The Essence of Time Management

So here are some quickies on the essence of time management.


1. Urgency vs Importance:


Don’t sacrifice the important items for the urgent ones!


– Focus on the items that are important on the right side of the matrix–if they are urgent (upper-right), you need to do now; if they aren’t urgent, but they are important (lower-right), you need to make time for them. 


– Deemphasize the items that aren’t important on the left side of the matrix–if they are urgent and not important (upper-left), limit them or delegate them; if they aren’t urgent or important (lower-left), delete them. 


There are two potential areas of dissonance that can cause you tension, stress, and anxiety.


– When the urgent top row items and the lower-left life necessities get in the way of your focusing on the quality life items that are of long-term importance to you (the lower-left).  For example, work and errands can crowd out your personal, family, community, and spiritual time. 


– When you have too many items in the lower-right quality time area and these are in competition with each other for your time and attention, and you don’t know how to prioritize them and get it all done.  It’s like there is never enough time. For example, we ignore our spouse, the kids, or closeness with G-d, because we just can’t get to it all.


This is where our personal values and conscience come into play to drive what we do and how we spend our precious time in this world. 


We all only have 24 hours in a day, so our actions need to be purposeful and driven by our values!


2. Tasks vs Relationships


Imagine another matrix with focus on tasks on the vertical access and focus on relationships on the horizontal access. 


Again here, we want to ensure a healthy balance of focus on both task and relationships (upper-right corner). 


If we focus on tasks at the expense of relationships or relationships at the expense of tasks, we are going to have a problem.  Moreover, it makes no sense to focus on items that are neither task- nor relationship-focused (lower-left).  


We need to collaborate with others to accomplish great, complex tasks (we can only accomplish so much alone). 


Again, dissonance (tension, stress, anxiety) is caused when we are pulled off-balance to focus on work or people to the exclusion of the other.  


As they say,


“Mission first, people always!”


We’ve got to build meaningful relationships and work together to get the mission done and the mission can be helping people and building a better society in a variety of ways. 


In a sense, it’s people helping people. Love thy neighbor to help thy neighbor.  


Time is of the essence–we have so little of it–it is precious–we can’t get it back–it goes so fast–we need to manage it like gold. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

>“Soft Hands” Leadership

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Conventional wisdom has it that there are two primary types of leaders: one is focused on the work (task-oriented) and the other is focused on the relationships (people-oriented). Of course, the exceptional leader can find the right balance between the two. Usually though it is the people skills that are short-changed in lieu of getting the job done.

Personally, I am a firm believer in the military doctrine of “Mission first, people always!”—Although, I am certain that some leaders even in the military are better at exemplifying this than others.

With the global financial downturn, there is an interesting article in Harvard Business Review titled “The Right Way to Close an Operation,” May 2009 that sheds some light on this leadership topic.

In this article, Kenneth Freeman advocates for a “soft hands” approach when closing or shrinking an operation. This approach calls for leadership to “treat employees with dignity, fairness, and respect—the way you would want to be treated.”

Wow!!! This is great–A human-centric approach to leadership.

Unfortunately some unconsciously believe that being tough on mission means being tough on people too. However, there is no need to “flick the whip.” There is another way. We can embrace people as human beings, work with them, have compassion on them, treat them well, and lead them towards mission delivery.

It doesn’t have to be supervisors versus employees–different sides of the bargaining table. It can be in most instances people striving together for organizational success.

For me, this ties right in to my vision for enterprise architecture to have a human capital perspective. Human capital is critical to mission delivery. We must not focus exclusively on process and technology and forget the critical people aspect of organizational performance. A stool with only two legs (process and technology) without the third (people) will assuredly fall.

Freeman states that even when doing difficult things like downsizing we can still treat people humanly, the way we would want to be treated. He says: “reducing a workforce is painful, but you can do it in such a way that people will someday say, ‘you know I once worked for Company X. I didn’t like the fact that they shut my plant down, but I still think it’s a good company.’”

Here’s some tips from Freeman as I understand them:

Address the personal issues for the employees—why they are losing their jobs, how the closure will affect them, what you will do to help them land on their feet…

Communicate early and often—“People need to hear a message at least six times to internalize it.”

Get out there—“Be visible and personal. A closure or a downsizing is not an excuse for leaders to go into hiding.”

Take responsibility—“The leader should take personal responsibility for the organization’s behavior.”

Be honest, but kind—“Explain that the decision is being made for the sake of the overall business not because the people who are leaving have done a bad job.”

Treat everyone fairly—“who stays and who goes should be decided on an objective basis.”

Help people go on—“help people find jobs.”

Maintain a quality focus—“leaders should regularly remind everyone of the importance of quality and keep measuring and celebrating it.”

Freeman goes on with other sensible advice on how to not only treat employees well, but also customers and suppliers “like valued partners.” He has a refreshing perspective on delivering results, while maintaining human dignity.

Here’s the critical point:

Having a “soft hands” approach to people doesn’t mean that you are soft on mission. That can never happen. But it does mean, we remember that delivery of mission is through our professional relationships with people—employees, customers, suppliers, partners, shareholders and more.

Treating people with dignity, respect, and fairness will positively generate mission delivery for the organization.