Time gambit

Walt Disney was once asked about the amazing speed of building the first Disney theme park: “How did you do this in 365 days?” a baffled reporter asked. “Well,” replied Walt Disney dryly, “we used all of them.”

Future business success will revolve around your highest and best use of time. Effective leaders have mastered the art of the time gambit. A small sacrifice to gain a much larger result is called a gambit in chess. The way you sacrifice your time today, will determine your results six months from now. I expect this connection only to accelerate and it will open huge opportunities to stand out in the marketplace. From my work with outstanding executives, three areas are significant for any leader to quickly make a difference.

First, prime chunks rule. It means that only small chunks of time are important to create outstanding results. For example, while crossing the Atlantic, an airline pilot only needs to have peak performance in less than 10% of the total flight time: during take-off, landing and emergencies. If you want to become a better pilot, these are the three areas you need to focus on. The same is true for business leaders. Which activities need to be done well for the enterprise and can only be done by you? Next, how will you organize your time to give these activities sufficient focus?

Second, your effort to break Parkinson’s Law will become essential. Parkinson’s law says that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. This law implies that we use the total scheduled amount of time to do a task. For instance, if we have scheduled a one-hour meeting, the team meets for one hour, regardless of whether we achieve the objectives of the meeting earlier than the allotted time. Recently, I urged a very successful but chronically overworked client to become a lawbreaker and schedule all her meetings in half of the usual time. After a while, she noticed that the meeting outcomes were the same or even better. Nothing sharpens the mind more effectively than a pending deadline.

Third, strategic quitting will take center stage as a key leadership skill. Your ability to strategically quit activities equals your ability to succeed. Doing more is not the answer to too much to do. Instead, make sure to free-up time by strategically quitting existing activities, in order to focus on new, more important activities. The fastest way to apply strategic quitting is through elimination. It is based on the idea that the worst use of time is to do something which should not be done in the first place. In other words, to become excellent at something irrelevant. Case in point: A good client of mine was spending a huge amount of time, money and effort on writing elaborate client proposals, artfully designed and printed on the finest quality of paper. The proposal conversion rate was horrible, though. We eliminated the proposal fluff and focused on being short and to the point. Two things happened: The conversion rate of his proposals doubled and more time was left to see more prospects, thus increasing the amount of proposals.

The eminent physicist John Wheeler once said that time is nature’s way of ensuring everything doesn’t happen all at once. Contrary to what many believe, you cannot manage time: no amount of willpower or effort can reverse, stop or accelerate time. All we can manage is how we use it. The year 2017 will again have 365 days. How will you show leadership and sacrifice precious time to make extraordinary future things happen?

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