Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, September 11, 2016.
Question: My business is going well – better than I ever thought it would. My problem is that it’s just eating up more and more of my time…and my life. I’m missing kids’ ball games I know I’ll never be able to get back and I really don’t want to miss out on this time in their lives. What time management tips do you have for getting more things done in less time?
Answer: Last week I said time management is a myth.
That’s because time is a totally inflexible commodity. We all have access to an equal amount each day.
In reality, the only thing you can manage is your own relationship to time. And a common mistake made is to attempt to “do more” within the constraints of time (i.e., getting more done in a day). The problem with this approach is the hidden costs of doing more in less time – in order to pack more into your day, you have to leave other things out…things that, in retrospect, might be kind of important…like your kids.
I’m not denying there are gains to be made by focusing on “efficiency.” We call that the approach of “doing things right.” But “doing things right” will simply yield you the low hanging fruit. It won’t go nearly far enough.
If you really want to make significant strides in the management of yourself within the inflexible constraints of time, you’re going to have change from a “doing things right” approach to a “doing the right things” approach.
Two words that come to mind are “focus” and “empowerment.”
Suppose I told you that in 36 months, you would be whisked away to a remote desert island. The good news is this island is an ideal paradise with warm sunny beaches, abundant food and fun and anything else you want in your fantasy. However…this island has almost no communication to the outside world. In fact, all you can count on is receiving and sending one email per day, each containing 1000 words or less (about the length of this column).
Could your business survive if you were on that island for a month? A year? Five years?
The only way your business would survive would be if you got very clear about every key aspect of your business (focus), made sure that everyone on your team knew their role very clearly and took personal responsibility for its fulfillment (empowerment).
Your 1000 word daily email exchange would have a laser-like focus on each key area of your business. You would give overall strategic guidance, but the day to day operational decisions would be largely left to your team members.
If you knew that remote desert island experience was coming 36 months from now, what would you be spending your time doing for the next 36 months?
If you say, “more of what I am doing now, only harder,” you don’t get it. More of what you are doing now is already not working for you.
But if you say, “I’d spend the next 36 months clarifying what the most important aspects of my business are (focus) and training my team to be able to execute our identified and agreed upon priorities (empowerment)” then go to the head of the class.
There may not be a dessert island in your future, but from the sound of it, your family may be on an island of your own making…one without you on it.
If you’ll focus on doing the right things through focus on your business and empowerment of your team members, you’ll be free to give your family what they want even more than a successful business.
Time. With you.
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