Guard your time jealously, use most of it for high leverage work

As you become more senior in your career, demands on your time will outstrip the hours you’re willing to work, no matter what. Your time, focus, and energy is perhaps the most immovable constraint on your output. There is a very real ceiling on the useful output hours you get per week – while you can raise the raw quantity of hours easily enough, it almost certainly comes at a cost on quality short term and sustainable energy longer term. So instead of adding hours, focus on making a fixed set of hours really count.

It's imperative for you to be an active owner/director of what you spend your time working on. This includes what to set aside, as not all demands can be met. As you get more senior, you’ll increasingly need to be an active participant in helping your manager and team prioritize what is right for you.

Focus on identifying the top one to three big efforts you want to consume the bulk of your project time. You should be in the details of these things, as is appropriate for your level, of course. Utilize your calendar effectively to ensure your time allocation matches agreed priorities and be ruthless in prioritizing essential participation and eliminating unnecessary commitments.

If you need or want frameworks, you can try the Eisenhower Matrix or LNO, but recognize that all frameworks are useful only in as much as they actually work for you. At the end of the day you should be using whatever tools in the toolbox get the best outcomes for your working style. 

Finally realize this is not a one time intervention, it’s an ongoing process. Check in with your manager every so often and confirm these are actually the most important problems. I find my own “top 3” tend to change roughly once per quarter. The single best predictor of my priorities needing a reassessment is feeling overwhelmed or like I'm working on the wrong projects. You should expect and plan for periodic reassessments of your time distribution as priorities shift.

Take a moment to identify your current top three priorities. Does your calendar reflect them? Are they still aligned with your biggest impact areas? Schedule a 15-minute review with yourself this week and consider bringing any findings to your manager to discuss.

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