Have you ever found it odd that it takes exactly 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, for the world’s economy to survive? I sat in the big black leather backed chair, my coffee in hand, the USA Today on my lap. People shuffled by me, some in a hurry, some with time to kill.
I reached over to the brown oval table to my right and snatched up my iPhone. I flicked the top, no new emails. I checked Facebook. No new stories. I glanced back down at the newspaper, but I knew I’d find nothing. I had read all the articles that interested me. That was it, nothing to do. I had no emails, no calls, nothing.
I mulled over the idea of doing something big at the office. Shake things up, start a new project. But again I knew the answer. The ball was rolling. We were meeting our goals and milestones. There was nothing to do. Success is boring. It was 10:30 am. I had six and a half hours left and the boredom was starting to get to me.
Just a few months ago I was a young buck shouting out orders and scrambling to get projects off the ground. My stress levels were through the roof and I hardly slept at night. But all those battles were over, and successful. Now what do I do?
The answer for most of us, work for work sake. We’ve got to fill 8 hours with something. So we spread out our responsibilities and tasks with worthless web surfing breaks in between. The trick is to take a heap of work you could accomplish in 4 hours and make it last 8. Admit it, you’ve done this. We’re all used to it. What did they do to the smart kids in school who finished first? Let us run to the play ground? No, they gave us “busy work.” Oh how fun. Here are my top 4 tips for avoiding work for work sake.
- Read – There is never a bad time for you as an executive to sharpen the ax. I have a bookshelf in my office and if I have 2 hours at the end of the day, I’ll read a management book or brush up on some reading I felt was important. I subscribe to several industry magazines too.
- Make sure your team knows how to get a hold of you – to avoid the 9-5 humbugs, I get out of the office. I might go hit some golf balls or run some errands I need to do. My job as an executive is to keep the train on the tracks. Whether you’re in charge of a whole company, or a division of, or just a team, it is your job to keep it on track. But if it’s on track, don’t mess with it. On the other hand, when it gets off the track, you better spend all your time putting it back on.
- Don’t fill your schedule – I once read a letter from George Bush about how he’d be spending 6 hours a day in meetings concerning one thing. I thought, how does he have time for that. Then I realized he was a better leader than me. I had filled my plate with tasks. I was in charge of a team of 61 people, me being the 1. I need to delegate that work out and open up time for crisis management.
- Avoid out of sight, out of mind – You may be the best leader in the world and your train is on the tracks, which means you’re doing a good job, but if you’re always out of the office, others will forget about you. It’s sort of the old homage about walking around with a stack of papers and talking on your Bluetooth all day. You may be carrying the same papers and talking to time and temperature, but you’ll look like the hardest worker in the room. Too often, that’s true. Learn the patterns of your company so you know when you’re usually needed, and when you’re not. Then balance your time so you’re in the office when you need to be, but don’t fall into the wfws trap.
You’re the executive. If the train falls off the track, no one else is going to put it back on. Don’t feel bad about hitting the golf course if you have time. But if you get a call in the middle of it, you better take it. And if it’s bad news, head back to the office, you’re the only one who will have the power to fix it. But don’t fall into the wfws trap. It makes work un-fun sitting around with nothing important or interesting to do. You’re the brains of the operation. Don’t waste them on worthless tasks, preserve them so they’re ready to be used when the time comes.