Life is like a coin. You can spend it anyway you wish, but you can only spend it once. So make sure you spend it wisely.
Many years ago, I met a person who gave me a word of advice that I’ll never forget. He said, “In life, you either have results or excuses.”
I think he was right. But these days … his advice would not be considered “politically correct.” After all, almost everyone these days seems to have a “justifiable” excuse for his/her own lack of results.
Nonetheless, I still think his comment is worthy of consideration … that “In life, you either have results or excuses.”
Think about his comment, and then think about all the people you know. How many of them get all the results they’d like? I’d venture to say … not very many of them. And I’d also venture to say that one of the main reasons they don’t get all the results they’d like is poor time management.
As a consultant and speaker to many, many organizations, I see it all the time. I see lots of activity … with paltry results. I see people racing to meetings, and I see projects spinning out of control. I see people feeling overwhelmed, living in crisis mode, thinking that every task that crosses their path is somehow “important.”
If that sounds like you, then it’s TIME to do something about it. Here’s what I recommend.
=> 1. Take time to define what’s really, really important.
As psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson puts it, “It’s all too easy to climb the ladder of ‘success’ to a destination that isn’t worth reaching!” And later he adds, “Blind efficiency is a trap; you can be very good at doing something no one now needs!”
Or as I tell my audiences, you may be busy, but you may not be accomplishing anything that really counts … if you haven’t taken the time to figure what’s important and what isn’t. Without some pre-thought, you’ll end up with a busy job and a cluttered life, but you may never have a meaningful career or a fulfilling relationship.
You need more than busyness or even efficiency. You need discernment. Best-selling author Stephen R. Covey says, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
Once you’ve figured out what’s the right wall or what’s really, really important, then you need to…
=> 2. Start your day with a 6-pack.
You see … everybody has a million things they could put on their “To Do” lists. That’s never a problem.
The problem is how you spend your time on a daily basis. If you spend your time reacting or overreacting to things as they pop up, you’ve got a problem. If you allow distractions and interruptions to steal your focus, you’ve got a problem. And if you end up wondering where the day went or wondering why you never get anything done, you’ve got a problem.
To get away from those problems, get a 6-pack. Identify the 6 most important things … or the 6 highest value items … on your possible “To Do” list, and focus on those 6 things for the day.
Forget about those “To Do” lists that are longer than your arm. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. You can’t get it all done, so make some trade-off decisions. Be brave. If necessary, enlist your boss in making those trade-off decisions. Do less to achieve more.
=> 3. Keep your priorities visible.
You know the old slogan … “Out of sight, out of mind.” It’s so true when it comes to time management and goal achievement. If you don’t keep your 6-pack clearly in view, you’ll be tempted to work on other things and never get to your 6-pack. You’ve got to keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.
As 20th century novelist Kathleen Norris put it, “Before you begin a thing, remind yourself that difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead. You can only see one thing clearly, and that is your goal. Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin.”
If that sounds too theoretical for you, try Jim Meisenheimer’s method. He’s one of the most effective sales trainers and time managers I’ve ever come across. When I visited his office, I noticed a 2 x 3 foot white board mounted on an easel directly across from his desk. On the white board, prominently displayed, were his 6 priorities for the day. It’s no wonder he gets so much done; his goals are staring him in the face all day long. And the same thing should be said about your goals.
=> 4. Pause and reflect.
Even if you put your goals in front of you, you’re still going to be tempted to stray off task. You’re going to be confronted with dozens of supposedly urgent crises that need to be handled immediately.
When that happens, pause. Catch your breath. Call time out. Disconnect from the frenzy. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in the rip tide. Stop running and take time to pause and reflect.
Once again, clarify what’s really important. And then focus on the vital few instead of the trivial many.
=> 5. Make time for peace and quiet as well as education and inspiration.
Even though people are constantly complaining about the lack of peace and quiet in their lives, they indiscriminately give away what little peace and quiet they still have left. They give away their cell phone numbers to just about any Tom, Dick, and Harry … “just in case you need to get a hold of me” … or to every customer … “should you have any questions.” Even though Meisenheimer is in sales, he says that’s crazy, “You may as well go to a Tattoo Parlor and get 24/7 printed on your forehead when you give everybody your cell number.”
And if you’ve got any type of job that requires you to commute to work, you’re probably spending one to three hours every day engaged in some sort of commuting activity. Now, on the one hand, that could look like a colossal waste of time, and it probably is if you spend all that time listening to the radio, the news, or some talk show … because none of those activities will add a nickel to your bottom line or extra effectiveness to your daily life.
But on the other hand, those one to three hours of commuting time could be a tremendous source of education and inspiration … if you turn your car or bus/train seat into a classroom. Bring some educational and inspirational CDs with you and listen to them for at least 15 minutes of your commuting time each and every day. You’ll be amazed at the energy, insights, and motivation they give you … and the rest of your day becomes so much more productive.
That’s what David Foster from Dayspring Church learned. He writes, “The combination of your book ‘PIVOT’ and audio CDs have made quite a difference in my life. So thank you for what you are doing! Tremendous!”
And Peggy Osterbeck from Michigan affirms that. She says, “I love your work, Dr. Zimmerman! I listened to your ‘ATTITUDE’ CD for over a year, along with your CDs on ‘GOALS’ and ‘SUBLIMINAL HEALTH.’ I tell everyone I know about your work, because I am so very grateful to have you with me every day … through the use of your CDs. You’ve come into my life, my car, my work, and my home through the use of your CDs. I take them everywhere so I can listen to them whenever I wish. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And God bless you and your family!”
After she wrote me that note, Peggy went on to order the 8-pack CD audio album of “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success.” With the audio version of the book, you can listen to it any time you want.
Remember, in life you either get results or make excuses. So I would urge you to get your copy of the “PIVOT” audio album so the rest of your time brings better results.