When you live at the outer limits of multitasking, you never feel productive enough. So it’s nice of LinkedIn to assign a topic on the premise that I am in fact productive.
Time is the scarce currency we all have to manage. It is a daily, weekly, monthly challenge to accomplish all of the following in the best way I can muster: parenting two wonderful children; being a good husband; aspiring to lead Royal Caribbean to do great things for its customers, shareholders, employees and communities; keeping in touch with my friends around the world; competing in masters track and field; and progressing in table tennis.
Here are five observations on trying to get it all done, in reverse order of importance:
Early Morning Workouts: Everything about my training has to be productive in order for me to lead Royal Caribbean International and still be competitive with the better runners my age (notice I didn’t say the best – I can’t worry about guys who run sub-4:40 1500 meters or sub-18 5k’s). My training is early in the morning. My coach Armando Cruz and I strive to get the most benefit out of the least time. He assigns the workouts via Google Docs and I enter what I did and how I felt about it. I’m with him in the gym at 5:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and on the track at 4:50 a.m. Tuesdays. The other days are a little more flexible, but they’re still in the morning including my regular long Saturday group run at 6:30 a.m. The only exception is my weekly table tennis lesson at home. It’s normally on Tuesday night, which we often use as an excuse to invite friends over for dinner and a chance to hit with my table tennis instructor Juan Ly.
Quality over Quantity of Meetings: People at work lament how many meetings we have. I prefer to alleviate rather than accentuate this perceived burden. With the traveling my senior team does for our global business, there’s no point in attempting weekly staff meetings. We select one key date per month for a half-day meeting where we can sink our teeth into critical topics such as where to deploy our ships. We also look to give rising stars in middle management the opportunity to present in that environment. Apart from the staff meetings, my executive assistant and I jointly manage a schedule of one-on-ones I want to have with a variety of colleagues, both to ensure I know what is going on with them and to ensure their access to me. A different question is what to do when people ask for my time, but I don’t believe the request is justified. That might be a topic for another blog entry some time.
The Master Schedule: For the last 10 years or so, I have utilized my own form of calendar in Excel to manage my time. For each day of the year, there is one line with four blank cells. I input where I’m going to be, crucial work events such as Board of Directors or Executive Committee meetings, critical family events/birthdays/vacations/school breaks, track meets and road races, etc. About halfway through each calendar year, I prepare the next year’s calendar. This simple tool is the foundation for me to judge whether I’m spending my time in the right places and on the right things – I review it virtually every day. It is also how I stay on the same page with my wife. Finally, when the year is over I have an easily accessible record of what transpired every day, both personally and professionally.
The Ultimate Assistant: My assistant Marta Barrios and I have worked together for 20 years. She is friendly and knowledgeable and represents me as well as can be done. Since Marta’s productivity is an extension of mine, I am vigilant that she does not get dragged into being a customer service representative by people who (believe they) must get satisfaction directly from the President & CEO’s office. We invented an approach together with our Customer Relations team called “Escalations” to handle this pressure. If you want to be productive, find a great assistant and treat him/her well every day.
The Understanding Wife: My wife Cheryl frequently tells people that if she hadn’t worked 10 years at Royal Caribbean, she would never understand what I do or why I have to do it. Even if I focus on making time for the family, there are still the inevitable trips to Europe, China, New York, etc. There are the weeks of preparing Strategic Plans and Operating Plans. There is occasionally the dreaded ringing of the phone at a weird hour and the immediate plunge into crisis management mode. But Cheryl is more than understanding. She looks to help out however she can, is a fabulous hostess, is herself a pillar of the community and knows a lot more people than I do.
If you want to be very productive, keep in mind that this leadership thing is truly a team effort, at work and at home.
This blog was originally published on LinkedIn