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Sunday, 15 September 2013

No Time to Smell the Roses? Be Sure You Make Time to Do It!

Another recurring theme which all Vistage chairs hear is the complaint from CEOs that “I don’t have enough time”.  Strange, as there is plenty of it around. 

Time has been defined scientifically, religiously, mathematically, philosophically, mystically and so on.  Whatever it is, we have managed to develop a method of measuring it when we don’t really know what it is. 

A simpler definition is that “time is what prevents everything happening at once” and I like that one. 

At any rate if we forget the need to define time and concentrate on its use and value then we begin to realise that most of our lives are encompassed by what can become the tyranny of time. 

The relentless march of progress (I use the word reluctantly) in technology has resulted in time compression so that whereas in the past we were content to accept days and sometimes weeks to elapse between contacts, now if someone doesn’t reply to an email at least the same day, we are irritated and annoyed. 

Civilisation has evolved a method of measuring this intangible entity so that we have the ludicrous seven day week (why seven?), the 365+¼ day year corrected every four years and so on. Blame the Gregorian calendar for that.

I worked some years ago at a large engineering company which was excessively procedure oriented and they decided that the normal monthly calendar was inadequate for their purposes. 

Accordingly they evolved a 13 period year with four weeks per period and an occasional hitch at that irritating time of a leap year. Everyone in the business was supplied with a non-scientific periodic table which showed the calendar months and the equivalent company months. 

I recall someone asking a colleague when he was taking his holidays and was told “8.3 and 8.4” to receive the reply “I wanted to know when you are taking your holidays, I didn’t want a delivery promise”. 

The link between the demands of work and the time available in which to achieve a result has become more and more compressed.  No wonder the complaint is that there isn’t enough time. 

Perhaps we need to consider whether the work itself should be redesigned to fit the time available.  The tyranny of time is that there 24 hours in the day and many leaders can fall into the trap of assuming that they are all available for business purposes. 

The trick is to decide on what is important and what is merely urgent.  I despair on occasion when I see a member of my Vistage group dive for their smart phones at any break in the proceedings on the assumption, it seems, that the business can't progress without their input. 

If by breaking the speed limit we save ten minutes on a journey, ask yourself what will you do productively with those ten minutes? 

One of my Vistage members uses “Woodward Time”.  When Sir Clive Woodward was appointed coach of England rugby he told his players that “on time is ten minutes early and early is 20 minutes before the meeting.” 

We become overwhelmed with messages, telephone calls, emails, reports and general information overload when the clever thing to do it to use that very valuable word “NO”. 

Enough is enough already.  Reduce the incessant demands on your time by deciding on your real priorities, what is important and not necessarily urgent, what will successfully contribute to the business going forward and what can be rightly delegated to others in the business. 

That should give you more time and the question then is what to do with it.  One important thing that you can do is to take time out to think about the business and in general it is only the leader who has that privilege. 

Finally, Mark Twain wrote: 

·       “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time.”   

and golfer Sam Snead said: 

·       “Take time out to smell the roses” 

Not a bad philosophy of life.
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