musts’ and ‘wants’.

Step 5: Take control

Use the data you have collected in the first 4 steps to take action. You now have everything you need to create genuine, and tangible time savings. Step 5 will take consistency and commitment, but with drive and motivation you will regain control over your time.