As appeared in the April 29th, 2011 edition of the Columbia Business Times
There are some things we just take for granted because we have heard them all our lives. “If I can do it, you can do it,” “You can do anything you put your mind to,” or “You need to learn to manage your time.”
All of these statements are actually false. If one person can do something, it doesn’t mean another random person can do the same thing. I can focus all my mental energy on a particular task and still might not be able to do it. As for the final phrase, I have never met anyone who has successfully managed time. I’ve never met anyone who has saved time. I’ve never met anyone who can save even one minute of time to pull it out later and insert it for use.
The reality is there is no such thing as time savings. There are no time-saving devices. There is no actual way to save or manage time. Time is a fluid thing that keeps on going regardless of what you do. You always have less time, and your future is continually being converted into your past. Successful people and unsuccessful people have the same 24-hour period each day in which to exist and produce.
So what’s the difference? The difference is in how they manage themselves. You cannot control time, but you can control yourself. The happiest people I’ve met are always in the moment, very present to what is happening now. They are cognizant of what’s happening around them and whom they are with. The unhappiest people I’ve met are usually scrambling to keep up and do not hear 80 percent of what is said to them.
We love to chase after things we are passionate about, and at the same time we have to do other things, too. Our initial thought is always to work longer and harder. Maybe if we worked 18-hour days and cut down on our sleep, we would get ahead of the game. This unhealthy lifestyle will actually catch up with us and cause us to be less productive.
The best way to manage ourselves better is to establish priorities in our lives. What are the most important things that need our attention and focus? As our businesses and responsibilities grow, there are more opportunities for distraction and loss of focus. So how do we get focus? Focus comes from elimination; we must eliminate everything that is not a priority for our attention.
Everything you say “yes” to probably carries more than one “no” along with it. When you say “yes” to something, you have made that a priority over everything else. No is a word of pure power. It’s a boundary word and one of the first words we learn when we come into this world. When I say “yes” to working 18-hour days and weekends, I must say “no” to spending time with my family. When I say “yes” to the Monday morning staff meeting, I say “no” to everything else that might come up on Monday morning.
People who have a very reactive nature would call this being inflexible and rigid. They spend much of their time reacting to the people and situations that enter into their sphere day after day. They resemble someone playing tennis who constantly runs back and forth and tries to bat back every ball coming across the net. What I’m suggesting is being more proactive. I firmly believe we could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still not get everything done; therefore, we have to choose what our priorities are to make sure those are the things we do get done.
Tony Richards is a leader in the area of personal development and senior partner of Clear Vision Development Group, a Columbia-based leadership coaching and training firm. Visit them online at www.clearvisiondevelopment.com or follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.