A common and recurring problem I hear from leaders I work with is that they are always too busy. Too many competing demands, tight deadlines, too much to do and not enough time.
No time for being proactive, not enough time to coach employees, not enough time for self-care.
Time is fascinating. Because time is just a mental construct. A way for human beings to note the passage of time relative to the sun and moon. Gazillions of years ago time was defined, clocks and calendars were invented to help us navigate through life.
Now the framework of time significantly impacts our waking moments, our lives. And even our non-waking lives as even my trusty Garmin™ regularly chastises me for getting an average of 5 minutes deep sleep a night. Stop judging me watch!
Because we all have enough time. Enough. Time. The same time in a day. The way we choose to think about it, utilize it, talk about it, affects our results. We have enough time if we are clear on our priorities, if we know the results we want to achieve. If we are mindful of how we are using our time and the quality of the experience.
Scenario 1: I wake and feel already behind because my to do list is lengthy, at work and at home. I chug coffee, gripe at the traffic and charge into work. I scan the calendar, wondering if I am prepared for the day, consider cancelling that one on one touch base with Bill, he’s doing great anyway. He doesn’t need me as much as the time I need to spend on the projects due later in the week. I can’t believe it’s month end again. My thoughts are scattered, I feel overwhelmed, knowing I can’t close my door because I am an open door kind of leader while I silently pray no one enters or everyone calls in and hope for a meeting cancellation or two. My new employee Jesse comes in with a problem and a question we’ve previously discussed. I tap down my impatience, answer the question AGAIN and arrive to my next meeting 10 minutes late. As usual. My day progresses and I suddenly realize its half past 5, I long for chocolate, wine, a deserted island, and soft pajamas, though not necessarily in that order. I’m grateful to have survived another day. Its Monday. Only four more days of work until the weekend.
Scenario 2: I wake, thankful that I put together my to do list yesterday afternoon. I put my coffee in a to go mug, and head to work. The traffic is the same as it always is at this time of day and I know that I’ll get to the office when I get there. I come into work, settling in, scanning my calendar. I see my one on one with Bill and am interested to know how he is doing. I ponder how I can support his efforts and keep him engaged. I jot down a few questions I’d like to ask him. Jesse comes in with a problem, and I am thankful that my door is open so we can have a coaching discussion. I realize our last discussion was not as clear to her as I thought it was. I want to make her onboarding experience a successful one. We talk for 20 minutes and she leaves prepared and confident. I apologize to my peers for being late to my next meeting, letting them know I had an important coaching conversation. The day progresses as they do, with some unexpected changes to the schedule. I am calm, knowing that I can tackle any challenges that comes my way. I realize it’s time to head for home and I am thankful for a great start to the week. I know with some upcoming deadlines it will be an interesting one!
The difference between Scenario 1 and 2 lives only in my mind. The power of my thoughts and how I see time, see myself in the context of a day. If I see time as a scarce commodity—fretting about precious minutes wasted in traffic, or resenting time with my team—I will be hurried, impatient (even if I am a master at hiding it, it simmers beneath the surface). If I expect a “perfect day” free of challenges and problems, when they arise (as they of course do) I will be surprised and frazzled. Irritated to change the schedule, resentful. My thoughts about time, create my emotions, which affect my actions….and ultimately generate my results.
I am not advocating for seeing everything as overly positive (“yay me I’m stuck in traffic!) or naïve. Rather to see time as it is. A construct. A fact. Don’t let time rule your life. Ensure your priorities guide your focus and life.
Examine your thoughts. Do you see yourself anywhere in these (perhaps overly simplistic) scenarios? Do you believe you have enough time regardless of the demands placed upon you? Do you know you have a choice to see time for what it is, a neutral circumstance? At the end of the day, are you confident knowing you used all your seconds, minutes and hours mindfully and purposefully?
One day. 86,400 seconds. How are you showing up? You have a choice.