THESE DAYS, TO say most association executives are busy would be an understatement. Between leading members and staff, preparing for events, and managing the day-to-day business of running an association, it can be difficult to find time when the unexpected arises – and the unexpected always arises. Over the years, I’ve learned how to prioritize my time and relationships.
1. Be honest with your yourself.
I’m a former habitually late person, arriving 2 minutes after a meeting started. One of my mentors from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin gave me a piece of advice that I will always remember: “Taylor, when you are late or not present (i.e., texting in a meeting), you are telling the person/group that your time is more important than theirs. It damages your trust and credibility as a leader. That is not how you want to start or maintain a relationship whether it is a vendor or staff.” Recognizing this, my lateness was rooted in overcommitting. For me, learning to say no and truly prioritizing my time and energy helped me be honest about my schedule.
2. Scheduling is personal.
The last few years have undoubtedly changed how we work. For better or worse, personal and professional lives are intertwined in our calendars. A calendar/schedule can be your best friend or worst nightmare. The goal is to make it work for you. Here are some items to think about…
- One calendar for personal and professional is all you need, but juggling between two calendars, accepting and declining commitments within two platforms, can get complicated. The goal is for scheduling to be easy and automatic. If there is something that you don’t want anyone else to see, use the “lock” function for that appointment.
- Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? That may tell you when you do your best work. I am not an early morning riser. In fact, I am known to push the snooze button. However, once I am up, I do my best, most thoughtful work between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Typically, afternoons are when I get restless. I schedule work projects in the morning, leaving my afternoons for phone calls, one-on-ones and meetings.
3. Set your boundaries and train your members and team not to overstep.
I use the 60/40 rule of thumb for work versus personal during a work week, with 40% of my hours dedicated to work and 60% dedicated to family, friends or me time.
- I typically don’t answer texts or calls between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., unless it’s an atypical situation (emergencies or urgent items).
- I don’t believe in an open-door policy. All my direct reports and my Board President have weekly one-on-one time with me. This allows me to focus on the work that needs to be completed without interruptions. After an interruption, it can take up to 20 minutes to get re-focused – that’s valuable time. This is also an exercise for the staff to prioritize what we discuss in our scheduled meetings, while giving them autonomy to make decisions throughout the week. The only exception is our administrative assistant. I meet with them almost every morning for a quick 10-15 minute check-in. At that point, I’ll look at where I may have back-to-back meetings and decide to either reschedule or notify in advance that I may be 2 minutes late, offering an option to reschedule.
4. General rules that I try to follow:
- For off-site meetings, travel time is scheduled.
- Specific project time is allotted within my calendar.
- I always schedule 1.5 hours for a lunch meeting – because 1 hour is never enough time.
- Consistency is key.
- Consider a virtual scheduler to help manage your calendar/appointments – it may be a great time saver and well worth the investment.
- Mondays and Friday afternoons are open. This is time for additional one-on-ones with staff, time to wrap up items from the week before or before the weekend, or time to schedule important external meetings.
- Staff meetings are on Fridays. This gets staff looking toward the next week. I use Basecamp and ask one simple question: What does the staff need to know for next week? This gives us time to identify our top priorities and any roadblocks in time to proactively brainstorm solutions and take action.
A Day in the Life
Taylor Jackson, CAE
Chief Executive Officer, HBA of Greater Austin