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‘Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.’ – Benjamin Franklin
There are very few things in life that are constant but time is one of those few things.
Regardless of how hard you work, how wealthy you are, whether you live in the northern hemisphere or the southern, whether you are 10 years of age or 110, the fact remains, there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Granted, some days may seem longer than others, but the reality is no amount of effort can provide you with additional time.
You can’t buy it, rent it, borrow it, store it or renew it.
All you can do is spend it.
And herein lies the question: Are you spending your time wisely?
In a time, when most of us are being asked to do more with less – less money, less resources and less time – it is the people who are able to use their time productively that are reaping the rewards. Rewards both personally and professionally.
What is it though about some people that make them so productive? Note I said productive – there is big difference between simply getting something done and being productive. In an age where ‘being busy’ is the norm, how do we ensure that we are getting most of the 24 hours in the day, the 7 days in the week that we all have?
I believe that there are several attributes that productive people embody in their daily life:
- Value time as a resource: You need to value what do you do as if it were a precious resource you are about to allocate or invest into. Just as we need to determine the viability of and return on staffing resources or financial and IT systems, we need to do the same with our time. Ask yourself the same questions as if you were about to allocate other resources:
- What will I obtain in return? Is it worth it?
- Does it fulfill my needs and the business needs?
- What type of environment does this resource / investment require to maximise a return?
- What do I need to prioritise to ensure that this resource / investment achieves the strongest outcome.
- How do I best protect it?
- Know your direction and purpose: People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem (Zig Ziglar)
Without clear objectives your attention and subsequently your actions are spent focused on whatever seems important only in that moment. Your time ends up being spent on things that are often low priority and fail to add value to you, your role or the business that you work for. Establishing clear goals, frameworks and timeframes supports your success.
- Know your influencers and stakeholders: Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by people who are not on track!
- Blend efficiency and effectiveness: Efficiency is doing the job right whilst effectiveness refers to doing the right job. Strong leaders know how to blend the two approaches. You understand all that is required, prioritise the most important tasks and complete them in the best possible way.
When you can do this consistently, your work will be more productive and the rewards far greater.
- Influence what you can and let go of what you can’t: Understand what the demands are, the constraints are and what choices we have. What do we ‘have’ to do versus what are the limits to what we can do? What choices do we have in how the work is delivered and, where when and by whom.
As leaders you need to see the opportunities for action, know how to manage the boundaries and make choices that maximise the effectiveness given the varying constraints and demands of the job.
- Know yourself – what makes you work?: Time is also a very personal resource. You are the only one who can spend your time.
Understanding our own uniqueness and the intricacies of what makes us work as individuals is critical to our success. Remove or minimize the things that take your eye off the ball, cause you to procrastinate or sideline you. Instead focus on creating environments and habits that make you work – it can be as simple as walking to work, a morning coffee or starting the day reading the paper.
- Get off that hamster wheel: When you feel ‘stuck’ you are more often than not, running flat out, burning lots of energy and going nowhere fast. Finding yourself on the hamster wheel is exhausting, unfulfilling and unsustainable. The tricky thing is that by the time you realise you are on it, you are already spinning so fast that jumping off seems impossible and downright dangerous.
The key to jumping off the wheel is recognising that it is nothing more than a routine – a routine that you firstly created and one you can absolutely change.
- Collaborate: Productive leaders know that they cannot do it alone. Whist they have a very clear understanding of the value of their own contribution, they also know how to effectively harness the talent around them, draw upon individual strengths and encourage collaboration to achieve the desired outcomes.
Understanding that you have the ultimate control over how you invest your time is critical to your success. Your fulfillment and productivity levels are greatly enhanced when you feel in control of what you do, value what you do and can see the contribution that it offers to the broader business or environment.
How do you ensure that you are making the most of your time? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Margot – The Career Diplomat