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Take Back Control of Your Time

A Word About Time

How many of us wish we had more time in our day?

Most likely, the majority of people reading this post would jump at the chance to add a few more hours of “cushion time” to get everything done. That’s why time management is so crucial, and yet, as hard as we try, we never seem to be quite in control. Some of us end up giving up on the idea altogether and eventually surrender control over our own day as a lost cause.

But if time is your most valuable asset, why be content wondering where it went, when you could tell it where to go?

People typically think of budgeting from a monetary perspective, which means many of us have a love-hate (or even hate-hate) relationship with the practice. However, we can substitute the word “time” into a conversation about financial budgeting, and the statement holds true. Dave Ramsey’s words – with a little substitution magic to adjust for time – form a mantra we could all use as a reminder to keep striving in our effort to gain control of our schedule:

“A {time} budget is telling your {time} where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I’m sure we all love the idea of simply “telling time where to go,” but we all know it’s not always quite so simple. That’s why today’s post will cover a few strategies to help you reflect on the ways you spend your time, then walk you through a few steps to guide you in re-prioritizing your time so you can take back control.

That brings us to an important question:

When was the last time you wondered where your time went?

Did you implement proper planning and intentionality to organize it, or did you manage your schedule on-the-fly, reacting as demands, obligations, and surprises ambushed you?

Keep your answers to the above questions in mind as you following the tips below. These reflection questions and exercises are calibrated to help you figure out how to better prioritize and manage the precious time you have under your control.

Admit You Actually Have Control

Admitting responsibility is half the journey. If you ask people where they spend most of their free time, one of the most common responses will inevitably be, “Free time, what’s that?!” That answer is, of course, understandable, since we all know there are days that just happen to get away from us, or weeks where nothing we do seems to get us any closer to finishing our workload.

But there’s an important designation that we need to make.

Free time isn’t empty time.

Free time isn’t the moment you tell yourself, “Wow, I’ve got three extra hours today that I have no idea what I’m going to do with!” That rarely, if ever, is the case. The point, however, is that we always find activities with which to fill our discretionary time.

When we talk about free time (discretionary time), we’re talking about time that we have control over – time during which we can decide to do activity A or B instead of activity C or D. During that time, we are the ultimate decision-makers and priority-setters with regard to what gets done and what does not.

Of course, we all have time that other people control, don’t we? We have an employer/work time where we’re responsible to somebody else who pays us for our use of that time. We may have family time where we’re responsible to a spouse and/or children, and others in our family.

But, at the end of the day, each of us also has time that we alone determine how to spend.

Identify Time Barriers

So, let’s consider what your free time looks like. The following questions will help you paint a picture of how you currently use your discretionary time:

Reflection Questions

  • Where do you spend most of your free time?
  • The last time you had a choice about what you did with your time, what did you use that time for?
  • Think through your typical day. What do you typically fill your available time slots with? Consider your answer for both a typical weekday and weekend day.

Application Questions

  • Make a list of the top five things that take up the time you control. Now, consider the following…
    • “What are five things that you wish you had more time for?”
  • Compare those two lists: what takes up your time vs. what you wish you had more time for. Then consider the following…
    • Why do you end up spending time doing the things on the first list (the things that take up your time) instead of the things on the second list (the things that you wish you had more time for)?
  • Oftentimes, the urgent things in life squeeze out space for the important things.
    • When did you last experience this?

Be sure to take the time and intentionality to be honest with yourself. Time is the one thing you can never take back, earn back, or buy back. So follow up the exercises above by making a list of the top five things that steal the time you control away from the things you wish you had more time for.

After walking through these questions and exercises, you should have a better idea of where your biggest time barriers arise. So leverage this knowledge to become more aware of those barriers and be proactive in taking back control.

At the end of the day, where we spend our time reflects the priorities we place on those activities. The worst part is that many of those things we give preference to, are things we would gladly give up in exchange for something we value more, if we only took the time to step back and prioritize our time budget.

Consider Your Ideal Week

Another helpful exercise involves thinking through your week and planning out what your ideal week would look like. Author Michael Hyatt wrote a great article to help you walk through this process (he even provides an Excel template you can use). You can check it out at the link below. If you need a little nudge to push you into action, look for natural seasonal change points to spark a time of reflection and action.

Check out this link for Michael Hyatt’s ideal week planning guide: How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week

Protect the Flow of Your Day

Even once we have a clear idea about how we would like to spend our day, sometimes our reality fails to match the ideal. The fact is, most of us don’t have the luxury of completely dictating our schedules without the input of others. There are always obligations and meetings that demand time from us, as well as other external pressures over which we have little control. Too many of us are intimately familiar with the workplace phenomenon known as “death by meeting.” On top of that, unexpected interruptions will inevitably arise to derail our plans.

Instead of being interrupted by meetings all the time, it’s helpful to block out designated times during the day that are available for meetings, if needed, while also setting aside strict “no meeting” work periods during which you can be productive. The best way to implement these protected time blocks is to schedule them in your calendar so people know when you are or are not available. Doing so ahead of time will make it that much easier to say no to people wanting to meet during one of your designated working blocks. If you do that, then you will have taken the first step in protecting the flow of your day.

Worth Fighting For

In the end, it all comes down to choices and priorities. Time is THE most valuable asset we have. It’s the thing that allows us to build meaning in our lives through the people we connect with and the work we do. Yes, some of the things we talked about in the paragraphs above will be difficult to implement. It will be challenging to say no to people – to stand firm in protecting the flow of your day or to be proactive in shaping the way you want your week to look. But if anything is worth fighting for, it’s the power to be in control of your own time.

So step up, take a risk, and seize the day!

Become the master of your own ship.

This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your time management for the sake of a healthier life and leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!


The Dangers of Unintentional Living

Can you imagine a world where people are unintentional with their lives? A world where you don’t aspire to grow or learn or dream? Can you imagine living in a place where your time is dictated by television schedules and your dreams inspired by ads showing a fake world of fantasy?

Yes, I actually can.

Unintended Outcomes

It sounds ludicrous, but it is true – we are trained to live uninspired, unintentional lives dictated by messages to become some person we are arbitrarily told to be.

This world – our world – often creates unintended outcomes because there is not intentional living.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example…

What is the outcome of being bombarded with messages encouraging you to eat certain “fun” foods like sodas, desserts, juices, candy, etc.?

The answer, diabetes. Health issues. Limitations on life.

The unintentional over-consumption of sugars produces large amounts of diabetes in our world, not to mention a myriad of other ailments and illnesses. However, developing an intentional plan to eat in moderation dramatically lowers the chances of this disease along with many other side effects. It gives us energy, vitality, and longevity to do and become what and who we want.

Case after case and story after story reveal unintended consequences and the pain that comes from lives lived without intentional focus.

Maybe unintentional living is actually intentional when you stop to think about it. After all, people have a tendency to replace pain with medication, boredom with activity, and distress with distraction. Maybe we intend to live unintentional lives after all.

It is time to reverse unintentional living, to stop and think about the consequences that naturally follow. The outcomes are as devastating as they are predictable: uninspired lives, useless affairs, neglected children, untrained employees, and impotent companies.

When you live intentionally, you will lead intentionally. 

On the other hand, if you take the time to live your own life with intentionality and meaning, you will begin leading your employees better and your family with excitement. The outcomes will show up in your organizations fruitfulness and in your family dynamics as you are increasingly able to give them the very best of who you are and what you have to offer. This kind of change creates an abundance of life, compassion, hard work, energy, and focus that you can invest in your teams and your children to help them become the best versions of themselves while following your example.

Some of us need wake up calls like when a doctor or dentist challenges us to change our ways. Perhaps, in a small way, this blog will do that for you. Maybe, just maybe, you will stop and ponder ways you can live intentionally towards a purpose bigger than the binging the next big television series.

To live intentionally is to lead intentionally.

This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your intentionality affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!


3 Ways Self-Preservation Erodes Influence

Self-preservation occurs when you obsess about protecting the things you are afraid of losing.

Your job. Your authority. Your salary. Your bonus. Your title.

Your carefully curated image.

The Source of Fear, Insecurity, and Selfishness

Just a few examples of the things we tend to hold onto with a white knuckle grip that often causes us to lose the very things we’re trying to protect.

The problem rears its head when our obsession to protect and retain begins to inhibit us from what we give and how we lead. If you are over-protecting what you have received or earned to date, you are showing the signs of self-preservation.

If you are constantly over-asserting your authority or questioning others’ then you are likely displaying self-preservation in an attempt to ensure others see you a certain way and know you’re in charge. When you implement self-preservation like a shield around you, it actually does more harm to you as a leader than good. Here are just a few ways that such a knee-jerk response will undermine your influence and long-term leadership capacity:

1.) Self-preservation drains a lot of energy and focus.

When you self-protect you spend more hours and energy on you instead of on what you are paid to do. Losing valuable mental energy and time cripples your productivity while also disrupting your routines. That makes self-preserving leaders less effective, which compromises the very things they are trying to protect.

>> Read more…

3 digital trends that change how leaders succeed

Q. Why do people scramble to answer the telephone?

A. Because their grandparents did.

Human behaviour always lags technology evolution. When our grandparents installed their home phones, a phone call was a very expensive form of communication, reserved for the weekly catch-up with distant relatives or for urgent and important notifications. So when the phone rang, you raced to answer it. It was important.

Contrast that with today. A phone call is practically free. If my experience is anything to go by, a call on the home phone (yes, still got one of those - giving away my age here!) is more likely to be a fortune-teller or independent financial advisor advertising their services than an important message from a friend. 

The point is this: humans change their behaviour far more slowly than technology.

But this creates unintentional negative effects. Jumping up to answer the phone used to be important, even at meal times. Now, it’s probably more likely just to disrupt the flow of conversation and family connection.

I observe the same effect in the business world. Many people are “managing people like their grandfather did” in a digital world where the context has radically changed.

Digital leaders - those who thrive in the digital age - need to act very differently to get results in this new context.

There are at least five mega-trends at work here. Here are three of them, which will be enough for this short article.  

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What do you do when your team are superstars?

I was speaking with the CEO of a fast-growing technology firm a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing how to build on their success by taking internal engagement, communication and alignment to a new level.

“I generally recommend starting with the senior leaders,” I explained. “Because leaders define culture, and people need to see their leaders walking the walk before they will follow”.

“Ah,” he replied. “But my leadership team are superstars. They are the best-of-the-best, they are going at 100mph and driving my business forward. Do they really need much input?”

It’s a great question. When we see poor leadership in our organisation, it’s easy to see the benefits of improved self-awareness, of a leadership toolkit or of a journey of growth. But… when our leaders are superstars?

In other words - do the healthy really need a doctor?!

Here are 5 questions to ask that can unlock growth when your leadership team already are superstars.

1. Have I celebrated them?

It’s great news that you have a team of superstars to rely on. You are in a privileged situation that is all-too rare. A superstar team can achieve truly great things.

And yet, precisely because these leaders are so low-maintenance and yet high-performing, it’s easy to underinvest in them in order to focus on the more pressing and painful challenges facing the organisation.

Action Step: Take a few minutes this week to thank them - not only for the results they are bringing in, but also for their professionalism, their character and your relationship. It’s such a simple thing but so easily overlooked.

2. Are we are team of high-performers, or actually a high-performing team?

At one point during my time at Cisco, I joined an incredible team. Everyone was a high-performer, with a strong track record internally and with key customers. And yet I could never shake the feeling that although we were a team of high-performers, we weren’t truly a high-performing team.

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The game-changing plan for 2018 you’ll probably forget to make

You’re making plans for 2018: setting goals and prioritising initiatives. But what’s your plan to grow your most important assets?

As you know, most organisations are focused on the cash-generating machine of their business: offerings and customers. However, only a few pay proper attention to the two fundamental inputs that drive the business:

  1. their people, and
  2. giving these people sufficient clarity on the goals and game-plan of the team that each person can truly play their position in the most effective way

I described this phenomenon in a previous article.

At GiANT Worldwide, we call this ‘accidental leadership’, because it’s the easy path and the default setting for us all. The problem is that when we treat people like liabilities, they start to become liabilities! When we fail to attend enough to these two areas of people and clarity, we see various problems creeping into the organisation, from lack of trust to poor performance. See this article for 10 typical warning signs you’re underinvesting in your team.

The harder path is to be an intentional and consistent leader, who treats people like assets so that they start to become assets. This is the leader that people actually want to follow and for whom they want to bring their best.

So here’s the challenge: do you want to be an intentional leader in 2018?

If so, you need a plan to get your team to the next level. We call this a People Plan and it’s a game-changer because it >> Read more…

10 signs you’re underinvesting in your team

Here’s a shocking fact: The average team comes in at just 55% when we measure team health and performance across 5 dimensions (click here to get a top-line assessment for your team in about 100 seconds).

Like you, I’ve been in teams good and bad. At their best, the sense of cohesion and synergy is phenonemal. My last couple of teams at Cisco had exactly that dynamic - collegiate, results-focused, and a lot of fun. However, we’ve all experienced team situations where there’s conflict, mistrust, apathy or a general lack of ability to execute.

The average work team scores just 55% against an objective measure of health & performance #leadership

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As the survey results show, most teams are operating at only half their potential. As I argued in The Owner’s Dilemma, this is because the laser-focus on product and customer actually results in an underinvestment in people and in building a clear model for the organisation.

This has the result of jamming the brakes on the very business the product/customer work is trying to accelerate!

The obvious next question is: how would you know if you are under-investing in your people?

Here are 10 symptoms I often see in the course of my leadership consulting work with GiANT Worldwide. How does your team measure up?

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7 people issues that will ruin your digital transformation

It’s hardly new news – but digital disruption is now top-of-mind in practically ever sector.

You probably have your own favourite stats on this issue. Here are mine. 63% of industrial players and 81% of tech companies are experiencing significant disruption, or are expecting it within 12 months. (Source: Russell Reynolds Associates).

Digital disruption poses an existential threat to many incumbent players, who need to:

  • Reimagine the business model;
  • Implement new technology platforms & business processes;
  • Promote more innovative and entrepreneurial activity and experimentation;
  • Integrate data analytics, machine learning and AI into the business;
  • Accelerate the overall pace of change; notably by moving from top-down management to agile, cross-functional, collaboration

As an organisation moves forward with its digital transformation project, one key topic can easily get overlooked amongst all the discussions on strategy, technology and business processes.


Because at the heart of digital transformation is a leadership and people question: How will our people live this digital transformation – and how can we instill the necessary values, mindset and practices?

I spend a lot of time helping businesses work through the people, cultural and leadership issues that hold back digital transformation. Here are 7 people issues that companies who are serious about genuine digital transformation will need to navigate. >> Read more…

60 personal effectiveness tips from world-class experts [UPDATED]

Effectiveness is more than productivity.  Whereas productivity is 'doing things right', effectiveness also includes 'doing the right things' and can be seen as a chain that links your daily activities to your deepest needs, desires and hopes for the future.

So if you want to live a successful, accomplished life, tuning up your personal effectiveness is one of the wisest investments you can make.

So for this important topic, I reached out to 60+ very accomplished experts in a number of fields, including CEOs, leadership experts, productivity gurus and ministry leaders.  I asked them the following question:

What is the most surprising tip you’d give somebody looking to grow their personal impact & effectiveness?

I recently updated this post with some additional insights and updates. I hope you'll agree that the result is one of the best collections of personal effectiveness tips.  This is real practical wisdom for achieving great things in your work and life.

Download now, digest later...

RECOMMENDATION: This is a long post, so I suggest you grab the free PDF version which also includes a one-page summary that you can refer to regularly keep you on track!

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The owner’s dilemma: why your laser focus on products & customers is killing your business

Remember Clayton Christensen’s classic, The Innovator’s Dilemma? It was the brilliant observation of how well-managed market leaders would almost invariably fall prey to disruptive technology, and fail to capture the next wave of value.

What was startling about Christensen’s work was that the incumbent firms were well-managed and made rational decisions at each stage of the market’s development. Yet still they lost.

Today I want to explore what could be called The Owner’s Dilemma.

I’m going to explain why the pragmatic, rational decisions you are making are undermining your business’s ability to grow.

If you are a founder, a small business leader, or a business unit leader (i.e. you have ‘ownership’ of a P&L) then this will be highly relevant. >> Read more…