7 Ways to Free up Time for True Business Leadership

David Southern | Date: September 9, 2016 | 3 minute read


As a business leader, you’ll be used to taking on more work than you can handle, but prioritising, delegating or outsourcing can make you more productive


Providing both strategic leadership and hands-on support throughout your business can feel hectic at the best of times. A recent study found 750,000 UK SME business owners miss out on summer holidays with their children because of work pressures. It’s become all too common for business leaders to sacrifice their home life. But it is possible to find time to work ‘on your business’ rather than ‘in your business’, without sacrificing home life.

Follow our 7 top tips to free up time for true business leadership:

1 - Step away from your “to-do list”

While to do lists can provide reassurance that you’re not about to drop one of the many balls you’re juggling, it’s not always the best way to prioritise. The Institute of Directors advises its members to stand back and establish longer-term goals as a foundation layer for effective time management.

On a day to day basis, it makes sense to evaluate your time usage against these goals and not just the immediate problems that are demanding your attention.

2 - Save your To Do List updates for the end of the day

Leaders still need task-level management, but it’s important that we take control of our to-do lists rather than the other way round. The best way to do this, we believe, is to update the list at the end of the day. That way, the detail is fresh in your mind so you get it done more quickly, it gives you closure on the day, leaving you to enjoy your home life or social activities without the worry of outstanding activities.

And then at the start of the following day, you can hit the ground running.  

3 - Group small tasks together for maximum efficiency

Many business leaders find themselves constantly switching between tasks, and even roles, as issues crop up and staff need support during the working day. To alleviate this pressure, group together smaller tasks, such as email checks and responses, for maximum efficiency.

Using mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets means that we can now carry out many of these tasks on the move, on the daily commute, for example.

4 –Increase your work breaks and increase your productivity

A survey of 300,000 SME business owners found a quarter take less than 10 days of annual leave. And 60% believe that work stops them getting a good night’s sleep.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, says: “Having a good work-life balance, including regularly having time off, is key to staying mentally healthy.” Although it may seem counter-productive in the heat of the moment, longer work breaks are essential for longer-term productivity gain.

5 – Automate repetitive processes

Even business leaders can find themselves snarled up with repetitive administrative tasks. The good news is that process automation is rapidly moving into the personal work space. There are some exciting tools to help eradicate boring or mundane tasks from your routine.  

Zapier is a tool that links your existing web apps together to automate your workflows. It promises to take care of repetitive work without the need for hands-on intervention. For example, if you receive an email attachment from an important contact, Zapier can automatically save the attachment to Dropbox while also alerting your team.

6 - Are your IT systems as efficient as they could be?

Many of the business directors we speak to have a range of operational responsibilities besides the running of the company itself. IT has always been about productivity through automation, and today’s technologies are making huge advances. Running a business on digital information and eradicating paper can finally be a reality, and this transforms the possibilities for automation.

So to save staff time as well as your own, make sure that business-critical areas of your organisation, such as finance and sales, are supported by the best IT solutions available.

7 – Outsource to experts

Recruiting and retaining skilled and capable individuals that you can trust is a failsafe way to free up time. Unfortunately, recruiting and retaining talented staff-members is now a leading challenge across a huge range of industries and professions.

Growing numbers of businesses are turning to third party organisations to address operational areas where skills shortages are particularly acute. With 49% of SMEs suffering technology skills gaps, many are turning to third party organisations to run their IT department for them. A reputable managed IT services provider will lift away the burden of technical support, as well as provide strategic advice to make sure your IT assets align with your strategic plans.


  • Don’t let your to-do list control your working life.
  • Group together smaller tasks for maximum efficiency.
  • Taking time off from work is important for mental wellbeing and ensures you return refreshed and productive.
  • Make best use of IT to save time on repetitive tasks.
  • Outsourcing can remove the stress of IT support and the right provider can provide strategic guidance.

Find out how to focus your resources on the top business priorities. Download: Fail to Plan - Plan to Fail: The Business Leader's Guide to Business Strategy

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail – The Business Leader's Guide to Business Strategy

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