How to quickly improve your leadership performance - in 2, 5, 10 or 30 minutes


We have limited minutes available to us each day.  However, each of us has the same amount of time.  The difference is in how we choose to spend it.

If we are committed to continued improvement of our leadership performance, some amount of time each day must be directed to those activities. Luckily, improving ourselves does not have to take a lot of time, only intention and a few minutes of focus.

Whether you carve out dedicated time each day, or have an ad hoc approach to finding time when and where you can, here is a leadership development bucket list of ideas to maximize 2, 5, 10 or 30 minutes.

2 Minutes – Mental Reboot

Spend 2 minutes and write a thank you card to improve your leadership

A thank you card will take little time, but the impact is lasting.

Often, we can get caught up in what’s going on around us and lose sight of what’s important.  If you only have a minute or two, focus on rebooting your thinking.

Grateful people are healthier, happier, and more successful.  If something goes wrong, the day seems to drag on, or you don’t feel as productive as you’d like, gratitude can boost your energy.

To regularly and quickly experience gratitude, write down ten things you are grateful for and keep them in your office. When things get stressful, take them out to remind you. I like to keep mine on index cards in my desk, connected by a binder ring.

Alternatively, you can show gratitude to others.  Keep a box of thank you cards in your desk for the occasional hand-written note.  Whether it’s for lending a hand or a job well done, personal notecards provide a visual reminder to the person you’re recognizing that last long after the two minutes you’ll spend.

5 Minutes – Plan and Recap

Spend 5 minutes and plan your day to improve your leadership

Take a few minutes to plan your day, or your day may plan you.

With a few extra minutes, you can improve how you spend your days through planning ahead and looking back.

Ask yourself the following questions each morning or evening before to plan your day:

  • What are my top priorities for today?
  • What meetings or commitments are coming up in the next few days that I need to focus on tomorrow?
  • What can I reasonably accomplish?
  • What can I delegate, delay, decline, or deprioritize?

In order to use this approach to plan your week, spend the few minutes on Monday morning or the end of the prior Friday.  The focus of the questions can be expanded to account for a broader range of time.

A great tool for planning your day is the 1-3-5 to do list from the muse.  The assumption is we can accomplish one big, three moderately sized, and five small things each day.

While planning ahead is helpful, learning what works and what doesn’t is necessary to improve.  Consider introducing a recap at the end of each day or week, asking yourself the following questions.

  • What did I accomplish?  What worked?
  • What did I miss?  What needs improvement?
  • What can I learn from today that I can apply tomorrow?

Another recap option is evaluating how we’re doing, beyond the job at hand.  At least once a month, take a broader view with the following questions:

  • How are my relationships?  At work and at home, are they healthy?  If not, what can I do to improve them?
  • What have I accomplished in the past month that I’m proud of?  Include both personal and professional accomplishments.
  • Is there anything from the last month that I’d like to fix, do better, or revisit?  If not, is there anything I can learn to prevent future mistakes?

10 Minutes – Reward and Recognize

Spend 10 minutes and walk outside to improve your leadership

Get outside to refresh your mind and body.

Much of our work can take days, weeks, months or even years to achieve results.  Waiting for the end to recognize ourselves or others means risking burnout.  If you find yourself with 10 minutes, use it to treat yourself or someone else.

To treat yourself, commit to taking better care of your physical and mental well-being.  You can walk outside, talk with a friend, or going to the lunchroom for a healthy snack.  Getting away from our desks and taking breaks provide us with the energy necessary to endure long meetings or head’s down time for deadlines.

To treat someone else, give them your full focus for ten minutes.  Ask them how they are doing. Not the “how are you?” that most ask in passing and don’t really mean.  Stop and really listen.

Other options to treat someone are to nominate or present them with a formal reward.  You can also reward a larger group by planning a team lunch or outing.

Treating someone else not only makes them feel good, but provides us with additional benefits, like making us happier and healthier.  Kindness is a 2-for-1.

30 Minutes – Growth and Development

Spend 30 minutes and attend a podcast to improve your leadership performance

Videos and podcasts are great way to learn something new.

It’s not always easy to carve out a half hour.  If we’re committed and plan our meetings well, accelerating resolution of an hour meeting can be a way to achieve the gain.

When you find that time, what do you do with it? It might be temping to fill it with another meeting or something on your to do list.  Instead, consider focusing on learning.  Either your own or someone else’s.

If you are considering your own development, there are many Ted talks, podcasts and webinars available across a variety of topics.  You can read a chapter or two of a book and take away a new insight.  Maybe scan and read a few articles on Feedly or your content generator of choice.

Alternately, you can use the extra time to teach others.  Whether it’s one person, your team, or a non-work group / organization, you have something to share.

Your passions are the best place to start when considering what to teach others.  It doesn’t have to be work related.  Instead, it could be related to a hobby or outside interest.  The goal would be to share that passion and knowledge to grow and develop others.


We all have the same number of minutes.  As leaders, finding a few minutes each day to focus on development not only improves our performance, but pays dividends in the value it generates for our teams.  Whether it’s 2 minutes or 30, we can all find time to improve.

What else can you do in 2, 5, 10 or 30 minutes to improve your leadership?  Please share your ideas in the comments.