No matter how many hours you put in, a CFO’s to-do list can feel never-ending. That makes time management an essential skill.
And you know the solution isn’t working more hours. It’s working more efficiently in the hours you have each day. When you do that, not only do you avoid burnout yourself, you set a good example of productivity and work-life balance for your staff.
So, how can you boost your time management skills? Check out some clever ideas other business professionals use that you can implement right away:
1. ‘Block out’ time regularly
Because leaders are always in-demand, many have found success with time management by blocking out certain times a day to get their most critical work done.
The only problem? If others aren’t aware of these unspoken “time blocks,” they won’t work. People may think you’re ignoring them or continue to nag you, hopping from email to chat to phone.
So, when you use time blocks, make them more obvious. On chat platforms and email programs, set your status to “away” or “busy.” Or specifically tell your team that, say, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. is for emergencies only.
An added bonus of this approach: If you aren’t available to your team at certain times, they may learn to be more independent and solve problems on their own.
2. Take ‘touch it once’ further
You’ve probably heard the popular time management method of “only touch paper once.” For example, if there’s an invoice or contract sitting on your desk, sign or file it right away and move on. That way, you don’t have to circle back, saving you tons of time in the long run.
Especially in the digital age, CFOs can take this method to another level by using it for chats, emails, voicemails, etc. So, when you get a message and have the time to read or listen to it, decide right then and there: Can you trash it? Do you need to store it? Answer it?
Essentially, as much as possible, try to limit “I’ll come back to that later.” And encourage your finance staffers to adopt this straightforward practice, too, so everyone can work more efficiently.
3. Tactfully stop interruptions
It can be frustrating when someone’s talking your ear off while you slyly glance at your watch, knowing you have a meeting to get to or a task to finish. And this time management challenge becomes even harder with remote work. With more phone calls and video chats, you sometimes can’t physically exit a space!
Avoid this problem by being upfront about your time constraints as soon as someone greets you. For example, say something like:
- “I’m heading into a meeting in two, so if this requires more time, let’s chat later.”
- “I have a proposal due by the end of the day. How about I call/find you first thing tomorrow?”
Of course, even after you’ve given fair warning, some people might need to be cut off, so you don’t miss that meeting or proposal deadline. If you need to shut down a conversation, try something like:
- “I want to hear more, but I need to … ”
- “I have plenty to add about [topic], but if I get started talking now, I’ll never finish [xyz]. How about we continue this at [time]?”
Employees will understand that you’re interested in what they have to say but simply need to discuss it at another time. And in the future, it may inspire them to start with, “Is now a good time?” versus jumping right into a conversation.