Goal Processing: Time Management Pillars of Success

You either manage your time or it manages you.  Simple as that.  Time is one of the most commonly used excuses for poor performance (at home and at work). Not enough of it, not allocated properly, not in control of it, etc. It is so commonly used that it is widely accepted as truth. And many times these excuses are truth. Not because of the realities of time, but because of our poor use of it.  IE - Ruthie absolutely didn't have time to complete the project assignment. However, it wasn't the lack of time that caused the problem.  It was the fact that she didn't prioritize or plan appropriately.

The following list is a short collection of the mission-critical time management strategies I use daily and I teach in my time management workshops.  Before you work through them, click here to see if you even need them.

This stands for Take Care Of It Now.  Much of our ineffectiveness with time management is caused by fatigue - low energy, low focus, etc. Much of this fatigue is caused by things "piling up". If you can take care of a task in two-minutes or less, do it.  Get it off your desk, out of your inbox, out of your life. This will prevent you from getting to the end of your day with a million little things to finish up. This technique also helps you to conquer, what David Allen calls, Open Loops.

Action Lists
To do lists are vital for anyone juggling more than one ball.  The key to effective to do lists is to only put actionable items on them - not line items that involve fifty smaller actions. Only put the next step necessary to accomplish at task.  This will allow you to mark things off quicker and give you reachable benchmarks instead of just a long list of items that each contain their own to do lists.

Open Windows
There is a difference between time to do something and the "right" time to do something, called an open window. Open windows are unique to each person and each task.  Picking your open windows involves understanding what time of day you work most efficiently, what location works best for which task, when your distractions are lowest, which hours of your day you can accomplish flow (described below), etc.  The open window strategy is a true example of taking control of your time. Learning, leveraging and taking actions based on when you work most efficiently and effectively.

This is a time management strategy based on brain science.  Flow is described as the mental state when you are working most efficiently.  Every task requires a complex coordination of functions in the brain.  It normally tasks around 20-minutes for your brain to get "up to speed" and work most efficiently on a task.  This post-20 minute state is called flow. If you are not controlling your little distractions and interruptions (email, phone calls, walk-ins, etc.) throughout your day, you are probably never accomplishing true flow and never working most efficiently.

Empty Inbox
Your email inbox should not be used as a to do list.  Primarily because that is not what it is intended for and because it is a totally reactionary tool. IE - the items were sent by others and when they wanted to send them. Whenever you do check your email, do something with each.  Take action, delegate, move to a to do list, put it in a folder (you can search to find it later if you need it), archive it, delete it forever.  A hefty inbox is a major source of fatigue (even if you don't notice it) and is a sign of poor time management.  Take control and get your total email count (read, unread, etc.) to under 15 every day.  If you want to learn more about how to do this magical trick, email me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com. My strategies in this area were originally inspired by Merlin Mann.

Just Say No
The magic bullet for most people when it comes to managing their time better is to get better at saying no to any commitment that you know you either can not do or can only do halfway.  I would personally rather you say no to something than say yes and not follow through. And so would most people.  This also includes commitments given to you at work.  You know your work load better than anyone.  If your boss or team leader gives you a task and you are already over-committed, be honest and let them know that something will have to not get done if this new commitment is to happen. Of course, this strategy will only fly if you have built up your trust account with others and it is well known that you are working hard and committing fully to your current tasks.

Focus longer. Set realistic, but stretch goals for the task in front of you and get them done. The tools listed above (and the thousands of others out there) will only work if you will.

Click here for another quick list of techniques.

Tweet That
Following are a few pre-made tweets to share with your network.
Follow us - @pli_leadership

@pli_leadership says to spend your time with T-COINs - Take Care Of It Now. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says that your inbox should not be used as a to do list. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says to let your co-workers know if their request will over-commit you. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership recommends reading the works of Merlin Mann and David Allen for time management tips. http://ow.ly/e6re6


General: Performance Capacity

Performance Capacity is the level of available resources to accomplish a task. Here is a short list of mission-critical metrics most professionals (students or adults) have their eye on:

- Time Management
- Stress Management
- Job Specific Tasks
- Networking Skills
- Presentation Skills
- Active Listening
- Feedback/Coaching
- Work Ethic
- Emotional Maturity
- Goal Processing
- Energy Level

Any highly successful person will tell you they are good in many areas, but great in a few. Your task is to identify which metrics are absolutely critical and then follow this process to develop:

1. Get clear on where you are today. Self-awareness is the key.

2. Identify what "excellence" looks and feels like. Set a clear, specific goal.

3. Develop a reasonable, routine-based action plan to reach that goal. It's all about creating the correct patterns in your life.

Expanding Performance Capacity is not achieved by short-term actions. It's reached through daily excellence habits that become part of your lifestyle.


Emotional Maturity: The Failure Factory

(This is a repost of one of our most popular posts...)

Failure is a reality of life for all of us. None of us achieve what we want all the time. Expert leaders do not have less failure than novice leaders. Expert leaders simply have a better built Failure Factory.

This Failure Factory is not the production line; failure is a given in life and is produced just by being alive. This is a processing factory and everyone has one. Failure goes in, how we choose to respond or react to it is the processing part inside the Factory and our leadership effectiveness is strongly impacted by what comes out the other end, which is how we are fundamentally changed (for good or bad) by the failure.

Expert leaders positively influence people and situations to create value and growth. This means they are able to remain positive, still influence others and have the uncanny ability to create value even when failure is fed in. How?

Expert leaders have developed the ability to...

1. Recognize and be okay with the fact that they are flawed. They are very self-aware.

2. View failure as temporary. They have their sights set on the long-term.

3. Actively seek out learning lessons by asking why did this happen, not just how did this happen. They look for meaning.

4. Laugh at themselves. They take their job seriously, but not themselves.

5. Risk, Fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, etc.

Take a good look at your Failure Factory. You can drastically improve your ability to create value and growth by improving the inner-workings of your Factory.


Vision: Cheetah Leader

Click on the image to download the high-res version.

The following text provides on overview of seven human qualities that tend to be stronger when we are younger that help us make a positive impact on others. Basically the concept is that, in many ways, we are born leaders and then we lose many of these natural traits over time. The information below also provides insight into how to get these back, strengthen them and even retain and excel at the natural leadership traits you had when you were young in the face of the challenges, pressures and responsibilities of adult life.

Being curious allows you to discover new ideas.

When we are young, we want to learn about everything. Our favorite question is "why?" No item is too trivial to be asked about. Our entire world revolves around learning and satisfying curiosity's appetite. Our knowledge jars are open and constantly being filled. As we age, we thrive on looking smart, doing right and knowing all the answers. The most popular, longest running TV show ever made is based on this one fact - Jeopardy! We take our knowledge jars, put lids on them and put them up for good. This diminishes our passion for asking questions. Make a change and see yourself as a life-long learner. Get great at what you do, but live out the quote, "When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." Stay on top of the newest trends, techniques and material. Avoid the common leader pitfalls of arrogance, behind-the-times, stuck-up, etc. Think like a student, but act like an expert. Surround yourself with learning environments and people who are willing to push you to learn more and do more.

Being hopeful allows you to push the envelope.

Young people not only have great big goals and life dreams, but they also fully expect them to come true. They are filled with hope for the future, for the weekend, for the afternoon. However, as we age we lose our faith in others and we lose our ability to trust. We lose faith in our abilities and we lose our hope. We set low expectations and stop dreaming big. Make a change and push the envelope, see the future before others do, motivate the best from your team, etc. These actions are driven by having an intense sense of hope for the future. Believe in the truth behind the quote, "When the world says give up, the leader whispers "try it one more time."

Being energetic allows you to get more done.

One look at a garden variety playground demonstrates this trait. We have a ton of energy when we are young. Always running, always playing, always going until we literally fall into bed. However, energy boosters are a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. We adults are starved for energy. Most of our diets, exercise routines and lifestyles are not designed to give us energy. They deprive us of it. Make a change. Run fast. Get twice as much done as others. Do big, meaningful work that demands a large quantity of time, attention and energy. The average corporate CEO lives on five hours of sleep per night, yet they have the energy of a five-year old. Use effective time management strategies. Use natural energy boosters: sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, etc. Refuel often. Use effective stress management techniques. Make time for a hobby you enjoy. Make time to relax.

Being expressive allows you to communicate fully.

As children we are OK with outwardly expressing our feelings, emotions, frustrations, happy days and sad days. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. Whether you want to hear it or not, we will tell you or show you what's going on in our world. Personality and extrovert/introvert factors play a role here, but generally speaking we are less skilled or willing to express ourselves as we age. We fear speaking in public. We don't raise our hands in class. We have to work at clearly, authentically, and consistently communicating our world with others. I'm not suggesting you start running around shouting and crying all the time, but make a change and work to improve your ability to express your thoughts and feelings when necessary and meaningful moments arrive. This requires continual practice, separating judgment of self from judgment of performance and learning the foundational success principles that guide each unique (yet repetitive) communication experience.

Being trusting allows you to bring the best out of others.

Young people believe in others. They are shy and reserved at times, but have a natural faith in other humans. They don't know any different. We are born to trust one another. Then life happens; too many people break trust with us. We begin operating from a starting point of, "guilty until proven innocent." We expect to be disappointed, heart broken and stepped on. Make a change by choosing a starting point of, "innocent until proven guilty" when dealing with other people. Develop a core faith in other's character, abilities and talents. This will serve as the spark and fuel to those people actually living up to the your expectations. Again, surround yourself with great people. View failures/shortcomings as temporary. Work through challenges with people. Most importantly, never work from assumptions or misinformation. Communicate clearly with people and expect the same from them.

Being awe-struck allows you to enlarge value.

Everything was new, awesome and inspiring when you were young. You were in constant awe of your surroundings, your future, etc. You got excited about the smallest things. Then you became used to everything. You started taking things for granted. Now it probably takes a true effort to catch and hold your attention. Make a change and see yourself as a risk taker, dream waker and love maker. Appreciate and lift up the ordinary to make it extraordinary. Be easily impressed by others; don't make them fight for your approval or attention. Seek out new adventures, new people, new routes, new books, new thoughts, etc. It is easier to fuel your awe-struck trait when you surround yourself with inspiration.

Being happy allows you to attract others.

A 5-year old laughs more in one day than the average 50-year old does in a year. They find fun and laughter in everything. It helps that our lives at that age revolve around having fun, but even the "non-fun" things spark laughter and joy from us. However, at some point we stop laughing. We see "happy" as foolish. Its not grown-up to be smiling and laughing all the time. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to wipe that grin off your face. Make a change and decide today to love your life. Smile often because you find reasons to be happy and work hard to delete, diminish or dilute those things that bring you down.

Follow us:  @cheetahleader

Download the poster here.