You cannot manage time itself, but you can manage yourself and how you choose to use your time. These days we are under more time pressure than ever, and those little gadgets we use to make our lives easier may actually make our lives much harder.
Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day. You cannot buy more time. No matter how many people you know, they cannot give you more time. So the most important question you can ask daily is: “How can my team use time more wisely?”
One of the essential keys to maximizing success as an individual or an organization is to effectively determine where your time should go now and into the future. Where you used time in the past only serves as a guide and learning mechanism for your decisions as to where time should go in the future. One person in your group losing focus on congruent goals can impact everyone’s time, and even create a huge barrier for success.
Too often people search in the wrong places when trying to find out why they are not achieving their goals. They think there is something wrong with their time management program, so they buy a new one. They create long lists, and they eliminate certain things, only to find that they had no realistic effect on the organization. The real problem is not the process they currently use to manage or use time. Rather, it is the habit of thoughts or attitudes they use to decide how they will use their time.
Belief systems lead to actions that cause results, which then impact your time management. If you or your people behave in counterproductive ways, try to identify the belief systems that cause that behavior. For example, let’s say you decide to exercise 3 days a week to improve your health. However, your primary belief system is that exercise is boring and painful. What do you think the chances are that you’ll exercise three days a week?
A common issue I hear from CEOs is that they spend little or no time on their strategic priorities. Instead, they spend their days putting out fires and dealing with their employee issues. They usually insist that this is just part of business as usual. However, a closer examination teaches us that there are people who like to put out fires and enjoy the immediate gratification of handling the daily emergencies, want to be the ones with all the answers, and have trouble telling others “No.” These habits directly impact their ability to effectively manage their time.
We seek immediate gratification in our society. The benefit of better health is a long-term goal. In the short term, a person avoids the pain of sore muscles and the loss of self-esteem that goes along with confirming one’s own bad physical shape by not going to the gym. In other words, they feel better about not going to the gym than they do about going. This is immediate gratification, even though the decision is a bad one for achieving long-term goals.
In order to change behavior, you must identify the immediate gratification you get from your bad behavior and the thought patterns that cause you to continue to practice it. Once identified, it is then necessary to find something more motivating to replace them. For example, many people would start to exercise if their doctor told them, “If you do not start to exercise tomorrow, you’ll have only six months to live, and if you do exercise, you will live another 25 years.” That is quite a carrot to dangle.
Most people do not have a good sense of where their time goes. At least once every six months, executives should track their time to see where they spend it. Once you have a solid understanding of how you spend your time, you can then try to increase the amount of time you control, or productively use your time by delegating activities to others, eliminating waste, and reallocating time to make it more productive.
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