Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
Hazy Shade of Winter
Paul Simon, Bookends, 1968
Recently, I was asked to present a “time management” lunch and learn program. The program convener wanted me to cover the typical topics for more effective “time management” including the tried and true:
- jumpstart your day ... get up an hour earlier
- touch each piece of paper only once ... pass it on, file, scan or dispose
- delegate and empower! (The challenge is knowing what to delegate and whom to empower!)
- have a place for everything ... beware of stuff ... the more you have, the more space you need ... thus more to clean, repair and replace ... you can get more stuff, more money, but you can’t get more time
- schedule appointments with yourself to get things done
- perfectionism will drain you ... get over it
- learn to say “NO”
When I inquired about the purpose and drive behind such a program, the response was vague. “It’s time! Rather than single some people out who need this training, we want to do a general training.”
“Time management” can be a sensitive topic. I’ve seen people become defensive and take “time-management” suggestions personally. Some come away feeling guilty and feeling like a victim. Some “blame-storm” others for their perceived weakness and shortcomings.
In response to sensitivity, we repackage “time management” into “time leadership,” “working smarter,” “resource management,” or “priority management” —billing these as a process to change old, bad habits with a new and improved twist! This only works if you have the will and perseverance to change. Like losing weight, tools and techniques are great, but what needs to change is behavior.
In Myers-Briggs Type Indicator language, this may be seen as an attempt by the Judgers (“J”) to get the Perceivers (“P”) into line! “J” teams and organizations are especially interested in getting all members on the “time management-agenda driven-checklist” way of work life.
David Cottell, author of Monday Morning Leadership, says it’s impossible to manage time. He suggests we learn to manage our attention. Maximize momentum by maximizing your attention. Everyone has time, but not everyone has the same attention.
Any form of managing one’s attention must begin with a personal vision. Your vision helps you to create your future and includes: one’s core values and beliefs (guiding principles); one’s purpose (why are you here?); a personal mission including goals, timeline and deadline. Design key initiatives and create metrics to achieve one’s mission. Without this in place, “time management” workshops miss a fundamental purpose ... to help execute one’s vision and the organization’s vision.
What get’s your attention?
What keeps your attention?
How much attention do you need for sleep?
How much attention do you need for exercise?
How much attention do you need for work to attend meetings, complete projects, and build relationships?
How much attention do you need to live your purpose?