In more than 25 years of leadership, if I were to identify the single area in which I’ve grown the most I would have no hesitation in my answer.
It would be in learning how to invest time.
When I look back at my earlier days in leadership I cringe at how I mishandled this precious commodity. But through wise mentors and through years of trial and error I can look back on extensive growth with respect to this vital skill.
The secret, I’ve learned, is to understand time through four vital lenses:
I’ve learned that as a leader you are either a time waster, a time loser, a time spender, or a time investor.
So where do you land?
To find out, think through Steven Covey’s legendary “4 quadrants”. Every activity in which you engage will be a combination of urgent or not urgent (something requiring immediate attention) and important and not important (something related to your goals and plans).
- Not Urgent and Not Important: TIME WASTING
These activities are neither time sensitive nor relevant to your goals. These are pleasant time fillers, day dreaming, and so on.
This is time you never get back. It’s frittered away with meaningless activity.
- Urgent and Not Important: TIME LOSING
These activities include responding to urgent demands (a ringing phone, someone walking into your office) but which might not be connected to your priorities.
At least someone else benefited from your time, but for you the time is lost, and that’s a poor exchange.
- Urgent and Important: TIME SPENDING
These activities are very time sensitive and are related to your goals and plans. These are emergencies and other frantic activities driven to meet a tight deadline.
It’s related to your priorities, so this time is not a total loss. But, as Covey points out, urgent and important activities sometimes reflect poor planning and, as such, are not the optimal activities for an effective leader.
- Not urgent and Important: TIME INVESTING
Students of Covey will recognize “Quadrant 2” immediately, and will know this is where you want to invest your time. This is where your time has the greatest return to your leadership.
These activities, such as strategic planning, team building and goal setting, is where the highest levels of leadership take place. Your activities here are the purest investment of time.
You can’t change the level of natural leadership talent you have. But what you can control is how you deploy your time.
Think through these quadrants and you could become as shrewd an investor as any leader.
How do you invest your leadership time?