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Local drummer: More time in 2012

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So the festive season is upon us again and it’s time to draw up the Christmas wish list. Luckily for anyone who wants to give me a present this year, there is only one thing on my list.

Yup — just one. This year I won’t be asking for world peace, for notebooks, novels or sel- help manuals. I wont be asking for eternal youth (I realise that was a long shot), a consistent electricity supply or clean running water that actually runs from my tap.

I won’t ask for a government that works and leaders who actually lead. Nah. I realised from the experiences of the last 12 months that these wishes were all far too ambitious and so I have reduced my request to one thing. Just one thing: Time.

Now you may well think I am crazy because although we constantly talk about saving time, wasting time and making time, time actually is the one resource that we cannot save.

Unlike money, we cannot hold on to it, accumulating it for use at a later date and we cannot make time, creating it out of some other raw material.

So what we really mean when we say we need more time is that we need to increase our personal productivity, to be more efficient at scheduling and calendar management and to achieve a better work-life balance.

Management guru Jack Welsh says: “Work-life balance is a swap — a deal you’ve made with yourself about what you keep and what you give up.” In other words, decide what you want and what you are willing to give up for it. That involves sacrifice.

The issue of sacrifice is a tough one, but many of the most important decisions we make come down to this: You have to give up the things you want for the things that you want more.

Decide what the things you want more are and you are well on your way. In the end I guess it comes down to the ability to commit.

In summary Welsh says: “Outside of your work, clarify what you want from life. At work, clarify what your boss wants and understand that, if you want to get ahead, what he or she wants comes first. You can eventually get what you both want, but the arrangement will be negotiated in that context.”

(Winning by Jack Welsh with Suzy Welsh, 2005 Harper Collins)

One of the biggest consumers of our time is the perennial habit of procrastination. There are many tips to help people overcome procrastination, but in a conversation with a high-performing business leader recently I realised that the best piece of advice I’ve received on the subject is really just to get on with it.

What convinced me was him saying: “We spend so much time thinking about doing something that will take just a few minutes, dreading it, and building it up into something gruesome, when we could just do it and then it would go away.”

This is so true. Think about making a difficult phone call. The conversation itself will probably only take less than five minutes, but we can spend hours or even days thinking about it, thinking about how much we are dreading it and allowing it to sap our energy; when instead, we could just get it over and done with.

This year I bought a book called Never Check Email In The Morning And Other Unexpected Strategies For Making Work Life Work.

It’s written by New York Times best-selling author and Oprah Winfrey’s favourite organising expert, Julie Morgenstein.

The central premise of her book is that by changing the way we work, we can make significant changes to our lives, our productivity and our efficiency, and also increase the fulfilment we get from our work.

The author asserts: “Happiness at work involves liking what you’re doing and being good at it — feeling appreciated, in control, successful, and in balance.

When you get your work done, or at least conquer your most important tasks, you finish your day with a victorious sense of accomplishment.

When you leave the office on time, and not three hours into your family’s evening, or after breaking up plans to go out with friends, you feel in control.”

Many of us are familiar with the time management matrix popularised by effectiveness coach Steve Covey. This divides tasks into four quadrants, namely:

Urgent and important — These tasks need to be dealt with immediately, but shouldn’t become the space where a manager spends most of their time.

Not urgent but important — These are tasks for which we can schedule quality time, such as planning, budgeting and relationship building. Effective managers should spend most of their time in this quadrant, as it makes everything else work better and reduces firefighting.

Urgent but not important — These are things which must be dealt with immediately , but because they are not important, an probably be successfully delegated.

Not urgent and not important — Effective managers spend the least amount of time in this quadrant
Morgenstein takes this concept further further by suggest that the measure of the importance of a task should be its proximity to the revenue line.

The revenue line is the point at which the company is either making or saving money, and the tasks which are closest to this are the ones we should spend most of our time on. Her prioritising ideas seem sound and practical. Now let’s see if they work!

So I reckon with a little help from those who know better, I may in fact be able to get the Christmas present I long for: More time in 2012.

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to localdrummer@newsday.co.zw. Follow Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer

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