Tag Archives: discretionary time

Planning and Leadership: You Get What You Plan For


leadership-1714497_1280The title of a recent TLNT article caught my attention—“Leadership Takes a Plan”—so I read it. The article was good (most of the TLNT articles posted on eremedia.com are good), but I was surprised at the direction author Randy Hall took in “Leadership Takes a Plan.” I had expected recommendations for how leaders should communicate with their staffs and organizations.

The leaders I worked for focused on communications, and that has been my focus also. I think of leadership as a hierarchical thing, while Mr. Hall focused on leaders as mentors and developers of people—a very important aspect of leadership. I was somewhat embarrassed to realize how narrow my first reaction to the article’s title had been.

In the article, Mr. Hall says that leaders need a plan for how they will mentor people. Leaders should schedule their mentoring, have a strategy or process for developing people, and measure the results of how protegés develop. All valid points.

I’ve written before about the importance of discretionary time, and I come back to the concept over and over again as I plan my weeks and months and as I make daily choices in how to spend my time. Like Mr. Hall, I believe that if you don’t put things on your calendar, then they must not be important. Scheduling planning time is important to me. I schedule daily (or at least weekly) time to work for long-range projects. And, as Mr. Hall says, it’s important to schedule time to meet with people you are mentoring. Do you have regular meetings set with your protegés?

The strategy for developing people may be more difficult. You probably need individual plans for each person you are actively mentoring. Some might need work on their communications skills, so getting together before and after presentations or other major communications opportunities might be important. Other protegés might be working on their project management skills, so periodic check-ins to discuss their project plans might be needed. And sometimes protegés might not even know you are actively focused on their development (though transparency will probably have a bigger impact), so regular meetings with no set agenda might work.

Lastly, Mr. Hall recommends measuring results. With people development, that can be a difficult task. Still, there are ways to set measurable goals—a certain number of opportunities to present, readiness for the next promotion, favorable reactions from certain managers and executives on a presentation, etc. The point is to think about what success looks like on the person’s development, and then plan your plan to reach that result.

As I’ve reflected on his article, I’ve realized that the point Mr. Hall makes—that you need to plan how you will develop people—is crucial in everything we do. Yes, it is important for developing people. But it is equally important for corporate communications—where I thought initially he was taking his article. And planning is important for accomplishing long-range projects. And for everything else.

With everything you want to get done, you need to articulate what you want to accomplish. Then put it on your calendar, have a strategy, and measure your results.

What do you need to spend some time planning? Do you need to focus on scheduling it, developing a strategy, or measuring results?

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Managing Myself: Productivity v. Learning


Design Mascot Computer SalesI’ve always been an advocate of measuring productivity. When I worked in the corporate world, I ordered my days to meet the objectives my boss set for me. I influenced the setting of my objectives, but once we had agreement, I worked toward achieving them.

Now that I am self-employed, I still keep track of my activities each week and set goals for the year and for the week ahead. I break large projects up into phases and manageable pieces. I try to balance work on immediate tasks and the next steps in long-term projects.

I chafe when other people interfere with my plans to work productively. It’s easy to let family and friends and co-workers order my days for me. Their goals are not my goals, and when our goals conflict (as they inevitably will), one or both of us must compromise. If I don’t keep a laser eye on my own plans, if I don’t build in flexibility to address the necessary give-and-take of life, then I will not accomplish what I want. So I try to be flexible, yet focused.

Given my desire for productivity, I was intrigued to see an article in Inc.com a couple weeks ago by Michael Simmons of Empact titled “Average People Are Productive, Successful People Are Learners.” Because, of course, I consider myself successful, not average.

According to the article, learning is the ultimate productivity.

“The paradigm we should all consider for productivity is learning. As opposed to productivity hacks—as I said, there’s only so much in your day you can optimize—learning is an exponential process with no cap. What do I mean by this? The results of learning are twofold: better decisions and breakthrough ideas. This can give results that are 1,000x better, not just 2x better.”

What does it take to be a learner? Mr. Simmons’s article stresses the importance of reading. He suggests spending seven hours a week (one hour a day) reading—which translates, he says, to about a book every week.

That’s a good goal. I can measure that. I can build it into my personal objectives.

I do read. Mostly, I read for enjoyment, but I also read a lot of professional books and periodicals and online newsletters on human resources, dispute resolution, legal topics, business strategy, and the craft of writing. I probably spend close to an hour a day on these professional development activities every day, though I haven’t measured it daily.

Based on Mr. Simmons’s recommendation, I will try to be more mindful of how I read to learn. I will think about what I want to learn and focus more of my reading on these topics.

And I will seek out and measure other opportunities to learn—people with whom I can discuss topics I want to know more about, places I can go to see and hear and touch new experiences. In short, I will invest in myself and plan that investment into my productivity goals.

What do you do to be a learner?

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Time Management is YOUR Problem


Its about Time Series III’ve written before about discretionary time—the concept of having time that you control and using it for your own priorities.

That concept has hit home for me again recently. I have a new project that I am trying to squeeze in on top of all my other projects. This new endeavor takes five to ten hours a week for about eight weeks. That’s a lot of time to find. What can give? I’m cutting some activities, streamlining others, hoping a few matters have deadlines with some flexibility.

This week I also read an article on LinkedIn by Shane Atchison entitled, “Schedule for the Unexpected,” Oct. 21, 2015. Mr. Atchison recommends scheduling one hour of flex time for yourself every day. That’s time you deliberately leave free to deal with the daily crises that always seem to arise. I’ve had a few of those recently, while trying to cram in my new project.

When I worked in corporate roles, I used to ask my administrative assistants to save me two hours of “work time” every day. They could move the time around without consulting me to accommodate meetings I needed to attend. But they couldn’t cut into those two hours of unscheduled time without asking me first, unless it was my boss or the CEO who wanted my time.

This system worked pretty well. There were obviously times that I had to give up my work time, but most days if I had two hours in my office, I could keep up with phone calls, email, make dents in major projects, and still leave the office by 6:00pm feeling like the next day was manageable.

So I’m thinking now that, once I get over the hump of this current project, I need to do a better job of scheduling flexible hours each day for myself. Now that I work for myself, it is harder to make time for long-term priorities when there are so many short-term issues that arise each day. The problem is the same as when I worked in a corporate role—but I no longer have an assistant to guard my time.

I have to guard my time myself. If I don’t manage it, no one else will.

What tricks do you use to manage your time?

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Have You Accomplished Fifty Percent of Your Objectives For the Year?


Daily OrganizerI know it’s only the beginning of June, and 2014 is not half over yet. But most workplaces slow down in the summer months, when colleagues are out of the office. Then it’s Labor Day, then you have only a couple of months until the holiday season starts. Nothing much gets done in December.

So, are you half-way to completing your objectives? There isn’t much productive time left in the year.

Do you even remember what your objectives are?

Pull them out, and assess your performance. Then you’ll be ready for your mid-year review. If your boss doesn’t give you a mid-year review, give yourself one.

Come December, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll probably set yourself now on a path to get more done than if you ignore your objectives until autumn.

I recently read an article on Inc.com, “This 15-Minute Activity Will Make You More Successful At Work,” by Drake Baer, for Business Insider. Mr. Baer argues that people can be more successful if they set aside fifteen minutes at the end of the day to reflect and to recap that day’s accomplishments and failures.

People who take time for reflection each day come to understand their own performance better. Then they can better adapt their performance to achieve future successes.

But according to Mr. Baer, it requires more than simple reflection to improve performance. It requires writing down what went well each day and what didn’t. The extra step of documenting your learnings helps you to retain them and act on them in the future.

I keep a daily journal, although I don’t reflect on my performance every day. But twice a month I formally recap what I have accomplished in the last two weeks and what I need to accomplish in the next half month?

And on a quarterly basis, I pull out my original objectives and assess my performance against those detailed objectives.

I have a lot more than 50% of my objectives yet to get done this year. How about you?

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Workplace, Writing

Assess Your Work/Life Balance During the Holidays


In this holiday season, many of us are away from work and with family. We may be assessing our lives, both at work and at home.  As you reflect on the blessings and gaps in your life, click here for a list of all the work/life posts on this blog.

In particular, you might want to review

What Do You Want Out of Life (and Work)?

Make Your Work/Life Balance a Conscious Choice

No One Has It All—We All Make Choices

Systematic Neglect: Choose Your Priorities and Accept the Consequences

How to Repurpose Your Life Beyond Your Working Years

Happy holidays to each of you, and best wishes for the year ahead.

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Filed under Employee Engagement, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Work/Life, Workplace

Systematic Neglect: Choose Your Priorities and Accept the Consequences


Like Every Function, To Be Strategic, HR Must Bring Expertise to the TableDuring the years I spent in leadership roles, two concepts became critical to my attempts to manage my time: discretionary time and systematic neglect.

I’ve written before about discretionary time—the time we can all carve out in our day to do what we think we should do. It may be fifteen minutes to check on a subordinate, or lunch with a peer to build a relationship, but we can all exercise some discretion in how we spend our time. Some organizations institutionalize the concept, as Google famously did when it encouraged employees to spend 20 percent of their time experimenting on their own projects.

Today I want to focus on the other time-management concept: “systematic neglect.” I learned about this concept in The Servant as Leader, by Robert K. Greenleaf. Mr. Greenleaf says part of a leader’s responsibility is to decide what not to do, what tasks to ignore. He says systematic neglect enables us to focus on the most important work. Specifically, he states:

The ability to withdraw and reorient oneself, if only for a moment, presumes that one has learned the art of systematic neglect, to sort out the more important from the less important — and the important from the urgent — and attend to the more important, even though there may be penalties and censure for the neglect of something else.

All of us understand the concept at some level—there is only so much time in the day. We cannot do everything, and we certainly cannot do everything at the level of quality we would like.

Although that type of triage is intuitive, a light bulb dawned for me when I read Mr. Greenleaf’s statement. Because not only does he say we need to consciously choose to do the more important work rather than the less important, he also makes clear that we must be prepared to accept the consequences of our choices.

My light bulb realization was that other people wouldn’t always agree with me on what to neglect, no matter how reasonable my choice seemed to me. I might choose to neglect a project they think is critical. When other people disagree with you about what is most important—and they will—you must accept their “censure.” You may not change their mind, but you have to accept that they will not be happy with you.

The organization I was a part of at the time embraced the philosophy of “systematic neglect.” Thereafter, there were several times when I was dismayed at the choices some of my colleagues made. They had different priorities than I did. I probably upset them, too, with my choices of what to do and what to neglect. There were heated discussions—censures and penalties—as a result.

Still, when you are prepared to accept the consequences of choosing what to do (using the concept of discretionary time) and what not to do (using the concept of systematic neglect), then you have much greater control of your time. And that lets you set and shape your priorities to a far greater extent than you might think possible.

What have you done when your priorities have differed from those of your co-workers?

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How to Repurpose Your Life Beyond Your Working Years


??????????????????????????????????????????????I recently attended a discussion group in which high-performing women nearing or at the end of their careers talked about how they wanted to continue with the rest of their lives. This group included CEOs of regional companies, executives from national and international companies, owners of multiple franchises, and professionals in the legal and educational fields – all had earned good incomes and had been successful in their chosen careers. Many had changed professions or careers or companies at least once before.

Yet we all struggled anew at this point in our lives:

  • Who am I if I am not a high-performing professional in my field?
  • What do I want the rest of my life to be about?
  • How do I feel about leaving the working world behind?
  • How will I challenge myself in future years?  How will I learn and grow?
  • What will others think of me when I am no longer powerful in my field?

I don’t think these questions are unique to professional women nearing retirement years. Men who are retiring face similar issues. Women (and men) who quit paying jobs to stay home with children must address these questions as well, as does anyone who switches careers mid-stream.

But what is unique to professional women is that the baby boomer women who are now retiring are the first generation of women who “made it” in large numbers. Across the nation, women may not have reached parity with men in numbers or income levels, but many, many women have had successful careers for the last thirty or forty years and are now leaving the workforce. These women – as much as their male colleagues – have defined themselves by their workplace roles. They have thought to themselves “I am what I do,” and family and friends and colleagues have seen them as what they do also.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As our group wrestled with questions such as how to decide what we want next in life, how to discuss our choices with spouse and family, how to tell friends and co-workers of our decisions, and even what to call ourselves in the next phase of life (“retiree” does not suit most of us), we came to the following conclusions:

  1. First and foremost, give yourself permission to shift focus. You are not what you do; you are much more than that. Only you can define who you are.
  2. Enlist the support of family and friends – your “tribe” who see you as what you are beyond your job. They can help you determine how to change your life to be more authentically you. Some might need a therapist or coach, if you don’t have personal support. Many have found their own wisdom through journaling.
  3. Find resources to aid in your transition. Among those resources should be financial planners, attorneys if you are selling a business and for estate planning, career advisors, family, doctors to assess health issues, elder care consultants if that is an issue for you, and training to prepare you for your next field of endeavor. You do not need to make this journey in a vacuum.

None of the women in my group questioned the wisdom of leaving the work world at this point in her life. We only questioned how to make the rest of our lives meaningful.

More power to us. We have much left to give.

What other resources would you use to assist in re-purposing your life?

 

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