The ball appeared so much larger than she was at the time, yet she hefted it up on her shoulder and awkwardly moved forward with a plan of intention on her face. It was family night and my wife and I had taken our daughters’ bowling… our youngest was tiny, but determined to give those pins the business!
Unproductive Time and Dark Places
As the bowling ball was slowly dropped on the lane and started its path toward the pins, it slowly began to meander to the right and gradually drifted off course until hitting the bumpers and finally coming to rest in the gutter. Unable to break free from the invisible pull of gravity, it was compelled and resigned to its final resting place, behind the action, unproductive and in a mysterious dark place. As she turned to look at us, we both gave her a reassuring high five and said, “that’s alright, you will get it next time!”
Time Bumpers Keep Us On Track
If you have ever been in leadership, you understand the demands that can be placed upon your time as you lead others. Some of those demands are pressing and require more attention and effort than others. However, many of those time demands can be mitigated by a few bumpers like I described earlier. Just like the bumpers provided a sort of guide to my daughter’s bowling ball when it started to get off track, leaders can benefit from those same guides as they begin to get off track in order to come back before being resigned to the dark and mysterious place of ineffective leadership and diminished productivity.
Key Practices to Avoid Time Traps
Here are three key practices that will help leaders avoid time traps that lead to challenges when leading others.
1. You must get real about what your priorities are as you lead and carry out your responsibilities. This can sometimes be the most insidious of the challenges to your time. An inability to accurately assess the actual time needed from you to complete activities leads to a never ending cycle of running on the treadmill to complete each task that appears or every fire that springs up. Instead, a leader must prioritize until its painfully clear what is expected and then gain the necessary help to complete tasks outside of their purview.
2. Do not become a slave to doing things by rote. In other words, leverage productivity tools and the institutional knowledge of your teams to find new and creative ways to provide solutions to challenges and opportunities. Its when you get bogged down in the mundane (Get out of your own way!) that you encounter ineffectiveness because you run in proverbial circles trying to overcome a challenge that you cannot win alone.
3. Engage in self-leadership while being smart in the process. For example, a leader must demonstrate and embrace a tremendous work ethic that is borderline obsessive when it comes to being focused on outcomes and ultimately success. Furthermore, it will take tremendous discipline and internal motivation to make those outcomes and success a reality. However, their must be balance…a leader must not say yes to everything, or they will move into a place of self-sabotage because they will eventually hit a wall.The leader that is engaging in self-leadership must be intentional about building in times for reflection and renewal no matter the pressing demands of the day.
Point of Clarity Quote:
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar