In a World of Complexity – A Simple Message

In a World of Complexity – A Simple Message

I’ll categorize this post under the “Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me a Long Time Ago” section.


Unfortunately, I learned each of the lessons I’m about to share the hard way. And I’ll put a healthy bet down that most people are still learning them.


Today you were granted 1,440 minutes to live your life – to love your family – to work your job – to pursue your hobbies – to build your dreams.


Chances are good you didn’t have enough time to get everything done – and like most, remain frustrated that there “aren’t enough hours in the day.”


Especially when you contrast your lot in life with those who always seem to be on top of things.


There’s a reason those people are at the pinnacle – which carries me back to the “Things I Wish” column.


Here are ten very simple truths the elite time managers understand that most of us never do – no matter how hard we protest that we’re organized, that we’re balanced, or that we have everything under control.


  1. They recognize that it’s Time AND Energy Management that matters most – not just time. This means they work to optimize peak levels – and to neutralize the troughs. They align what needs to be done with when they choose to do it.
  2. They learn how to say “no.” In our Strategy Workshops we talk often about the work involved in deciding what NOT to do.  For every yes there is a corresponding no in some area of our lives – most never consider the latter…until the sacrifice becomes too great.  No is a tough word to learn – but it separates those who own their time from those controlled by it.
  3. They become masters in prioritizing – in deciding what really is MOST important – and for a great many of us, this one area represents the greatest of stumbling blocks. Ask the typical person, “Can you tell me what’s important for you today…this week…this month?” Now, contrast that with how they spend their time. Enough said.
  4. They learn to simplify. I have an abounding respect for someone early in my career journey who constantly reminded me that the power of any idea, or any project, or any business initiative usually comes down to whether you can explain it to a third grader. Now, contrast that to the “corporate speak” that dominates in many companies. I know, consultants play a big role in crafting that lexicon but believe me when I say that in a world of complexity, simplicity is a superpower.
  5. They approach time and energy as a resource – an investment and not an expenditure. Strategy is nothing more than a framework for decision making around the resources we’ll invest in order to achieve competitive advantage. Best in class professionals understand this simple tenet – and more important, they ensure their actions align.
  6. They take charge of their calendar. I have a basic test I use when I contract with a client that is struggling to manage his or her time – I ask to see their calendar. Even in this era of technology where meetings drop into our lives like spirits from another world, one glance at a calendar is a glimpse into the soul.  With special thanks to Dwight Eisenhower, his matrix has served me well for decades – even a rudimentary understanding of how to separate the all consuming Urgent from the truly Important is often a key difference maker.
  7. They put technology back into its proper place. Email was never intended to dominate our lives – neither were long distance meetings. But like a lab experiment gone terribly wrong they’ve consumed a great many. And don’t get me started on smart phones.
  8. They live the 80/20 Rule. 80% of their time devoted to the things that really matter (see Rule #3) and 20% to everything else. And if you want to challenge this interpretation of the age old Pareto Principle then you might want to simultaneously review what is important in your life. I once worked with a colleague who professed his love and devotion to family – and summarily missed every significant event in his kids’ lives.
  9. They learn how to gracefully decline meetings that render little to no return. In my book, The Compass Solution, I talk about the numerous meetings I had to learn to say “no thanks” to. It’s pretty simple really – if there is no objective for the meeting, no agenda, no clear cut explanation of why you should attend, no assigned leader and facilitator…. say no.
  10. And finally, they blow up the myth of multi-tasking. Show me someone who proudly trumpets his or her abilities there and I’ll show you someone who likely does a lot of stuff – nothing more. The goal is NOT to work harder – it’s to work smarter…and that begins with a laser focus on the task that is most important.  Solo tasking is the real goal.


If you’re like most, it likely took you around three minutes to read this article.


That represents .2% of the time you were allocated today. No more – no less.


I hope you’ll invest it wisely.


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