High impact leaders focus on doing the right things well and consistently live up to their commitments especially when it is hard. You don’t ever have to worry about their personal behavior or professional discipline.
I’ve heard many leaders tell me they always wait to do something until the last minute because they perform best under this type of pressure. Sounds like a bit of rationalization to me. I know that when I procrastinate on something it’s not because it is the best way to work – it is often quite the opposite. I just don’t want to do whatever it is because I view it as drudgery, am unsure how to proceed or I’m not sure I’ll be pleased by the outcome. I cannot imagine any scenario where purposefully putting yourself under time pressure until the last minute makes any sense.
The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.
There is a wise old saying that “if you want to get something done, then give it to a busy person.” In my experience this is a pretty accurate depiction of how families, organizations and communities work. They “Type A” person will always assume the most responsibility and be the hub of critical activity. Other people tend to rely on them and their boundless energy for execution. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, this dynamic also ends up becoming somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy as time goes on.
I have always liked the idea as viewing your time similar to currency. You get to decide how you spend it and what types if investments you make. Sadly, just like with our money, many of us make bad or misinformed decisions. Time is finite. There will be a time when it grows short and then disappears. Our children will only live with us a relatively brief time before they grow up and move away to begin their own lives. People we care about will run out of time and all that will remain will be the memories we made with them while they were still here. Our career will follow a natural arc and eventually our lives will be less about what we do for a living (despite our past accomplishments) and we will need to redefine ourselves. Knowing this, what can and should we do differently. I believe it all starts with priorities.
Time is finite. No matter how hard we try, we can’t create more of it, so we have to manage the time we have in the best way possible. A leader typically has no time to waste. You need to minimize distractions and maximize your focus. Here are some tips on how to manage your time better:
You can’t operate at top gear all the time. Even “Type A” people need some downtime or they will eventually burn out. I watch people all the time push themselves to the limit. You can see it in their eyes and read it in their body language when they are exhausted. And, tired people tend to underperform, make less than optimal decisions, allow their people skills to slip and if they are not careful begin to resent heir work. It’s very important for leaders to learn to pace themselves and set a good example for others to follow.
Most people live their lives reactively rather than proactively. Instead of controlling their time and schedule they let events control them. If you always choose to just make it up as you go along, don’t be surprised if you are often disappointed with the outcomes you are getting. Create some basic structure to your daily life and you will actually end up feeling liberated to do more of what you want to do because you will have more time to do it in.
Time is limited. We all know this fact, yet how many of us manage our time poorly. Two of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they are too busy or that there isn’t enough time. I can certainly empathize with this mindset and various times in my life have struggled with these challenges myself. However, I’ve learned that you manage your time or it manages you.
There is a term commonly used in real estate when describing the value of an individual property called its “highest and best use.” The highest and best use is always that use that would produce the highest value for a property, regardless of its actual current use. I want to encourage leaders to think the same way about their own role. As the lead person in your organization, it is your responsibility to vigorously protect your time and activity. Any number of distractions will pop up in a given day, but they cannot be allowed to dilute your energy, talent and focus from what’s most important.
I watched an interesting movie last night called The Way. It was written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father Martin Sheen. In the movie a straight-laced somewhat taciturn father has to cope with the tragic loss of his 40 year old free-spirited son. The event took place while he was beginning a spiritual trek on “The Way of St. James” or “Camino de Santiago” which is an 800 kilometer pilgrimage (hike) through France and Spain to the burial place of Saint James. The father decides to complete the journey his son started and learns alot about himself and life along the way. As with most of his acting roles, it was a powerful and thoughtful performance by Martin Sheen.
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.
We all get overwhelmed at times. It’s just part of life. Sometimes there is just too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Instead of stressing out when this happens, takes a step back, breathe, and come up with a plan of action. Here are some tactics/ideas that have worked for me:
I’ve often heard the saying, “if you want something done give it to a busy person.” While I am an advocate of applying the 80/20 principle in most circumstances, I believe the ratio get even greater in organizations and communities when it comes to overall effort and impact – it is more like 90/10 or higher. Some people just seem to be hardwired to take on more responsibility. They just can’t help themselves and have a difficult time saying “no.” When they find a need they feel compelled to address it. Poor performance isn’t an option for them and they work hard even no one else is watching. While it’s great these people exist, I also worry that we expect too much from these individuals and in the end many of them end up suffering from burnout and/or too much stress.
We need to be able to distinguish between what is truly important and what is not. If we cannot do this, then we end up exhausting our internal resources and ultimately yielding opportunities to others who manage their time and energy better.
There is a great benefit to working with a wide variety of clients for a number of years. You start to recognize patterns; seeing what works and what gets organizations in trouble.
was meeting with a colleague the other day and he seemed utterly exhausted. There was just too much work to get done and not enough time to get in done in, or so he thought. Most of us are our own worst enemies when it comes to time management and setting work priorities.
As someone who doesn’t like too much structure, I must admit that time management doesn’t always come easy to me.
Everyone needs down time. Even extreme extroverts must recharge every once in awhile. It’s too much work to be on all the time. It is also not healthy to be constantly over stimulated. There is no shortage of options on how you spend your time especially if you have a job with any real responsibility and/or have children. However, I urge you to force yourself to find some quiet time with minimal distractions to give your brain a rest and allow it to focus on fewer things.
Time is finite for all of us. We can estimate how long we have but estimates often bump into harsh reality. Tomorrow is another day until it is not. Some people get advance warning and have a chance to say goodbye and make peace with their life. Others seem to leave us in an instant with very little or no preparation.
There are so many distractions on a daily basis it’s hard to stay focused. Since none of us have the capability to actually add hours to our days we need to make the most of the time we have. Whether it is at work or at home we need to be ability to prioritize the urgent over the important and the important over everything else.