Sunday, July 6, 2014

Forget Time Management... Focus on Time Leadership

Being busy is a problem. Not necessarily because we can’t seem to get everything done but more because we use it as an excuse. Bob Talbert states it this way, “Have you noticed that even the busiest people are never too busy to take time to tell you how busy they are?” In fact, I think we wear busy as a badge of honor to show others just how important we are.

But this is a dilemma that we have long struggled with in management and leadership circles. How do we best organize our time to reduce our busy schedules into manageable chunks? This is the wrong question to ask. It reinforces the old notion that time controls us… when in fact, we control time. Instead of thinking that you only have 24 hours in a day, realize this is more than enough time to do everything you need to do.

Most of us have developed a successful way of managing our calendars and the associated tasks that accompany it. We plan the details of our day following age-old principles of time management. But as actor Bruce Lee states, “I am learning to understand… I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach.” Similarly, I suggest we are in an era of leadership versus management; an era that requires us to separate from the crowd and change our approach. It is time to stop thinking about time management and instead focus on three aspects of time leadership: energy, attitude, and reason.

In leadership, we often think of energy as sustained strength and vitality. It is the ability to get things done even when our to-do list is overflowing. But it is more than simply physical power; it is the mental power necessary for self-motivation. Oprah Winfrey suggests, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Management implies control and time management is our effort to exercise power over time. This is the wrong approach. Instead, release your management tendencies, give up control and find the leader within. Discover your passion and let this drive how you accomplish your daily tasks.

Our attitude often defines our approach. It is an established way of thinking about us and our roles. But as Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” In management, we assume that ability is in the details and our motivation is in accomplishing the task. In time management, this translates into planning and the assessment of how well we do this. But when we focus on time leadership, we exchange details for direction. We look beyond the moment and the task at hand to see the big picture of our vision and we concentrate our efforts on the future.

We are constantly justifying our actions, especially when things don’t go our way. After all, it is human nature to try and explain our way out of trouble. However, C. S. Lewis states, “An explanation of cause is not a justification by reason.” If we let the events of our lives dictate our daily agenda, we succumb to the management instinct of reaction. It is in our character to focus on the moment. However, leadership is about grace under stress. It is the ability to proactively consider issues and alternatives and plan ahead to avoid managing problems. It is not about avoiding issues, it’s about planning for them.

Time management is coping with the complexities of our lives and falling into the trap that we must get everything done in some arbitrary timeframe. Time leadership, by contrast, is resisting the temptation to follow the crowd and instead seek a new understanding of time – one that affords us ample opportunity to get things done. It is a change in our basic philosophy from one of being too busy to one of seeking opportunity. If you practice time leadership by finding your passion, setting your own direction, and being proactive, you will find that 24 hours is more than enough time to do all you want to do.

What can you get done if you put your mind to it?