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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Too Much Fire-fighting? Concentrate On What Is Important!

One of the constant cries that arise from a busy leader (or anyone else for that matter) is a complaint about the shortage of time.

This is, of course, nonsense because we all have exactly the same allocation of time as everyone else.  It is just the way in which we allocate the requisite amount of time to the action or inaction in hand.

Professor Stephen Hawking says that asking the question of what was there before the big bang is like asking what is north of the North Pole.   It is, on the face of it, an unanswerable question because the general onion is that there was nothing or in Kabbalistic terms, no-thing, prior to the creation.

Inherently there was neither space nor time both of which came into immediate existence at the big bang. Space was ever expanding to what we call infinity and time was reckoned from that point, 13 billion years ago.  Even that is an estimate based on our conception of time.

It is interesting to take a quick stroll through Google to see what brilliant minds have made of this concept and have tried to define time.

For example:

That which is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.
That doesn’t define time, merely the way in which we measure it..

A non-spatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future
Once again this depends on how we see the way in which time is measured.

The Greek philosopher Plate expressed it more poetic terms:
Time is the moving image of eternity

The fact that great minds have been unable to derive an understabable concept of time without resorting to the method of measurement is a testament to its mystique while at the same time (!) dominating our very existence.

Money has been made from training courses on Time Management when the real issue is not in terms of management but rather of time allocation.

This, I suggest, depends then on what the individual considers to be important and that needs to be prioritised.  If we have a certain amount of time in order to achieve something then it makes sense to be sure that the right amount of time is allocated to the action.

That is obvious but how many times do we allow things that are actually only urgent to get in the way of those that are important.

Consider this thought.   In business, urgency is almost always communicated to us by someone else.  If we succumb to the tyranny of the urgent, more often than not the really important takes a back seat and a severe attack of fire-fighting takes over.

If we consider one of those quadrants so beloved by consultants this time with the vertical axis labelled Important and the horizontal axis as Urgent, then the box in which the leader should be operating is the Important/not Urgent.

It is self evident that the not Important/not Urgent box can be discarded and the other two should be delegated.

The art of the management of the time available to us is to decide what is important to us while not necessarily being urgent and then make the time to do it.

Sometimes, by the way, doing nothing is a great option.  Golfer Sam Snead said that we should take time out to smell the roses.  Taking time out to think is never wasted and it is more often than not the most productive thing that a leader can do.

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