priorities

One Change That Can Bring Back Time

We’ve likely all heard the story…you know the one…”There was a college professor who once pulled out a large jar and asked his class, after putting some big rock in the jar, is the jar full?” If you haven’t heard it, do a quick search for “The professor and the jar story”.  Steven Covey relays it in his “First Things First” book as well.

I heard the story a long time ago (at least it feels that way), and I remember how it impacted me.  It made so much sense.  I kept trying to shove more in the jar, never really thinking about what my “big rocks” were.  The list I came up with felt pretty reasonable and important – God, family, self and work.  I’ve tried – and failed – and tried again to prioritize these in the order I had determined.

I wonder, though, is there another way to look at this?  What about different kinds of rocks?

I don’t think many would argue with the above four – maybe friends would be there for some, church for others.  Maybe the list would be longer or shorter, with more or less “big rocks”.  What I found, though, was that I couldn’t practically implement my “rocks” (that sounds weird…but I can’t seem to find a better way to say it).  After all, trying to be involved in what God was up to also included being a dad and a husband.  And I was pretty sure He wanted to be around me at work, too.

Could I put different rocks in the jar?

So I’ve tried one – “keep the Sabbath holy”.  For me, that’s Sunday.  Could I really not check e-mail?  Could I really have it just be a day of renewal?  And if I did, how would it force me to move other “rocks” around to make it fit?  So far, it is different around here.

How about you?  What one big rock should you try to put in the jar?  Can you find one that would push the other ones around in a way that gets you where God wants you to go?

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Let us know what “rocks” for you…

Avoid these common time management mistakes

Fall is upon us! With summer having come to a close, your schedule is back in full swing. Now is the time to reevaluate your time management approach to make sure you end 2015 achieving your goals. Make the most of your time, work efficiently and smart, and avoid these all too common time management mistakes.

  1. Skipping prioritization - Sure, that expense report is easier to complete than the comprehensive sales strategy you promised to create, but the expense report won’t move you as far towards your goals. During your most productive times of the day, focus on your most important tasks.
  1. Failing to set daily goals - Be realistic and formulate your daily goals based on your weekly and monthly goals. Always leave room for flexibility, you never know when that elusive client will call with a special request.
  1. Succumbing to distraction - Ever spent the day checking email, reading the news, or surfing the internet instead of working? We all have. No doubt you will get distracted throughout the day, however, it is essential to set aside times when you shut off your email, close your internet browser and tuck away your phone. After your work is complete, reward yourself with a 10 minute internet session.
  1. Neglecting to take breaks - Far too often, I have tried to work through the day without stopping. I end up being less productive, and more stressed. Take time to recharge, grab a coffee or go for a short walk. I think you’ll find these breaks help make your day more enjoyable, and more productive.
  1. Multi-tasking - On paper it sounds like a good idea, but in reality it produces less than stellar results. Check out this article on why you should start single tasking.
  1. Failing to reevaluate your schedule - When you start your day, take time to look at your schedule and run through your goals. If you no longer need a meeting, cancel it. This will help you prioritize, schedule breaks, set daily goals and avoid having to multitask. If you are flexible, you’ll be better equipped to handle the unexpected client call at 4:45pm on Friday.

Hopefully, being aware of these common time management blunders will increase your productivity and help you close out those 2015 goals!

Closing The Execution Gap

Jesus was very clear on His mission, and no person, crisis or circumstance was able to get Him off line. Do you have clarity about what your goals and top priorities are? If not, then your work force is diluted. You will find that your energy is dissipated, flying off in multiple directions—being swallowed up by the “black hole” of confusion and misalignment. The inability to take the organization’s high level priorities and translate them into productive behaviors is a problem. Ram Charan and Steven Covey call this “the execution gap”.

Simply put, what is alignment? Alignment exists when there is agreement on the goals of the organization and the process of allocating resources to achieve those goals. It reflects the ownership of team members. There is commitment, not just consensus. The systems and structures must support the strategic vision. And members must understand how top strategic objectives translate into personal goals.

A study by the Harris Group reveals astonishing statistics why execution breaks down.

  1. Only 15% of those surveyed can identify their organizations most important top priorities or goals. There are various reason for this. They either didn’t have any, or they constantly changed, or there were too many. Where they did exist they were simply under communicated. In many cases the leaders were clear, but the rank and file were unsure. And since the frontline produces the bottom line, the problem is obvious.
  2. Only 19% felt passionate about their organizations goals. Four in five felt no ownership. Since they’ve had no say in the process, the product—or goal—was not embraced. If there’s no connection, then there’s no involvement, which means there is no commitment. The process is as important as the product.

People embrace what they help create.

  1. People spend only 49% of available work hours on their most important goals. Most of the time was spent on the urgent activities and not the important ones. Distraction is a major time waster. Emergencies always steal the limelight if priorities are not absolutely clear.
  2. 51% did not know what they should be doing to achieve the organizations goals. They knew the goals but didn’t know how to translate that into productive execution. People need to know, not only the goal, but also where they fit in the plan and how they can execute.

Clarifying your goals and priorities closes the execution gap and results in productive behavior.

To achieve things you’ve never achieved before you need to start doing things you’ve never done before.

That happens when you align your daily activities and behaviors with compelling priorities.  There is a power unleashed in your life, both personally and professionally when you have a clear and compelling understanding where you are going.

So how do you know if you have a compelling vision? Rate yourself on the following with a (3) for “yes”, (2) for “sometimes”, and a (1) for “no.”

  • Everyone on my team shares the same vision.
  • Our vision excites, inspires, and motivates us.
  • Our vision helps us understand why our activities are important.
  • Our vision provides guidelines that help us make daily decisions and identify priorities.
  • Our vision creates a clear picture of what we intend to accomplish.

How did you do? Now that you know where you are, you can make the appropriate changes.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Peter Drucker

Closing the gap between priorities and performance will help create the future you want, and we need!

 

Why Time Management Doesn’t Matter Until You Get One Thing Straight

Imagine you are a kid again and your parents tell you on Monday to clean the garage this Saturday, with the help of your siblings. But during the course of the week, you forget what they asked of you, and instead, you decide to set up a lemonade stand at the corner of your block to make some extra money. On Friday night, you’re determined to make a big profit, so you start planning out the day…

What is the optimal time to open for business?

How many batches of lemonade should I make in advance?

How can I make the process as efficient as possible?

What should the price be?

Who should I get to help?

How can I attract the whole neighborhood to the lemonade stand?

As you fall asleep that night, these questions swim through your mind.

Saturday morning comes, and you get right out of bed at 7:00 a.m. to start making lemonade. It’s going to get hot early, so you want to get a head start.

Everything goes as planned! You sell a lot of lemonade, the neighborhood seems like it has a skip in its step, and you go home fifty dollars richer. But when you come back to your house, your smile fades as you see your parents in the driveway and realize…

you forgot to clean the garage.

As punishment, your parents take away half of your earnings and tell you that you have to spend the rest of the night cleaning the garage. To top it off, while you’re working, the rest of your siblings get to go off and see a movie.

 

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Everyone talks a lot about how to manage your time. There are countless books and resources about the subject from gurus who can really help you get a grasp on using your time well. But before we talk about good time management, you need to make sure that you’re actually doing the right things in the first place. The kid in the story made fifty bucks selling lemonade, but that’s not what his parents asked him to do. He can make all the money he wants, but he would still miss his original responsibility: cleaning the garage.

Time management is useless until you get your priorities straight. Efficiency in the wrong things is foolish. Just like the kid in the story, you can be extremely efficient in an endeavor, and even make a lot of money and experience happiness…but it doesn’t matter if you’re doing the wrong thing. What we need is not to be more efficient, but more effective. Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.

The Path to Effectiveness

  1. Take an inventory of your life. What are you involved in? Make a list of everything you’re committed to…work, family, relationships, church, boards, volunteer work, personal projects. Write it all down and see what’s there.
  1. Take an inventory of your heart. What are you passionate about? Are you in the right job? Are you making the highest contribution with your gifting? Do you feel like your schedule doesn’t accurately reflect your desired life? See if your life inventory matches up with your heart inventory.
  1. Make any necessary changes. After examining your life inventory and your heart inventory, what changes do you need to make? Start aligning the two and investing in the things that you’re called to instead of the things that the world is requesting of you. Get rid of the good so you can take up the best.
  1. Pursue that which you love. After you have gotten rid of the things that are crowding your life, you’ll have the time to invest in the things that really matter. What are those few things for you? What is essential? Where can you make the highest contribution? Start taking steps toward those few things and apply all your energy to driving them forward.
  1. Reject the stuffers. As you move forward with your new priorities, there will be people that want to stuff their own agenda back into your life, or make you doubt the decision you made to pare things down. Don’t listen to them! Don’t get clogged up again, involved in things for the sake of pleasing others. Reject requests that will distract you from the priorities you’ve set ahead of time. Once you start intentionally spending your time, it will be tempting to slip into the old way of doing things: submitting to the priorities of other people. Stay strong, hold the course, and pursue what you know to be the most important work.

Only now that you have the right priorities in place can you begin thinking about time management. Now, the books and resources on time management will actually help you instead of assisting you in doing the wrong things faster.

One question as you leave: Are you currently running a lemonade stand that should’ve been taken down a long time ago?