Many people live their lives by circumstance with no plan. As a result, some wind up unhappy. How many times a day do you hear, “I just don’t have the time” or “There are not enough hours in the day”?
We are all busy working on something — in our jobs or our personal lives, fulfilling commitments to others, striving to be productive. But as many time-management experts have said, we are often too busy to be productive.
There is an array of products and services available to manage time better; many of them are somewhat efficient. Still, most are based on managing circumstantial time — when to have which meeting, how long each meeting should last, etc. — rather than being goal-driven. Of course, there are goal-focused seminars and programs, but attendees sometimes come up with goals to appear as though they are participating. Those goals may not be real, and accordingly, they have no power.
“OK,” you may say, “what does work?”
Take The Path Of Common Sense
Firstly, most of what I’m about to write is common sense. However, I’ve found that sometimes common sense is frequently less than common. People work too hard to make sense of what they are doing, making everything more complicated than necessary.
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To keep things simple, I try to develop three sets of goals: business, family and personal. In setting these goals, I am diligent not only to assure that I can attain each but also include a genuine happiness level I will give myself when I succeed. Hence, the goals have power and prepare me to make the choices I need to meet them.
Common sense? Sure, but clearly, there is more.
For instance, it makes sense to keep a calendar, and a lot of executives work hard at abiding by their calendars. But often, others have control of that calendar, scheduling meetings, trips, even personal things like remembering anniversaries or perhaps a child’s play date, which augurs well for being programmed by circumstance.
To me, it’s common sense to control my calendar myself. That way, I empower me, not circumstance, to schedule by my goal-driven plan.
Stop ‘Trying To Do It All’
“Ah,” you may react, “that sounds great, but you can’t control the workplace environment — stuff just happens.”
That’s true to a certain degree, but if one is assiduous in planning against a set of goals, there will be enough time to react to and deal with the inevitable circumstantial events. Let’s take this concept a step further with one example.
Usually, by late Wednesday, I have enough emails about however many meetings there will be the next week. I look at all of them carefully and objectively and decide which meetings I must go to. If a meeting does not fit into my goal plan and somebody else can cover it, I decide to do something that advances my goals. These types of choices save me hundreds of hours a year.
Common sense, right? For me, yes. But I find that many people seem to feel as though attending every meeting or conference call makes them important. Consequently, they fail at being productive overall because they are too exhausted and stressed from “trying to do it all.”
Granted, as a senior leader, I may have more leeway in controlling my calendar than others might, but I firmly believe that anybody who starts with the confidence and diligence to control their calendar against a broader life plan will facilitate other time-management practices.
I’m not advocating that we cavalierly thumb our noses at things we don’t want to do. Responsible scheduling requires maturity and objectivity to assess reality. I am suggesting that by making a plan that includes conscientious, measured choices in how we control our time, we can generate the personal productivity it takes to attain our goals and enjoy the happiness that brings.