Effective Leadership: You Are Squandering Your Key Asset!
The following is an excerpt from my book, “Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day” (2016) Morgan James Publishing. Most executives squander too much of their most valuable resource, their time. Here is how to get a good return on that asset.
Getting a Return On Your Time
The $59 time-management seminar I went to 30 years ago started off with this statement: “Regardless of who you are, we all have 24 hours in our day.” I don’t recall anyone jumping up to argue. In fact, it may have been the only thing we all agreed upon. This obvious point still holds true today. However, we now have hundreds of cable channels, social media opportunities, cell phones, email, YouTube, and many more distractions with which to contend. I watched “The Jetsons” as a kid and thought about how cool it would be to have Rosie the robot maid with all of those gadgets so I’d have more free time. I stopped holding my breath a long time ago.
I’ve worked with many leaders and often had conversations with them about how to best spend their time. As a result, I came up with Seven Timely Tips for Increasing Return on Time. These tips will help you trim the fat and analyze where the time goes, so you can better evaluate where you can optimize your time and prevent the waste of this valuable resource.
1. Clarify your values. A great place to start taking control of your time is by identifying your values and then determining whether the activities and time you’re investing (or squandering) are consistent with these values.
2. Plan. If you don’t plan, how can you know what’s most important? If an activity doesn’t take you closer to your long-term objectives, do you need to do it, or did you get sidetracked? (It’s OK to look at shiny new things occasionally.)
3. Be assertive. You don’t need to have a relationship with everybody who rings your doorbell or calls you on the phone. Trying to be nice to everyone (see chapter one) prevents you from doing what you should be doing. A talented client who’s CEO of a large company recently said, “I don’t want to be seen as a jerk, but I just can’t go to lunch with everyone who asks.” Some will see him as a jerk, but he’s right.
4. Use “comparative advantage” to your advantage. (If you aren’t familiar with the economics term “comparative advantage,” look it up. I swear it’ll be a good use of your time.) If you love to mow the lawn, great! If not, get someone who’s faster and then find a better outlet for your time. I had a client who swore he could do everything better than all of his employees. He probably could, but, in trying to do so, he was miserable and couldn’t grow his business.
5. Define wealth in terms of well-being, not just money. This causes you to think differently about your activities and what has value. The guy I referenced in bullet point four was financially wealthy, but couldn’t take a vacation even though he could afford to buy a jet to do so! I’m writing this on a Monday. I’m skiing tomorrow because there’s supposed to be a foot of new snow. (Admittedly, it might be a late night tonight!) Tomorrow, I’ll be wealthier than the guy with the pile of money.
6. Recognize that longer is not better. Pretend you’re hiring me as a consultant to help you solve a large problem. It’s going to take six months and require a $250,000 investment, but it will bring in $10 million in new revenue. Wait … I just found a way to do it in five minutes. Does this have more or less value to you? Longer is not better; it’s just longer.
7. Relax. Nobody gets this right all the time. Just course-correct frequently.
The further up in the organization that you are, the more valuable to the organization your time will be. Unfortunately, you also have many people and projects competing for your time and attention.
You have a good deal of latitude on how you spend your time, and at the end of the day, time is your most valuable resource. A local radio personality was reviewing a movie some time ago and he said, “That movie was so bad, I didn’t want my $10 back, I wanted the three hours of my life back!” No matter what you do, time is a valuable resource.
Real Lesson: It is what you do as a leader that will define you. Your calendar must reflect what you want to do. How you use your time will create the story of your success or failure. You can always make another buck but you can never make another minute.