First, think.

I heard it again from a client this week: “I don’t have enough time to work on that.”

Well, let me be perhaps not the first, but certainly not the last, to call bullshit on that complaint.

There’s always enough time to do what’s really important to you. If your child got hit by a bus and you needed to take her to the hospital, you’d somehow find the time to do it, because it’s more important than preparing your 93-slide Powerpoint deck on which color white to put into the product line next year. (And if the hospital isn’t more important than your Powerpoint, then please stop reading now and go back to your well-worn copy of Mein Kampf.)

No, the issue is how you choose to allocate your attention. It’s a matter of identifying what’s most important. And ironically, that identification takes time.

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed four CEOs about time management. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, talked about the value of getting away from daily problem solving and walling off time to think:

Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting. And during that thinking time, you’re not only thinking strategically, thinking proactively, thinking longer-term, but you’re literally thinking about what is urgent versus important, and trying to strike that right balance.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft (not surprisingly) takes a more analytical approach: he actually builds a spreadsheet with a time budget for the year.

I budget how much time I’m going to be out of Seattle and in Seattle. I budget what I’m spending my time on — customers, partners, etc…. I schedule formal meetings and my free time…. I’m not saying when they’re going to happen, but I budget all this stuff. I try to make sure that I feel comfortable that I have enough time to…think, to investigate, to learn more, but I have to budget my time…. I give the budget allocation to my administrative assistants, they lay it all out and then anybody who asks for time, they say, ‘”Steve, this is in budget, it’s not in budget, how do you want us to handle it?”

How do you find enough time to do the important stuff? First, make time to decide what’s important. And if you don’t have time to do that, you don’t belong in your job.

2 thoughts on “First, think.

  1. I also like to call this idea the vacation paradigm. If you have a vacation coming up in 5 days but you have 6 days of work before you can leave (with a clear conscious), somehow the work gets done.

    I also like to advocate for daily goal and agenda setting. I read a study that said just by writing down what you want to complete in a given day you can become almost 25% more efficient through elimination of the “whats the next thing to do” time while also improving transparency and communication based on having a physical and mental check list of what needs to get done at any given time. This makes it easier to say to a manager “here’s what I’m doing now and next, is what you are asking more important than those items, if not, I cannot do it at this time.”

    I think my next step will be following the advice of this post and adding “strategic thinking time” into my daily routine outside of just goal and agenda setting.

  2. Wes — there’s magic in writing things down. Read any self-help or dieting book, and it will tell you to write down what you’re going to do. (It will also recommend making a public commitment, but that’s another story.)

    I’d love to hear how your new approach works. Keep me posted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>