Finance pros are notorious for being organized, deadline-driven and systematic. But unpredictable happenings in the office can put a wrench in even the most prepared CFO’s day.
At any given time, you may be faced with a stressed staffer at your door … a last-minute budget meeting … a call from an executive who needs your insight.
And if you spend half your day putting out the various fires that pop up – especially at this time of year – you’re forced to push planned tasks aside.
Making the most of every minute
With so many outside factors and variables, how can you make sure your schedule stays focused?
Here are the approaches that three successful business leaders are using now:
1. Get to the important stuff right away. Research has shown time and time again that people are at their best in the morning. Your energy levels are higher and finishing a critical or meaningful task right away “has a domino effect that pushes you through the day,” says Jory MacKay of software company RescueTime.
Knowing that, try to avoid starting the day with administrative or stressful work (emails, long meetings, etc.) and really focus on your most important and urgent tasks, MacKay recommends.
2. Be a little selfish. It’s great to help your staffers and collaborate with other teams. But many leaders tend to focus so much on getting others what they need that their own priorities fall to the bottom of the list. (How many times have you put your tasks on hold to help Purchasing with a vendor problem or Sales with a budgeting issue?)
That’s why Kevin Taylor, a tech founder and profitability coach, advises flipping the standard and scheduling time for your own tasks first. Then you can concretely tell that interrupting co-worker, “Sorry, I’m working on [task] from [time] to [time].”
And if your company uses Outlook, Gmail, or other programs to share calendars, make sure to add time blocks for your own tasks to your schedule so others don’t see them as “available” time.
3. Cut it short. As the CFO, your insight is needed all the time on all sorts of initiatives.
When it comes to scheduling, either online or in-person, people tend to choose standard time blocks – 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes. But how often do things run exactly that long?
Fidji Simo, a VP at Facebook, says people don’t always know how much time is needed for something, so they just pick 30 minutes for a short conversation and 60 minutes for a longer meeting. After realizing that, she changed her calendar’s default time for meetings to the minimum possible, about 10-15 minutes. If someone feels more time is needed, they can request more time.
An added bonus you may find with this tactic: Scheduling shorter windows forces everyone to get to the point right away, cutting back the time wasted on informalities and irrelevant chatter.