“What captures your attention controls your life,” says Karen Anderson, an award-winning journalist and writer for the Harvard Business Review. The only problem with time is, the things that often capture our attention, well, surely they’re not things that we want controlling our lives.
We check our email in two-minute increments, review our Facebook wall or check our friends’ SnapChat stories by the hour to stay current —but the end result for most of this effort is, actually, pretty weak. Compared to what we could be doing, it’s often a waste of attention. We’re giving our attention to those things which hardly deserve our time.
More specifically we are giving them access to control our capacity to manage our daily hours, our productivity, our time and most importantly, our lives.
When we give our attention to something, we’re always taking it away from something else. Andy Stanley’s book, choosing to Cheat, is wrapped around this principle. Stanley says, “When we cheat, we choose to give up one thing in hopes of gaining something else of greater value.”
As a leader, we need to make sure we spend our time on the “right” things, and cheat where it counts, because our personal attention economy has a limited supply. It’s basic mathematics. And if done right, it can make us feel like our days have 25 hours.
The things we let into our life control the trajectory of our influence. Much like the shifting of the tectonic plates—it’s unnoticeable to the naked eye, but it is definitely happening—and the results often cause disasters.
And when we can’t get to our goals its one lame excuse we give “We didn’t have enough time!” I guess that’s why H. Jackson Brown once told,
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.’’
Choose what things deserve your attention wisely
What if we approached our days with more intentionality? What if we chose the best things to give our attention to and filtered out the flotsam jetsam with greater precision? What if we chose something better than busy and unapologetically dropped unnecessary tasks?
— Well it’s high time we tried to find the answers to these question. Here’s my suggestion. If you are feeling frustrated and giving your ATTENTION to those unproductive work and continuously failing with your responsibilities, it’s time to evaluate your daily habits. Because until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.
1. Don’t be busy, be efficient
Many leaders feel starved for time. Working under the assumption that longer hours lead to improved productivity, they drive themselves and others to increase effectiveness.
Whereas recent studies confirm that under stress, people act more defensively, make poorer decisions, and literally lose the “executive” function of their minds.
This is especially costly for leaders because they set the tone for their organizations. Their moods affect how others think and behave, so that people around them also tend to react in confused, defensive, and otherwise unproductive ways.
And believe me nobody likes hanging out with the leader who’s always distracted, highly anxious and looks like he or she doesn’t have time. Trust me, you don’t want to be the “busy” leader or the leader who basically doesn’t have knowledge for time management.
Jeff Shinabarger, author of the book More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, says: There was a time, not so long ago, when the polite answer to the question, ‘How are you?’ was, ‘Fine.’ It seems that busy is the new fine.
We look at one another with that shake of the head, sideways smirk and glossy eyes, proclaiming our busyness. This shared response succinctly identifies a recent cultural shift: We now determine the significance of a person by how busy they are. Somehow, busy has become better than fine.”
That’s the number one DON’T for a responsible leader. You must not work hard but work smart. In today’s 24/7 world, leaders need to focus on ensuring the sustainable productivity of themselves and the people in their organizations. Their lives and the lives of others depend on their ability to manage Time.
So then, how DO you indeed manage your time? Managing your time is a highly personal skill. Only you know your peak work hours, your attention span, and your eating and sleeping needs. Using what you know about yourself, you can create an effective time management strategy.
According to the book Time Management for the Leaders by Finley, there are three essential steps to efficient time management.
2. Organize better
Brainstorm. Take a sheet and write down all the activities you need to do that day or the following day. Don’t worry about prioritizing them. Just write down every task.
3. Prioritize as you want
Now that you are done with your list, rewrite the list, this time in order of priority. How you prioritize is your own business. No one can tell you what is most important to you. Just be responsible with your priorities.
Now it’s time for scheduling. Take your prioritized to-do list and create your schedule. Remember to keep your schedule flexible. Abandon multitasking. There goes a Chinese proverb, one cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.
These methods are not foolproof of course, but by and large, they have been shown to work. Keep believing in yourself and value yourself. Because
until you value yourself, you will not value your time. And like M. Scott Peck said, until you value your time, you will not do anything with it
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