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It's Not About Time

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.” - Lao Tzu

Effective leaders understand that managing time isn’t possible. We all have a finite amount of time each day. It’s a limited resource, like our personal energy, or, for most of us, our current bank account.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful tools and techniques that help you create systems and processes for harnessing time as a resource, but managing time isn’t the root of the issue.

Effective leaders are able to identify and focus on the critical few priorities, the “must-haves” of the business, then support and empower their teams in making good decisions about time as a resource. Without identifying the top three priorities, time will always work against rather than for the organization.

In a recent conversation with an operations executive, she shared with me that her list of priorities for the year has over 60 items on it.  These 60 priorities rolled up into 10 initiatives that the organization has committed to for the year. In examining her calendar, most of her time between 7am and 6pm each day is consumed largely with meetings spent in status updates and reporting out, making sure that her direct reports are managing their checklists related to the 60 items on her list of priorities. Her questions to me were:

  • How can we possibly accomplish all of these things this year?
  • When can I get my work done or be available for my team when I’m in meetings all day?
  • How can I possibly have time to even answer the 100 emails that I receive every day, much less keep the plates spinning?

Setting priorities is not creating a list of things to do. Setting priorities is being clear about the choices you as a leader will make regarding the few most critical things that have to be accomplished. The most important time you can spend is in thinking about and clarifying the one thing that absolutely has to happen this year. Allow yourself up to one or two additional must-haves, and then spend your energy harnessing the power of the many who work for you to figure out what you will say “yes” to and what you will say “no” to in order to accomplish these few priorities. Once you have clear priorities in place, you can balance your systems and processes to support your decisions.

Executive coaching can help support you in making effective requests, creating priorities and constructing systems and processes that make time a resource that works for you.