Busy deskMy mum used to say to me, “Stephen (my Sunday name), if you don’t start behaving you are never going to reach 16!”

Well as I approach my 58th birthday I look back on my life so far and realise that I must have behaved well as I’m rewarded with a very fulfilling career. But I’m still hungry for more, as I strive for the very best in my career and also my sport – running (I’m planning my big running comeback for my 60th birthday). And with the constant support from my wife Joyce, my behaviour continues to improve.

Being hungry means there is not enough hours in the day for me.  For example, this week I have all the duties and responsibilities of an MD for Dosh, whilst needing to fit in time to work on a programme and presentation for my organisation’s three day workshop on Project Management for their new ILM Level 5 Management Qualification, plus I’m aiming to put aside some time for my voluntary work with SSAFA as part of their new project with the Army.

(Do you know what? I am as excited just as much and in the same way as I was as a young 18-year-old soldier.)

So how do I do it? It’s true, sometimes things do get too much but I continue to revert back to the leadership training I’ve gained through my Army career and my second career in the social care sector. Unless you stay disciplined in your approach you will struggle to manage your busy work load.

So here are my top tips for when things start to get too much:

  • What are Sundays for?  Or should I say Sunday evenings!  I prepare for the week ahead so I can hit the ground running on Monday morning.  I have my to-do lists done, prepare packs for each day of what I will need with me such as papers for meetings (all in plastic boxes) route plans for my destinations and I decide what I am going to wear for each day and then iron it.
  • Sundays are also my ‘Project’ days when I want to complete something which will make a difference.  I took it to heart one day when I heard a leadership guru on a ‘Success’ magazine CD Audio say “if you want to be successful in your career you are going to have to work weekends”.
  • When I am truly up against it with a number of projects on the go – I project manage my way out of it with set milestones and phases thought through and then I am a man with a plan.
  • Time Management – too many tips to cover in this post, however here is one: don’t waste time during your day, make every minute count. If it is not making a difference to one of your goals, stop doing it  –  drop me a line and I will send you my own personal Top 100 tips that work for me.
  • Expectations… whose are they?  The pressure we feel is often the pressure we put on ourselves.  Stop for a moment and think whether these high expectations are your own and not your bosses?  Be kinder to yourself
  • Invest in yourself.  When I started my second career I had to catch up, and quickly, so taking on responsibilities and projects outside of my role, I believed, was investing in me.  So when I am up against it I think, that’s ok, I am investing in me – it makes it all feel better.
  • Prioritise.  It’s too easy to do the stuff that is easy (or fun) and leave the big stuff until it gets really big!!  If it is important and urgent do it now!  If it is neither – delegate!
  • Isolate yourself.  Find a quiet place to think, be away from the crowd each day – and then think big!
  • Know when you are at your best.  For me it is early in the morning (actually while I am typing this piece, right now) – there is no point tackling big stuff when you are tired.  Once you recognise when your “peak” is that’s when you tackle the most difficult of your priorities.
  • Remember to feel good about yourself!  If you want a good job doing you give it to a busy person!!  There is a reason that you are so busy!  It is because you are good at what you do and you get the job done!

Disclaimer!!!  This guidance and these tips are based on 40 years of leadership and management and they work for me!  They may not work for everyone – well not all of them!