By Larry Bonfante
I have coached a large number of executive clients over the past few years. On many occasions I give them “homework” assignments to complete before our next session. On more than one occasion I’ve had a client admit that they did not complete their assignment. When I ask why, I almost always get the same response: “I didn’t have the time.” I would argue that, in our fast-paced society, time is perhaps our scarcest resource. It is also the resource that we cannot recapture (you can recoup lost money, but I’ve never met anyone who’s figured out how to create more time). Each of us has the same 24 hours a day to work with.
My friends and colleagues often marvel at how I find time to balance being a CIO, running an executive coaching practice, raising a family, getting together with friends, and playing in a band. I’ll admit that as I write these words I feel exhausted just thinking about it all! However, here are three suggestions to ensure that you invest your time so it produces the greatest payoff.
My first suggestion is taking the time to determine your priorities. What really matters to you? I often ask the clients who tell me they don’t have time what would happen if, while running a major project, they received a call that their child was in a hospital emergency room. To a person, the answer is always the same: they would drop whatever they were doing and drive to the hospital to be with their child. You see, the issue isn’t finding more time, it’s deciding what matters most to you and making the decision to invest your precious time on those things (and those people) that matter most. I always make time to get together with my friends. I’ve always made time to do things with my family. It’s a matter of prioritization.
My second suggestion is to use the same discipline you use in scheduling your work priorities. I guarantee you that each person reading this article has recurring meetings that are set in stone in their calendars. Perhaps it’s a monthly staff meeting or a monthly meeting with your manager. Well, then, why don’t we schedule the things that matter to us? I once had a client who told me he needed to master a certain competency, but lacked the time to do so. I forced him to block an hour each week in his calendar to work on this issue. Only a true emergency would be reason enough to forego this commitment. After six months he had created enough time to truly start to improve this competency. Any athlete will tell you that success requires discipline.
Finally, I challenge you to keep a diary of how you spend your time over the course of the next week. When people ask me how I manage to keep so many balls in the air I tell them that while they are watching Survivor (or The Amazing Race or The Bachelor or any of the other nonsense that we call reality TV), I am on a call with a client helping him or her work on their leadership competencies. I believe I read somewhere that the average American watches four hours of TV a day. Talk about a bad investment of time!
Time management comes down to knowing what matters to you and having the discipline to invest your limited time in the things that are priorities. As the old expression goes, “put your money (or your time!) where your mouth is.”
About the Author
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.