Does your business feel like it has stalled? Has it plateaued? Or flatlined?
Time is our most precious and most perishable resource. You will never have this time again and I believe that the most fundamental difference between successful people and those who are less successful is how they manage their time. You’ve heard it all before, right?
The fact is that we can’t really manage time, all we can do is be disciplined and discerning about what we do with our time. A bit like money, we can waste it, or we can spend it or we can invest it.
The best way to understand time, I think, is to draw a 2 x 2 grid. Above the vertical columns write ‘urgent’ and ‘not urgent’ respectively. By the horizontal rows write ‘important’ against the top one and ‘not important’ against the lower one. Your 2 x 2 grid now allows you to classify everything you do as either not important but urgent; not important and not urgent; both urgent and important; or important but not urgent.
Improve your thinking
That is the easy part. For this grid to have any chance of improving your thinking you now need to be really clear on the criteria. What is it that makes something ‘urgent’? Most people quickly realise that something is only urgent when it has a deadline attached to it. So we can easily decide between the urgent and not urgent categories.
How do we decide then what is important? This always proves to be much, much more difficult and I get all sorts of replies like ‘it matters to the client’, ‘we just have to do it’. Every suggestion has some validity, but I think the only workable explanation is this: ‘something is important in so far as it pertains to our goals’. If something is going to get you closer to your goals it is important, if it isn’t, then it isn’t important. Try the suggestion on for size. Does it work for you?
Of course, if you have no goals you cannot possibly ever decide whether something is important or not. In fact, if you only have vague goals you will only ever have a vague idea whether something might be important or not. And in the absence of clear criteria you won’t have the clear minded decision making you need to be disciplined and discerning about what you do with your time. This might explain why some people reading this have such chaotic calendars.
Being very clear about your goals allows you to decide what is important and then you can be in control of your time, rather than your time be in control of you. If you desperately want to be a concert pianist, for example, you will know how important practice is and you can then protect the practice time in your schedule, no matter how crowded it might otherwise get.
If there was one thing, in your life, that would make your life better, that you are not doing now, that were you to do it insistently, consistently and persistently would really change things, I bet it will fall in the important but not urgent category.
The go forward zone
The important but not urgent category is the go forward zone. Whether it be looking after yourself, spending more time with your loved ones, developing your skills and knowledge, being coached or coaching your team; they all get squeezed out precisely because they are not urgent. If we don’t decide to spend sufficient time in the go forward zone, we won’t go forward. It is as simple as that.
We fall victim to the urgent and don’t have time for the important. It is a common mistake, made inevitable when we haven’t taken the time to understand what is truly important for us.
This reason may or may not apply to you.