As an executive coach for leaders around the world, I have found one very common denominator when it comes to issues leaders face. That commonality is expressed as “lack of time.”
“There isn’t enough time to do all that must be done each day.”
“I don’t have time to exercise.”
“When do I have time to attend my child’s games?”
“I don’t have time for a date night with my spouse.”
“And I certainly don’t have time for planning and reflection.”
One of the most challenging aspects of business in this day and age is the “busyness” of it.
As one business owner recently stated, “If I worked 24 hours a day, every single day, it would not be enough.”
As a leader, you can burn yourself out and lose your health, family, and sense of self in trying to meet the relentless demands of today’s business world.
I know because I deal with this issue every single day as I work with clients.
As a coach, I am geared to ask, “Why?”
My clients have said I am an effective coach because I will ask “Why” relentlessly until I get to the real root of the issue.
Because getting to the root of the issue provides a point of actionable solution.
As I ask “Why” regarding this issue of lack of time, the conversation goes something like this.
“What’s the problem?”
“I don’t have time.”
“There are too many demands.”
At about this point, the lightbulb goes off…
“There are too many demands because I’m allowing something or someone else to determine how my time is used.”
The Real Issue
The real issue is not “lack of time” – we all have 24 hours in a day.
It’s not even “too many demands.”
The real, bottom-line issue is leadership. You are giving someone else authority over your most valuable commodity: your time.
How can you take back that authority?
Set aside time for reflection and planning.
Just do it. Schedule it. Make it a firm commitment. If you catch yourself saying, “I don’t have time for that,” or “I will do that when I get these other things done,” break that pattern of thought. The fact is, taking time to recharge, reflect, and plan needs to be a first step, not an afterthought. I like to call it “Recess to Reassess.” This is about looking at your personal and professional life from a big picture vantage point, well above the day-to-day minutiae. It is a time for resetting the compass.
Taking time to recharge, reflect, and plan needs to be a first step, not an afterthought. – Dave Ferguson
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Determine or re-affirm your priorities.
In coaching, we use the “Wheel of Life,” where we assess each area of life for balance. You know intuitively what areas are out of balance. Think about these areas, and assess them honestly.
Then determine what one thing you can do to move the ball forward in each area in the next 90 days. Put these objectives in writing.
If your wheel is extremely out of balance, ask yourself what one area, if addressed, would provide the most critical impact on other areas, and focus on that.
Schedule your priorities.
In a previous article, we saw how the simple act of working out each morning positively affected one executive coaching client’s work productivity throughout the day. It directly impacted his health, while also improving his work, finances, and relationships with himself and others as he gained more self-respect, energy, and confidence.
I am often asked, “Dave, how do you run a successful business, but always find time to read on the beach or ride your bike several miles a day?”
The fact is, first I set aside time to read on the beach or ride my bike, and then I schedule my work around that time. Reading, exercising, and being out in nature are energizers for me. They give me the energy to do the work faster and more effectively.
Now, time being in limited supply, there are days where I take calls while doing these other activities. But these activities are a priority, so even on the busiest days, I make them happen.
As a coach, I often play the role of facilitator to “workaholics anonymous.” Just as working too little can be a bad habit, working too much can be an addiction. I can certainly help you kick these habits if you’re willing to get uncomfortable and take action.
Here is a key exercise. The next time you say, “I don’t have time” for something, take a scrutinizing look at that something.
Is it a priority? If so, then schedule it, or you will never “have time” for it. As they say, “Put your money where your mouth is.” If it’s a commitment, then act on it.
If it is not a priority, declutter it – delegate, defer, or delete. Yes, it’s that simple.
As I go through a decluttering exercise with coaching clients, I will ask, “Is this task worth (for example) $500 an hour?”
They often answer, “No.”
My response to them is, “Then why are YOU doing it?”
Whatever your rate per hour is, make sure your work is commensurate. Otherwise, you are short-changing your organization and yourself. If you have ever found yourself spending frustrating hours editing a Word document that an assistant could have done in 15 minutes, you are not offering the highest value to your organization. You have a talented team. They do things you can’t do well. Allocate resources accordingly, and stay focused on your priorities as they stay focused on theirs. There are compound benefits to this.
Like tires on a vehicle, the wheel of life can get out alignment. Flat spots develop due to excessive wear in a certain spot. It happens.
This is why it is essential to cycle through these steps on a regular basis, and I recommend a monthly time for refocusing on the big picture of your life and business. This helps you to recalibrate and realign your life in terms of priorities and not demands.
There will always be demands. You can spend your life chasing them, or you can determine your priorities…and lead. The choice is yours. The results and rewards are also yours if you choose well.
Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.