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Stop Letting Task Saturation Hold You Back

There are 168 hours in a week, 730 hours in a month, and 8,760 hours in a year. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Jeff Bezos or the CEO of a credit union; everyone has the same amount of time. The difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders lies in how they choose to use that time.

According to Cassie Holmes, an associate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, most people tend to look at time from a ground-level perspective, which means that instead of looking at a broad overview of time, they only think about things in light of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s a problem. When making decisions with this limited view, every activity incurs a short-sighted opportunity cost.

For example, performance reviews are coming up, and you have to work on those right now. This means having to set aside that project that would allow you to expand your membership opportunities or delay working on the new loan product that would result in a huge opportunity for your credit union and your members. Or in another instance, spending an evening or weekend catching up on email equals the inability to spend intentional time with your family and friends. There’s always a trade-off.

As part of every strategic planning session I’ve lead over the last few years, we help clients build a game plan for successfully executing their strategy by asking “What can hold you back from accomplishing these goals?” Can you guess the number one answer for almost every project? “Task saturation.” Today’s credit union leaders are stretched thin. Overseeing numerous compliance issues while managing day-to-day operations leaves them feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, drowning in busyness.

If that example sounds familiar, here’s one solution that will allow you to accomplish essential tasks while still growing your credit union. Instead of asking “Do I have time to do this,” change your perspective by asking “When do I do this?” In order to grow, you need to prioritize certain projects and make the time for them. If you do them before this year’s strategic planning session, these three action steps will help you eliminate the task saturation that threatens to keep you from achieving success in 2019:

  1. Delegate: This the number one thing every credit union leader must learn to do. However, delegating can require you to take one step forward and three steps back. Do you have the right team members in place? If not, you have to fix that first. I’ve lost count of the number of credit union CEOs I encounter who are dealing with daily ACH issues and getting actively involved in individual lending decisions. The CEO of any credit union over $10 million in assets should be able to delegate these tasks. I say this with certainty knowing we’ve helped many small credit unions take this important step to growth.
  2. Prioritize: Once you’ve delegated some of the day-to-day, non-strategic work, you can remove “task saturation” from the list of reasons your credit union isn’t growing. As I mentioned earlier, stop asking “Do I have time to do this,” and start asking “When am I going to do this?” The answer to that question will depend on your priority list. During our planning sessions, we use an exercise from “The Great Game of Business” to help prioritize new projects. The exercise helps leaders consider more than a dozen factors such as the resources needed to launch the project or service, the amount of competition there is for that product or service, and how easy it will be for competition to copy it.
  3. Plan: After delegating and prioritizing, you have time, and you understand your priorities. Now it’s time to sit down with your leadership team and volunteers and create a purposeful action plan. What needs to change in order for your credit union to reach the next level of success? What things do you need to stop doing so you can make room for new ways to serve your members? As part of our strategic planning process, we dig deep into nine key areas of your credit union operations to uncover what’s holding you back and discover opportunities that exist. We help identify any lingering task saturation that can keep you from success, and we help you prioritize opportunities, so you don’t take on too much at once.

Remember, no matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Your success will be determined by the tasks you prioritize each day and your ability to follow a plan that keeps your time in the proper perspective.

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