All of us at some point encounter circumstances that pressure and then hijack our time. The culprit? The TIME BANDIT who prowls your world 24/7. Before we discuss 3 ways to avoid being robbed, let’s review how we get cornered in the first place.
Blame human nature…it’s OUR fault!
Here’s how that happens…
We all start each day with a full “container” of time as we head out on our Activity Road. Along the way, the container starts to empty. But with plenty of time in the tank at the outset, most of us quickly default to “our favorites.” We do what:
- Comes EASY
- Fuels our PASSION
- We ENJOY doing
Focusing on our favorite activities is natural and a very good thing. It’s the propulsion for productivity and fuel for purpose in our work. But that doesn’t keep the time container from running down. And we’re ok until the inevitable scarcity takes over.
When that happens, our margin has started to thin and we are at risk.
Then, right on cue, those inevitable URGENT & IMPERATIVE tasks appear on our road ahead. Of course we immediately scramble to meet the new challenges. But if the time container has run too low, we have already marginalized our response to the URGENT & IMPERATIVE.
WE’RE ABOUT TO BE ROBBED BY THE TIME BANDIT.
MARGIN, MARGIN, MARGIN
So how do we avoid getting robbed and steer clear of the negative consequences that would surely come our way? In three steps, which all pivot off MARGIN. Here they are:
- FIND MARGIN
- LEVERAGE MARGIN
- MAINTAIN MARGIN
STEP 1: FIND MARGIN
Most people resort to conventional TIME MANAGEMENT to find margin. I think it’s a very BAD IDEA.
I’ll be a bold contrarian here and declare that after 25 years as a CEO Leader, I strongly believe that leaders cannot attain maximum effectiveness by merely MANAGING their time. That transactional mindset and approach will never, by definition, be strategic.
How do you find margin?
For me, finding margin comes from constantly reviewing my short and long-term goals and strategic frame. This transcends to-do lists and tasks and other related minutiae. I never get wrapped up in my favorite activities without having those big-picture goal reminders at my side. They help me see what could be missed if I don’t intentionally create margin before I’m out of time.
Using this approach, I find the margin I need…because I have to! The goals and strategy must always win the day.
STEP 2: LEVERAGE MARGIN
Finding margin is the key and essential start to avoiding being robbed by the TIME BANDIT. But it’s not enough by itself. That margin must be LEVERAGED.
In order to strategically leverage time and retain margin for the URGENT & IMPERATIVE, there needs to be an INTERRUPTION before the time container runs out. That interruption must take place when it doesn’t feel like you “have to.”
Remember, we all are drawn to our favorites–what we like to do…are passionate about…and enjoy doing. Fair enough. But if we’re not paying attention, we’ll do those things until our time container runs dry and never be able to respond to the URGENT & IMPERATIVE.
Leveraging margin is achieved by regulating the time container’s pressure to make sure our favorite activities don’t suck it dry. And that produces the leverage. Successful regulation of our time allows for what’s imperative from our goals and strategic frame to be completed. We’ve now leveraged our time against what must be done.
STEP 3: MAINTAIN MARGIN
It’s at this point that conventional time management techniques provide effective maintenance. Here’s the 4-Part Decision Filter I use for each and every circumstance that pops up on my Activity Road:
It’s fitting that this post ends with a paragraph on conventional time management. Why? Because if that’s all we do, there’s no chance we’ll be the strategic and transformative leaders this new ChangeAge demands.
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