Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, September 4, 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: Time management is a myth.
You obviously can’t add more time to your day, though I suspect you’ve given that a shot (“sure, I’m fine on four hours of sleep a night…”). So now, you’re working on the other end of the equation – packing more “doing” into each day.
Have you ever heard the story of the monkey who reached his hand into a bottle to retrieve a toy he had dropped into the bottle, only to find his hand stuck in the bottle? He couldn’t figure out why he’d been able to fit his hand in the bottle so easily, but when it came time to remove that same hand, it was stuck. The reason (obvious to any observer) was that his hand was now full.
For the monkey (and maybe for you), the key to freedom is found in letting go.
My father traveled a great deal during his working career. During one season of his life, he traveled to Australia, Europe, Asia and all over the US. He recalls one year when he was gone 50 weekends in a single year. Thankfully for all of us, that didn’t last long.
As a seasoned traveler, he learned how to pack.
Me? Not so much. When I approach the gate agent at the airport with my bags, I am sometimes accused of trying to save money by packing family members in my checked luggage. I am guilty of packing for every possible contingency.
Dad learned that the art of packing is knowing what not to bring on your journey. Just the essentials. He could survive in Europe for two weeks with a sport coat, two shirts, an extra pair of pants and a needle and thread (not that he knew how to sew…I think it was just a good luck charm…a very small one that fit easily in his single suitcase).
As your life and your business grow, so does the complexity of each. You need to learn the same life lesson that I need to learn about packing – you can’t bring everything with you. You’ve got to learn what not to bring. What to leave behind.
One of the most basic lessons in economics is that everything has a cost. And that cost is eventually determined by the market – by people. Prices are the “tool of communication” used in the marketplace to let other parties know how much we value a certain thing.
If I am selling my wares in the marketplace, and no one is buying them, I’m getting a clear signal that my price is too high or my value is too low (same thing really).
If your kids keep getting the message that their activities are not worth your attendance (i.e., you’re not “buying” them), they’ll get the message that their value is too low. I am pretty sure that’s a message you really don’t intend to send to your children, but the message of your actions comes across loud and clear, no matter what you say with your words.
Time management is a myth. You don’t need to learn how to do more in less time. You need to learn what to leave behind on your journey ahead.
It’s called focus, and we’ll deal with it in greater detail next week.
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