Leadership Technology

How Do We Get the Important Work Done?

In our last two posts we talked about how organizations play a big role in helping people focus on the important work; the work that moves organizations forward. However, you, as a leader or individual contributor also play a huge role in your ability to do the important work, lets talk about that and end with some action items that you can start doing today.


As a Manager or Supervisor, how many times have you done the following:

  • Emailed a direct report, didn’t get a response quick enough and followed up with a phone call or text message?
  • Stopped in to a direct reports office/workspace with a “quick” question that turned into a 45 minute meeting?

If you recognize yourself in any of the above you probably rationalized your behavior with these excuses:

  • “It was an emergency.” But was it really? Are you one of those “Everything Is an emergency” kind of people?
  • “My question is very important to the work I’M doing and I need an answer right away. “

In some circumstances these excuses are understandable. BUT there are plenty of times that these are just excuses: it really isn’t an emergency and the answer you need is not that important.

Part of your role as a leader is to model the behavior you want to see in others:

Do You want your team to do the important work?

Do you want to see the results and success of important work?

If the answer is “Yes” then you have to demonstrate how to get the important work done. You set the boundaries, deadlines and realistic results. After that, leave your people alone! Respect boundaries and trusting your direct reports.

Enough Boss Bashing

For many of us, our time management problems are not our company’s fault or our manager’s fault, they are our own fault.

That’s a strong statement and I’m sure you’re conjuring up plenty of reasons why its not true…but it is true. I say that as someone who struggles with time management just as much as you do.

Your interest in Clash of Clans instead of finishing the presentation due in a week is not your bosses fault, its procrastination and we are all familiar with that feeling.

I won’t pretend to be an expert in why people procrastinate, but I suspect motivation plays a big role.

You have to be motivated to do whatever it is you have to do. At work, that motivation could be to put food on the table, get that next promotion or because you passionatley believe in your company’s mission.

Remember: you can work for the most progressive company in the world but if you don’t care, if you aren’t motivated, you will continue to waste your time on Clash of Clans.

So, assuming you are motivated, what can you do today to get started on the important work?


You play a huge role in creating an environment where people can focus on important work. But are you really doing that? Ask yourself these questions and reflect honestly:

  • As a leader how much do you truly support focus time?
  • If a direct report doesn’t return a phone call right away are you immediately suspicious and follow up two minutes later with a text message?
  • Do you respect time and boundaries?
  • If your company has programs on time management or mindfulness do you encourage them to participate? Do you support their participation?
  • Does your team understand what constitutes an emergency? Or is everything an emergency?


There is so much we can do as individuals to help ourselves and our co-workers:

  • What’s your relationship with technology? Don’t assume that technology is the answer. In my experience “productivity” apps look beautiful but just return you back to your phone, which can be a huge distraction.
  • Do you pass your ADD behaviors on to your co-workers? How many times do you interrupt your co-workers? Do you text or message until they respond to you?
  • Do you set aside time to work on the important work? What do you do when someone interrupts you?
  • Do you work proactively with your peers and your manager to get work done? Do you deliver results? Or does no-one ever see results from your “work” time?

Back to “Time Management”

I started this series because I got tired of seeing “productivity hacks” and “time management” solutions hawked by consultants and companies who have no control over the individual work environment.

You can find that traditional time management advice any where. I want to us to move beyond that cliched phrase.  We can’t manage our time without some help from our companies and our managers and a healthy dose of self-awareness. 

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