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Be a better leader with this simple planning method

5 min read


Did your New Year’s resolutions include being a better leader? Perhaps not exactly, but if you’re like the many people who want to “get more organized” — it’s the No. 2 resolution, according to research by University of Scranton — then there are opportunities to up your leadership game. But it won’t happen automatically: a mere 8% of people say they fully adopt their New Year’s resolutions, so leaders need a system to stay the course.

If you’re one of the 92% already feeling the tug of inertia overcoming your resolution, take heart: you can get back on track. There are many reasons that resolutions fall by the wayside, and one of the biggest barriers is “no time.” To help overcome the fade of resolve, I use a planning technique called “60 x 6” to inject a quick shot of energy back into a newly set goal.

Here’s how it works: 60 x 6 uses 60 minutes of laser-like focus to lay the foundation for your goal, which then continually moves you forward throughout the coming six months. It’s based on the idea of taking concentrated action now that will reap dividends repeatedly with minimal extra effort on your part in the future.

For example, if you have a plan to increase your connections through networking, you invest 60 minutes at one sitting to identify six people with whom you’d like to connect. You then send e-mails or make phone calls inviting those six people to lunch, one person per month. At the end of 60 minutes, you’ve tackled six months’ worth of planning to achieve your goal.

Although 60 x 6 can be used for any goal, it’s especially helpful for time-starved leaders. Here are a few leadership-based ideas for using the 60 x 6 planning method.

Performance review planning. Writing performance reviews is a task that always seems to sneak up on managers. Reduce your stress and set aside time in advance for writing the reviews. Find out your team members’ service dates, and plan for when you’ll need to have the review written. Then, block out time on your calendar so that you won’t be rushed when the time comes.

Standardized “to-do” days. Make use of a time-management technique called “batching.” When you batch like tasks together, you save time by focusing on similar issues. The key is to set aside a recurring day (for example, the third Thursday of every month) as a day devoted to specific tasks — for example, an “administrative” day in which you tackle paperwork. The benefit of having a standard date set aside is that you’ll know, even without consulting your calendar, when those days are. So when someone says, “Can you meet next Thursday?” you can say, “I’m booked that day; how about next Wednesday?”

Triggers for non-specific tasks. For those of you who are naturally people-oriented, this suggestion may induce groans. But for those who have received feedback that they need to be “more friendly” or “more approachable” it can be helpful to create specific reminders about people-related actions. Don’t leave it to chance hoping you’ll “just remember.” You won’t. When you are developing a new habit, you need to create reminder triggers to help you engage in the new behavior. Invest one hour creating reminders for six months (or even a year) and you’ll be more consistent in your efforts to achieve your resolution.

For example, if you’ve resolved to be more appreciative of your team members’ contributions, set up a reminder on your phone, computer or other device that checks in with you. Or, set up a visual reminder — something that will remind you to appreciate people more often, such as a photograph near your desk or on your car dashboard that you’ll see on the drive into work.

In order for 60 x 6 to work, you need to be focused for the 60 minutes you’ve set aside. Before you start, take your bio break, get your mug of coffee, and gather all documentation and tools you’ll need. Above all, avoid all distractions. Silence your cell notifications and e-mail chimes. Be sure to choose a time when you’re mentally fresh. Feeling fidgety? Tell yourself, “The world can live without me for the next 60 minutes.” And, keep in mind why you’re doing this: in the end, it’s to help other people.

You can resolve to be a better leader any day of the year. Make the most of the simple 60 x 6 planning method to help you create space in your hectic leadership day. You’ll be surprised at how productive you feel after just one hour of focused attention.

Jennifer V. Miller is a leadership development consultant whose writing and digital training materials help business professionals better lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Follow Jennifer on LinkedIn and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

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