As a leader, you are limited. Limited physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally. You are limited by the amount of time in a day. I have seen countless leaders who tried to ignore this simple fact from time to time with devastating effects on their physical health, family, and mental health. There’s a limit to how much one person can do.
The wise leader understands that time is only one of the many limitations that they must take into consideration. Since all of their resources are finite, the wise leader seeks to maintain a margin physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally, so that she/he has room to adjust to the unexpected as opposed to constantly playing up against the limitation with no room to move.
• Where might you be living with too little margin to be considered a wise leader?
• In what area(s) do you need to make adjustments by taking a couple of steps back from the edge?
Time is money is so cliché. Nevertheless, money is a quite accurate metaphor for time. Both are valuable. Both are in limited supply. However, with time as opposed to money, you can never check your balance.
A wise leader understands that time is limited and keeps to a minimum phrases like, “When I retire…” “When the kids leave home…” or “When I have more money in the bank…” so that s/he isn’t met with regrets of the truly important things that never got done.
The wise leader constantly draws a distinct differentiation between those tasks which are urgent from those which are truly important. The important is seldom urgent. Spending time visiting with my spouse is seldom urgent but always important. Listening to my children tell me about their day, crucial business planning, or important work tasks can always be done tomorrow. There is no deadline.
On the other hand, urgent tasks can feel like important tasks unless the leader has their importance radar finely tuned.
• Is the important taking up the space in your life that you wish it to consume? Too much? Too little?
• Assuming it’s not the size you want it to be, what action steps can you take to adjust it to reflect your desires more accurately?
• How much of your life did your job take up in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s? What is your theory about the changes?
A strong leader understands his/her priorities. Andrew Carnegie at his heyday called in a time consultant and said, “Tell me how to get more out of my day. I only have 24 hours in a day. Tell me, tell me. How can I do more?”
The consultant said, “I need you to write in the evening before the next day starts. Write a list of everything you need to do. Then number those by order of priority. What are the most important? Number those down to the least important. Then begin the next day starting with number one and working your way as far into the list as you can, and you will find your productivity going up.”
“How much do I owe you,” said Andrew Carnegie. And the consultant said, “Whatever you think it’s worth.” After experimenting awhile, Andrew Carnegie sent the consultant a check for $10,000. It meant that much to him.
Before you start your day and start hearing from everybody who has an urgent request of your time, you need make a list of the important things you need to do. Number them in order of importance, and you work them in that order.
Are you going to complete everything? No. But you’re not going to allow the tyranny of the urgent rob you from that which is truly important. When you run out of time, you’re going to run out of time on the least important parts of your list. That’s the genius of this simple approach to time management.
Only by monitoring energy allocation is the leader’s quality of life preserved. By way of example, a project that might take six hours to complete may actually take less personal energy than a one-hour project. The six-hour project might even be of such a nature that it replenishes the leader’s finite energy source. As a leader plans his/her day, this energy perspective remains in the forefront so that at the end of the day the leader does not return home to the family with little or no energy left for the most important people in his/her life.
• Do you struggle for energy at the start or end of the day?
• Do you have any trouble maintaining intensity in your life?
• Do you have trouble keeping intensity around the goals you want to achieve?
The 6×6 Plan might work for you. The question is simple, “What six things are you going to do in the next six weeks to move forward towards the goals you established?”
Answering that question every six weeks keeps you in the six-week compartment and can increase the intensity of you moving towards the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Rather than thinking in terms of minutes or hours involved in a project, discerning leaders process time allotment more in the context of their energy allocation.