Time: Are you using it wisely?
A couple weeks ago I had a very interesting and personally insightful experience. That experience was traveling back to my home town to go to my 45th High School Reunion. I had never gone back to any previous reunions so this was my first and to say I was a little anxious would be accurate. I worried that I would not know anyone nor would they know me and we would have these awkward moments of not knowing what to say to each other. After all, 45 years is a long time and as an introvert my anxiety only grew as the day approached. I considered not going at all on the morning of the event but my wife talked me off the ledge and away we went. As we drove the several hours to the dinner I “somewhat” joked with my wife that if I mentioned that we needed to get home to feed the parakeet (we don’t have a parakeet!). That signal would be the sign to head to the door – I’d had enough!
What I experienced though was quite the opposite of my fears. As I walked in from the parking lot I saw a number of older people heading into the building and thought “Wow - they must also be having a senior citizen gathering here tonight!”, but then I realized they were going the same place I was headed. It hit me immediately that though I had memories of many of these friends and school mates as 18-year-olds, we had all traveled the same 45-year journey. Our paths were very different, our stories were very different but time was the constant.
As the evening progressed I met and renewed friendships. We laughed and reminisced but probably most insightful to me was not the reflection on events of 45 years ago but rather the sharing of stories about the 45-year journey. We met spouses shared stories of marriages, children and grandchildren and also the pain of loses and disappointments. I found in the midst of this evening all aspects of life played out. There was great joy and memories as well as the realization that life can be hard and difficult at times.
A somber moment in the evening was the playing of a slide show with pictures of those that never made it to the 45th reunion. There were gasp at times as a picture came up of a classmate that had passed. Surprisingly nearly 25% of my senior class had already passed. As I stood there watching the slides and my classmates in the room I thanked God that I had been given this precious gift. The gift of time.
I came to realize that going to a class reunion after these many years is like opening a living time capsule. It’s fun to remember what we were… but so much richer to hear the stories of our journey and what we have become. God grants us only so much time, let us use it wisely!
Leaders must manage time carefully because they can easily become consumed. There is an old 2 by 2 matrix that is still very appropriate today.
This matrix categorizes things into Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, Not Urgent/Important or Not Urgent/Not Important. A leader must determine where an issue best fits and where they are spending their time.
I know early in my career as a leader I tended to categorize everything as Urgent/Important and ran myself crazy trying to do everything for everybody all the time. I tried to be directly involved in every decision. It was fruitless and incredibly unproductive. As I matured in my leadership, I realized there were things I was allowing to capture my time and I was not managing well. I even found myself sometimes becoming distracted with things which were neither important nor urgent! It was crazy and embarrassing waste of time.
Effective leaders learn to first and foremost not let Not Important issues steal their time. They discipline themselves to know their priorities. The second thing they learn is to delegate to others by not only knowing their own limits but also realizing that by delegating they help others develop and help the organization be more productive. One of the most important roles of any leader is to develop people – build leaders. I call it the principle of replication. The leader will make the entire organization better by developing people and producing more leaders. As people become more capable they can take on the Urgent and Important Issues and you simply become a powerful team with multiple leaders
Managing time is critical to success in business as well as life. This same principle applies to our personal life. Are you using your time wisely?