13 ways business leaders can lighten their personal workloads

L-R: Melea McRae, Sherine Khalil, Jon Schram, Zane Stevens, Taslema Sultana, Joe DeSensi, Keri Higgins-Bigelow, Gene Yoo, Liz Wooten-Reschke, Kimberly Janson, Hinda Mitchell, Michael Akin, Kent Lewis

The Business Journals Leadership Trust

Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invite-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community.


We’ve all heard the cliché: “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” This is a great practice in theory, but many leaders have become accustomed to keeping a tight hold on all the functional areas of their business and overlook ways to lighten their workload.

Finding ways to streamline certain tasks — or hand them off altogether — can free up a leader’s time for more important, growth-oriented work. Still, some leaders may not know which tasks they can — and should — let go of for the betterment of the business.

So how can leaders identify where they can trim time or delegate, and where they should turn their focus instead? Below, 13 Business Journals Leadership Trust members share ways business leaders can lighten their overall workloads that you may not have thought of before.

1. Delegate functions you’re not passionate about.

The business functions you’re not passionate about can easily be streamlined, outsourced or delegated. It’s important to understand what energizes you and what does not. As your business scales, you must shift your mindset to working on your business versus in your business. You must be willing to delegate to the right resource, even if that means hiring a new resource to take on that function. – Melea McRae, Crux KC

2. Check out HRIS systems.

HR and IT can be streamlined to work hand-in-hand to manage people and system access. There are several HRIS systems that will integrate with your domain controller to serve this purpose. We use Rippling, and it’s relieved our anxiety around security, people and having one source for “truth” data about our people. From there, I manage a tech stack that saves us hundreds of hours of time. – Sherine Khalil, Valor Compounding Pharmacy

3. Set up official ‘office hours’ — and stick to them.

Let your team know when you can be interrupted. Be consistent and keep the time slots open. Your team will appreciate knowing when you are available. It is also a great response to the random “Do you have a minute?” interruptions, and it reinforces that everyone’s time is valuable. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys

4. Hand off work other people do better than you.

I prefer a small adjustment to that old cliché: “Work hard. Work smart.” A business leader should try to move as many administrative tasks as possible to others. Then their focus should be on understanding what is not part of their core strengths and move it to smarter, more talented individuals. Getting good people to help with key parts of the business is critical for success. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

5. Develop systems to reduce your need to supervise.

Focus on developing systems that will help run the business with less supervision. For small businesses, it’s the capital that needs to be secured first. When there’s a shortage of capital, you won’t be able to outsource or hire employees. When the business is profitable, you will have options to develop systems, hire smart employees, train and delegate, and improve other areas as needed. – Taslema Sultana, Haystack Lodgings

6. Make more time for planning.

Many people assume that there’s no time to plan. We used to use the adage, “If there’s not time enough to do it once, there’s definitely not time to do it twice.” Many want to get directly into producing. Though it’s counterintuitive to some, if time is short, more time — not less — should be devoted to planning and mitigating potential pitfalls. Measure twice and cut once, even when you’re in a hurry. – Joe DeSensi, Educational Directions

Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invitation-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community. Do I qualify?

7. Bring in outside contractors.

Incorporate contractors. It’s good for budgets, functions, well-being and purpose. It can be a welcome reprieve for teams who may be teetering on the edge of burnout and can get projects over the finish line on time. And don’t shy away from part-time work — there are plenty of automated scheduling apps available, or you can allow self-scheduling. Either option relieves the minimal inconvenience and results in a really big reward. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.

8. Don’t communicate via email.

Stop using emails as a form of communication. As an executive, you need to make many decisions, and trying to use email for that sets bad examples. I believe in “email zero,” and everyone knows it. If you want deliberate communication, let’s talk. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

9. Leverage tech to manage your calendar.

The management of my meetings alone can be a full-time job. I have been able to pass off that duty to an assistant, and we’re currently examining several apps to further streamline the process. While we want the personal touch with clients, using an app that tracks requests and puts them on your calendar minimizes calendar confusion and maximizes time. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More

10. Start new projects off slowly.

People jump into projects without proper clarity and alignment at the outset. Go slow at the beginning to go fast later. We have time for rework, but we often say we don’t have time to have discussions at the launch of an effort. Be disciplined and plan the work well so you can work the plan. We often try to streamline and make things better to go faster later, but a great start is priceless. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

11. Bring in experts.

When I started my business, I outsourced all the business functions in which I did not have expertise: legal, retirement plans, medical benefits, accounting and business insurance. Once you have identified these business partners, entrust them with your business and let them do their jobs. Delegating is the easiest way to get time back. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

12. Schedule shorter meetings (with bonus time).

Most meetings are scheduled for longer than they need to be. It is easier to add time to a meeting — which can be seen as “bonus” time you are giving your clients — than to end early. Set a meeting for 45 minutes, but hold the full hour on your calendar. You’ll have a buffer if you need to run over or time to dig out before your next meeting. – Michael Akin, LINK Strategic Partners

13. Automate regular payments.

One time-consuming activity that can be somewhat automated is accounts payable. Scheduling automatic payments or prepaying dues annually can also save money. You can always set up reminders to confirm monthly or regular payments to monitor them before they hit for security and cash-flow reasons. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.


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