More time than you need…

How is time for you right now? Do you have time or does it have you? What would it be like to have as much time as you needed or to experience time as a generous and abundant resource?

Recently, I was talking to a busy customer service manager and I asked him what would make the biggest difference to his workload and the performance of his team. There was no hesitation. If I could get my people to be more effective and multi skilled then it would cut my workload in half. Hmm I said, So what percentage of your time do you spend on this problem? His answer was astonishing - less than 5%. Yep, that’s right. He knew what his most important priority was but spent the least amount of time on it.

This is not as uncommon as you might think. Many managers and business people are caught up in a whirl of reports, e-mail, meetings, presentations or tasks that push the real priorities out of sight. Managers commonly work too long, think about work too much and often have that feeling of never quite getting on top of things.

So what’s the secret to turning this round. Simple really, all you need to do (every day) is to do the most important thing first.

What is the most important thing that you have to do today? And by most important I mean what is the one thing that would make the biggest long term impact on your life, career, job performance or relationship. Here’s a big clue, it’s probably got something to do with people rather than things (e-mail, reports, meetings etc.)

Managers often see people & teams as a source of problems or extra demands so they tend to avoid them. Either that or the lure of important meetings and other trivia becomes all-consuming. This only makes the problem worse as, without attention, people tend to drift towards doing their own thing plus they store up stuff for their manager/team leader. When the manager does put in a rare personal appearance, not only does she discover that things are not going according to plan but she also gets dumped with a load of pent up stuff.

The way to break this cycle, which happens with families as well, is to practice giving people generous amounts of your time with 100% of your attention. It sounds counter intuitive but the result is that within a few weeks the demands on your time rapidly diminish. This happens for two reasons - firstly you are closer to what is going on and can intervene earlier and secondly when people know they have your full attention then they stop clamouring for it (like kids really).

By repeatedly doing the most important thing first you’ll discover that the other stuff seems to take care of itself or you’ll find you can give it to someone else to do. Either way, you become more effective in less time with the result that you have more time. Eventually, you discover that you have more time than you need. I don't know how long it will be before you experience this but the first time it happens you’ll know what I mean.

To summarise

You’ll need to be a little unconventional and very stubborn about this in the beginning - when meetings or other trivia stand in the way of your most important thing then you will have to stick to your guns. After a while, people will adjust but not at first.

Remember that your most important thing may involve you staying at home for the day.

If you’d like to know more about making this work for you then take a look at The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. He maintains that you could work only 2-3 days a week and be 60% more effective than you are now. He also shows you how - it’s my favourite self-development book.


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