Trouble Managing Time and Priorities?
Let Your Values Be Your Guide
Over the course of our lives, there are just a handful of opportunities that provide a chance to let our loved ones know we're really there for them. I'm referring to "milestone events" like weddings, funerals, graduations, and births.
Generally speaking, most of us know when our relationships dictate that we need to attend these occasions; however, the reality of working as a senior executive or entrepreneur has caused plenty of people to miss them.
What do you do when you're faced with the choice between fulfilling a corporate mission and a personal mission? How do you choose between a mission-critical business affair and a relationship-critical personal event? For those working at a desk where the buck stops, these questions can provide the ultimate test of priorities.
Before I make any suggestions about how to resolve these situations, I'd like to remind you: you're not obligated to do anything...not in your personal life…not in your professional life. Whatever you decide, you're making choices. Start by owning them.
Don't allow worry, doubt, fear, anger, guilt, resentment, or obligation to motivate your choices. Instead, make tough decisions on a case-by-case basis — the way you make all good decisions — by letting your values be your guide.
Remember, too, never to accept the false dichotomy of having just two choices. Can't attend an important life event? You can still send flowers, a card, or a heartfelt message. Can't attend an important business meeting? Perhaps you can reschedule it or send a colleague in your place.
Sometimes you will choose the life event — other times business. But always choose…and always based upon your values, with all of your options in front of you.
Beyond that advice, though, there are some ways to make sure you're prepared when these choices confront you. Leaders who plan in advance and recognize the potential for business interruption have a better chance of achieving harmony between their personal and professional lives.
I suggest these three strategies:
1. Leave room in your daily schedule for urgent or important, unanticipated activities.
This advice can be difficult to follow. There's tremendous pressure in American business culture to be productive. But don't make the mistake of conflating "busy" with "productive." In all likelihood, you'll be more productive if you leave room in your daily schedule for managing the unexpected.
2. Focus on activities equal to the value of your time.
Take time to reflect upon the real value of your time, both financially and emotionally. Are you spending time on low-value, non-revenue activities that could more easily and appropriately be assigned to others? Are you sacrificing personal time for professional time without clearly understanding the emotional cost relative to the return on investment? Make a habit of answering these questions for yourself, and you'll be more likely to think twice before taking on tasks that aren't worth your time.
3. Set expectations and boundaries for your time.
As you ascend toward higher-level leadership, it becomes more important to ask yourself whether the time you're spending is focused upon achieving your priorities or someone else's.
If what you're spending time on seems like someone else's priority, it's okay to set boundaries for your time. You don't have to say, "No." But you can set reasonable limits on how much time you're willing to spend.
If what you're spending time on seems like your priority — if it's consistent with your values — then rest assured…you've made a good decision.
In summary, it may not be possible — or even a good idea — to choose in advance between personal and professional demands upon your time. But by keeping in mind that you have alternatives, by owning your decisions, and by employing strategies designed to preserve and value your time, you can better manage these demands. Let your values be your guide. You and those around you will be happier with the outcome of your decisions.