Killing Time is a Felony (or Should Be!)

On the heels of a full-day workshop about personal productivity led by Michelle Prince, I was inspired to ask this question.  “With time being the precious commodity that it is, why do we treat it with such reckless abandon? ”  Maybe there should be a severe penalty for killing time.  Then it dawned on me.  Wasteful use of time is it’s own penalty, like burning money!  How can we stop doing this?   (Enter Michelle Prince.)

Time Blocking Means Scheduling What’s Important

Thinking back on what Michelle taught us about Time Blocking, I had another thought.  Imagine your favorite band is coming to town in two weeks and you’ve never heard them in-person.  You wonder, this can’t be the first announcement. How come I’m just now hearing about it?  While questioning your predicament you immediately go online desperately hoping that a few seats might still be available.  Hooray!  You discover two unclaimed adjoining seats near the back row.  Without hesitation, you break the all-time speed record for online purchases.

After a sigh of relief, you check your calendar to see if anything has to be rescheduled.  First things second, right?  But, maybe you aren’t the type to be caught up in the moment, meaning you had the good sense to check your calendar BEFORE buying the tickets.  Regardless, here’s the important question.  If something else was scheduled on the day of the concert, what would you do?  Remember, it’s your favorite band.  You would reschedule what’s important to make room for the concert.

My imagination continued to churn, this time in a different direction.  Suppose your favorite band had to cancel.  Would you clear your calendar until the rain check date was announced?  Of course not!  Yet, how many real opportunities do we miss because we keep our calendars open for unknown opportunities that might never happen?

Simple is as Simple Does

Productive people faced with an opportunity begin with one simple action.  They schedule what is important as soon as it appears on the radar screen and reschedule conflicting priorities as needed to keep them on the calendar.  Admittedly, this approach does fill the calendar quicker and occasionally requires cancelling a priority.  However, I would wager that this happens far less often than we fear.  The important thing to remember is this:

“What gets scheduled gets done.  What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done.”
— Michael Hyatt

Scheduling forms the commitment.  What other behaviors do people exhibit when they are committed?  They tell people about their decision.  They invest money in it.   They visualize what it will be like.  They make plans.  They prepare.  Without these behaviors there is no importance and no commitment.  Sadly, they are left with one more option on the pile of discarded opportunities.  An unimportant opportunity rejected intentionally is sensible.  An important one missed by poor scheduling is tragic.

Self-Talk: The Enemy of Importance

Let’s look at an example of “importance.”  Is your family important to you?  What’s important to your family?  Certainly your time.  If you are the breadwinner in your family your income is important.  In turn, that would assign importance to your capacity to earn future income, which leads to your next question.  “What am I doing to protect and increase my capacity to earn a living for my family?”  You might discover that strategic investments in yourself are long overdue.  It’s time for action!

After this sort of reflection, expect your self-talk to jump in.  “I realize that I want and need this.  But, there’s plenty of time to make it happen so, I’ll revisit it when the time gets closer.  I’ll make a note to myself.  This way, if a better offer comes up, I won’t have to rearrange my schedule and apologize for canceling.  Besides, there will probably be other opportunities when I’m not so busy.  The benefits might have to wait.”

Truth #1: We Schedule What We Value.

When two conflicting opportunities collide, we schedule around them.  Scheduling is seldom an either/or proposition.  When we are creative, we can usually find a way to make both things happen.  Instead of sacrificing, we adjust.

Truth #2: It’s Easy to Confuse “Importance” with “Interesting.”

Success means giving preferential treatment to that which is important over that which is merely interesting.  The negative alternative is settling for interesting, low-value opportunities, including nothing at all.  Temptation is that seductive stimulus that preys on people’s inability to differentiate between importance and interesting.  As a result, people are drawn to what seems important in the moment,  but turn out to be less important, even harmful.  Successful people have the will and the skill to recognize what is truly important and make appropriate choices.  They do this by reprogramming their values to make the important interesting.

Truth #3: Most Important Things Can be Rescheduled.

Highly effective people routinely adjust their calendars.  Because they are committed to maintaining a full calendar based on their priorities, they will inevitably find competing priorities that conflict with one another.  They realize that productivity begins with a flexible calendar, filled with the most important opportunities.  If something is important enough to be on the calendar, it’s worth rescheduling to make room for other priorities.  This is a must-have attitude for enjoying a rich, highly effective life.

A Lesson in Flexibility

Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself and others more often.  Is life an endless series of either/or propositions?  For example, do we really have to choose between a customer appointment and an investment in ourselves?  Maybe, but probably not.  What if a customer wants to meet you on Friday morning?  If the requested day and time are open, you schedule it.  If not, you suggest a different time or adjust your calendar.  You have the power to choose.  So often we make things more complicated than necessary by imagining what the customer might think, say or do if we suggest a different time or have to call back to reschedule.  That’s fear speaking.  Instead of listening to the speculation of our imaginations, why not reach out to the customer and ask a question like this?  “Mr. Customer, I have a conflict.  Would it be inconvenient for you if we choose another time that works for you?  I have both an early and a late opening on Wednesday.  Would either of these be convenient?”

Here’s a real-life example.  It was Friday afternoon, several years ago when I called Chuck for an appointment to discuss a home-remodeling project.  I was the prospective customer.  Chuck was pleased to take my call and suggested Tuesday afternoon.  I explained, that was too late, because I already had a quote and a signed contract that would take effect on Tuesday.  I needed his quote before then.  After a brief pause, Chuck said, “I can be meet with you at 6:30 this evening.”  His professionalism and flexibility were key factors in earning my business.

Here’s the point.  I didn’t know what was on Chuck’s calendar — I did know what was on mine.  Here’s what I do know.  When we understood each others’ time parameters and priorities we were able to schedule an appointment with the help of importance-based time-blocking.

A Challenge for Change

How many opportunities do we miss because we don’t schedule what’s important?  How often are we afraid to reschedule an appointment assuming people will be upset by a rescheduling request?  Just maybe, the original appointment has become inconvenient for them, too and they would welcome your request to reschedule.  Does fear of the unknown drive our actions or have we learned that reasonable people will make reasonable adjustments?

Here are four challenge questions for you.

  1. Do you understand what is truly important to you and those in your circle of influence?
  2. Do you schedule first what is most important?  (see: Big Rocks)
  3. Are you willing to reschedule as needed to maximize your time according to your priorities?
  4. What will you do differently as a result of reading this and thinking about it?

CLICK HERE for opportunities that might belong on your calendar.

Your Excellency!

The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Your Excellency!” Even those who never come in contact with royalty know what these words mean. Well, get used to a brand new meaning because they are now my battle cry for you and a call to arms against the dragons that are impeding your quest toward professional excellence. Maybe your dragons are named “Rut” and “Grudge.” Or maybe they are known as “Pride” and “Rigid.” Thankfully, there are attitudes, behaviors, and principles of professionalism that will equip you to slay them. This post in particular will help sharpen your battle axe and fill any chinks in your armor. Add them to your arsenal and get to work on “Your Excellency!”

Adaptability/Flexibility

Professionals will bend when they need to bend and stand firm when they need to stand firm. The challenge is understanding which attitude is appropriate for which circumstances.

“The definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior and expecting a different result.” — Alcoholics Anonymous

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Stay committed to your decisions but, stay flexible in your approach.” — Tom Robbins

Patience

People who orient their lives around accomplishment, who are driven by achievement, often have to work harder than others to develop patience. Perhaps it’s because when they visualize outcomes, they overlook the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get there. Maybe it’s because they do not foresee certain challenges or they underestimate the level of effort required.    In any case, without patience, frustration sets in. Patience is a sobering virtue that adds realism to expectations. As long as patience does not become a substitute for action, it is an irreplaceable virtue needed to achieve professionalism.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” — Saint Augustine

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” — Chinese proverb

“For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.”

— Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Commitment/ Determination/Resolve

One of the worst habits anyone can form is the habit of giving up. When things get difficult, it’s not the time to quit. Struggling through difficulties, trying again and again after multiple failures is where the learning and improvement occur. Success follows failure. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing.

“If at first you succeed, try something harder.” — John C. Maxwell

It’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty which failure will precede success. What is certain is that every time you quit, you are forfeiting success.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese Proverb

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” — Anonymous

Growing up, we had a rule in our family. No one was allowed to quit. It wasn’t as much a rule as it was an understanding. It meant, if I went out for football and made the team, I had to finish the season. If I was injured, I would be expected to sit on the bench (where I spent most of my time anyway) and support my teammates. It was acceptable to not go out the following year. But, finishing meant completing the season.

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James

Quitting is no minor thing. It always means breaking a promise to one’s self.  It usually means breaking a promise to others, too.  Here’s some food for thought: is quitting also breaking a promise to God?

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Loyalty is another word for commitment, usually referring to a relationship toward a person or a group of people, such as a team or an institution.

“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life” — Napoleon Hill

An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.” — Elbert Hubbard

“A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” — Robert Benchley

Champions are those who take commitment to an entirely different level. They have a do-or-die attitude. No failure, mistake, or hurdle is bigger than the desire they have to achieve their dreams. When people tell them, “It’s okay, you gave it your all.” they dig deeper and find a little bit more to give. Their dream is bigger than their doubts, fears, pain, and excuses.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’” — Anonymous

“Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.” — Anonymous

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” — Newt Gingrich

Trying new things is generally a good thing. People should always be willing to get out of their comfort zones for new experiences. However, there is a difference between “trying” and “committing.” Too often people walk away from something and say, “Oh well, I tried.” Did they really try? Or was it a half-hearted attempt? Did they start off with a built-in excuse? They next time you are faced with an opportunity, be resolute. Instead of saying, “I’ll try.” say, “I will!” That’s a commitment.

Assertiveness/Self-Assurance

Being assertive is sometimes confused with being aggressive, pushy, or rude. Once a person understands that ideas, principles, and opinions can be expressed in both a direct and respectful way, he is able to imagine the benefits of professional assertiveness.

“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others.” — Sharon Anthony Bower

Assertiveness takes form in all of the ways that define who we are: thoughts, words, and deeds.

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” — Attributed to Shakti Gawain

While becoming an assertive person is a personal decision, it is also unlikely to be a quick transition. Raw assertiveness tends to grow gradually in direct proportion to increases in confidence.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” — Arthur Ashe

“Self-confidence is the memory of success” — Anonymous

Discretion/Prudence

Professionalism requires assertiveness to be tempered with professional attitudes and behaviors such as kindness, forethought, and patience. With these well in hand, professionals are prepared to balance assertiveness with tact.

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” — Sir Isaac Newton

“Forethought and prudence are the proper qualities of a leader.” — Publius Cornelius Tacitus

“Wit without discretion is a sword in the hand of a fool” — Spanish Proverb

“The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life” — William Shakespeare

“Discretion in speech is more important than eloquence” — English Proverb

There’s a special instance of discretion that involves appropriate use of private information. Let me be blunt — gossip is not a feature of professionalism.

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” — Jewish Proverb

“If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” — Alice Duer Miller

“Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” — Spanish Proverb

“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” — Frank A. Clark

“Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.” — Shana Alexander

“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”

— Edward Wallis Hoch

Finally, before setting out to slay your personal dragons, there’s a Biblical perspective to take into account.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;”

— Bible, Ephesians 6:10-17

Armed with these added tools of professionalism, you can be more prepared to someday say to yourself, “Welcome, your excellency!”

God bless,

— CC

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