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Leadership Thought #284 – How Do You End Your Day?

January 17, 2012

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In my experience, how you end your day says a lot about how you manage your time and priorities.

Some people have a tough time calling it quits.  They keep working until the last possible minute to cram something else in.  Others work sporadically. It’s hard to draw any pattern as to when their typical day begins or concludes – boundaries are difficult for them.  Then there are those who end at the same time every day like clockwork.    No matter what’s going on they pack it in and push it off responsibilities until the next work day.  In addition, there are also those individuals who work in peaks and valleys.  They put in the extra hours when they need to but make it up at another time.  Lastly, are the people who continually blend work and personal time and work whatever hours are needed to accommodate this mindset.

If what you are doing works for you and is achieving the desired results, then stick with it.  However, if you are struggling or feeling like you are regularly “behind the eight ball,” then maybe you should consider another approach.

Ideally a person would want to use their time well and be highly productive and effective.  They wouldn’t get easily distracted or lose focus.  Instead of procrastinating on things they need to get done, they’d be disciplined about accomplishing what’s most important when it should get done with minimal stress.   The days would flow smoothly rather than bounce around between shifting priorities and putting our fires.   Time should be spent doing your own job not making up for the shortcomings of others.   We also need to be smart enough to ask for help when we are in over our heads.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we’d own up to the fact that most of the stress in our careers is self-created.

The best days have a sense of self-confidence, properly channeled energy, and order about them.   You are rarely caught off guard and when a rare surprise happens it’s easy to adjust your schedule to re-prioritize things accordingly.  Everyone should be working from a master “to do” list that they revisit daily and prioritize given their role and responsibilities.  Life has always favored the prepared over those who “wing it” as they go along.  If you are in a senior leadership position this can be a bit more challenging because your work is less tactical and task oriented, but it is required, nonetheless.  Thinking requires disciplined effort.

Work should never be all encompassing.  Your goal should be to have a vibrant personal life and create the boundaries and flexibility to allow this to happen.  One dimensional people always burn out in the long term and/or regret what they’ve given up getting where they are.  There are “do over’s” in life.  Once time has passed it’s gone.

Your goal should be as often as possible to end your days on a high note.  When you arrive home, you should be able to leave work behind you because you have used your time well and are proactively focused on your deadlines and priorities.  Just as was the case with high school or college, cramming for your tests only leads to unnecessary stress, muddled thinking, silly mistakes, and poor retention of information.