“(Time management) is not only a matter of when to do things, but whether or not to do them at all.” Stephen R Covey

You don’t have to do everything – you just think you do. Nor do you have to do it to suit someone else’s needs or feelings.

When my dear mother was still with us, I used to have terrible pangs of guilt if I altered my visiting time to suit a football match, or a Grand Prix. I was conscious that, as Mum lived alone, it was a ‘good thing’ to visit early to late afternoon to split her day equally between what I considered would be the two long boring bits either side of my visit. Which meant that on the days where there was a sporting event, I would have to alter that timing to suit me and the telly schedulers, rather than her. The pangs of guilt were my emotional response to seemingly putting her second to the sporting events, instead of sacrificing my own pleasure in preference for my Mum’s.

The funny thing was that we both know Mum didn’t care when I visited, only that I did. Nor would she have expected me to miss my fun. (Good Mums are like that.)

Work included, my experience has always been that life imposes expectations upon us that aren’t necessarily valid. There are some exclamations that support that statement, including the management tenet “We’ve always done it that way,” which is absolutely contradictory to the leadership tenets “What’s a better way to do this?”, “What’s a better way to get the right result instead of the usual one?”, and the best one of all, “Should we be doing this at all?

Time management is about balancing all the conflicting and competing tasks, which is the ‘management’ way. It’s systematic thinking, which is valuable when a system works and gets the results wanted, and avoids the unwanted problems. It’s a great way to run Courts, large organisations, logistical systems, and so on.

But time leadership, which is ultimately self- and organisational-leadership, trumps management thinking. It asks whether the system is valid, and when it finds that the system is no longer the ‘right way’, asks the questions that will change that system. It’s the counter to the ‘always done it that way’ mind-set.

That’s where looking at your own, or the organisation/team/family/community’s values and ultimate objectives, pays off. It allows you to decide what’s important, then decide how to maximise the chances of achieving just that. It allows you to prioritise not just by doing things in order, but by completely de-prioritising things that aren’t important enough.

I wanted to watch the footy and I wanted to see Mum. Once I had decided that both were important to me, then I applied time management thinking and organised my time to make sure both priorities were met.

And the gardening came a distant third.


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