3 Costly Time Mistakes Leaders Make

Time Mistakes

Every leader has the same 24 hours in their day – no more, no less! Leaders who make the most of their time are the ones that rise to the top! Leaders who use their time carelessly – that leads to trouble!

Great leaders invest their time in wise ways. They know that investing time upfront leads to compound interest down the road.

Struggling leaders, on the other hand, are perpetually “borrowing” time and going into debt. Slipping into debt is practically effortless. Getting out, that’s hard! It takes true determination and discipline to dig yourself out of any kind of dept, including time debt!

How does this play out day to day? Well, let’s explore three of the mistakes leaders and professionals make:

Time Mistake #1:

Approaching Your Day “Willy-Nilly”

If you let the day determine what gets done, you will be vulnerable to every distraction that comes your way! In fact, distractions will dictate your day. You might get a thing or two done, but they probably won’t be the most important tasks; the tasks that will get you the results you’re after.

The Solution:

Knowing when you are most productive and having a clear target (purpose, goal, or priority). Invest the time in planning and prioritizing daily. Know what actions will have the greatest impact on moving you closer to your target.

Never start your day without a plan. I don’t mean a minute by minute plan, but rather a list of what needs to be done and choosing your Top Three – the three most important tasks to be completed today. Tackle your Top Three first and then see what else you can accomplish.

My Personal Tips:

A part of my morning routine includes planning my day. I write down everything that needs to be done – even a few things I’d like to get done on scratch paper. Then I choose the three tasks that will move me closer to my goals and transfer those to my to do list.  Those are my Top Three. Then I list everything else below that in priority order.

Let’s say that one of my tasks for the day is to write a blog. Rather than feeling like I need to complete that blog in one sitting, I will allow myself an hour to get as far as I can. After investing that hour, I check off that task for the day, so that I can move on to other tasks even though I will need to complete that blog another day. Most days I’m able to complete my Top Three AND get more done.

For me personally, I like to making my list in a dot journal that I keep on my desk. If I need to, I can take it with me. It serves as a visual reminder for me to stay on track which a list on my phone doesn’t. However, if digital works for you, by all means create your list that way. Most importantly, invest the time upfront and prioritize what needs to be done.

Time Mistake #2:

Having Flimsy Boundaries

Boundaries are broad and are needed in multiple areas. Here are a few areas to tighten up:

  • When you are available.

It’s popular to have an “open door” policy; to be approachable. However, that’s also an invitation for distraction!

  • What you take on.

It’s common for leaders to want to take on more and more thinking it will increase their influence when in reality it’s diluting it.

  • How you work

There are times where a little extra work is necessary but routinely going in early, working late, and bringing work home is a recipe for burnout!

The Solution:

Remember, your time is limited, making it unbelievably valuable! You have to actively guard your time and that means implementing boundaries!

You don’t have to be available ALL the time, but you do have to communicate clearly when you are available.

Put your energy into the efforts that will have the biggest impact, utilize your strengths, and get you the results you’re after. Pass all other opportunities on to others who can use their strengths and grow too. And in the process you learn to delegate – an indispensable skill!

My Personal Tips:

Allow others access to your calendar and invite them to schedule time with you rather than barge in when you are in the middle of something. Here’s my calendar so you can see how I do that.

I consistently start and end my work day at specific times and take brief breaks throughout my day so that I am fresh and able to focus when I need to. I also make it a point to do something I love doing every day – read a book, get a massage, spend time with a friend or work on a puzzle. A variety of activities fit into this category for me, and fuel me so that I can work hard when it’s time to work. It keeps my life more balanced.

Time Mistake #3:

Believing There’s Never Enough Time

The days of being bored as a kid are long gone! There are an endless number of tasks for a leader to do! And it will always be that way. Those facts can cause you to latch onto the belief that there is never enough time and that just isn’t true. There are the same 24 hours each day! No less, no more! There’s time to get the most important stuff done!

The Solution:

Switch up your thinking! Start telling yourself you have all the time you need. Then prioritize what’s most important and invest your time in those activities. When you establish your Top Three every day and consider the day a success when you’ve accomplished those tasks it helps you shift from thinking “I have to get it all done” to “I got done what really matters” and that’s a good thing – a very good thing!

My Personal Tip:

I confess I made this mistake for many years and it left me perpetually frustrated and striving. Wisely choosing my Top Three and celebrating when they are done has forced me to prioritize and be more realistic about the number of hours I have in a day to devote to such tasks. The unexpected side benefit: I actually get much more than my Top Three done the majority of the time. Feeling like I was never accomplishing everything I wanted to was like an unnecessary burden I lugged around for years! A big fat time debt that was costing me! I don’t want that for you!

I’ve highlighted three mistakes I see leaders making when it comes to using their time, but there are more! Perhaps I’ll share more on those mistakes in the future.

To maximize your money, you have to use it wisely – not overspending and investing well. The same is true with your time. It’s not about managing your time, it’s about successfully managing YOU! Investing time in systems and processes NOW that will allow you to save time LATER is a GREAT use of your time!

How will you make the most of your valuable time?


More time related resources just for you:

Do Less & Be More – How To Make The Most Of Your 24 Hours

12 Habits to Transform Your Leadership

What’s Your Time Paradigm?

How Realistic Are YOU?


Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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