Monday, July 11, 2011

WM #10 : Either you run the day or the day runs you.

I read this quote today: 
Either you run the day or the day runs you.
~Jim Rohn

As managers, leaders, teachers, students, parents, ... human being, we are often directed by everyone but ourselves. The proverbial 'fires' that sprout up every few minutes and demand our attention versus the other way around. Today - being Monday - this quote from famous life strategist Jim Rohn really resonated with me.  

During adolescents our schedules are dictated to us versus the other way around - and this is for a reason - because you know that children and students are often not yet disciplined enough to make their own schedules (I think I'll schedule Microbiology at 8:00 a.m. on Monday because I will never party the previous weekend and need to have late classes on Monday!). When I was an undergraduate at Washington State University, my 8:00 a.m. class every Tuesday and Thursday was Philosophy 101. WHY DIDN'T I drop that class! Probably because it was a pre-requisite for Abnormal Psychology and I had no other course choices - I was a victim of someone else's schedule. I did poorly in that class.

We all can recall looking forward to the ultimate freedom of creating our own schedules; when and where we want to be and do. Huh!? Does it really work that way? Sick kids, disorganized bosses, urgent phone calls, doctors/dentists office hours, etc.... Life is too complicated and it is filled with other human beings who fail to heed schedules or those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who do and force us to use them. We are a product of our environment and it is drilled into our brain since birth - when to eat, sleep, sit, study, and play. Then BOOM - you are on your own baby!

If this is your struggle, as it is for me, do the following right now: list all tasks that are important for you to accomplish during the course of this month (starting today). Example: an article that needs to be written, schedule car tune-up, a budget completed, talk with poor performer on your, a presentation that needs to be outlined. Everything that is a must do but is easy to put off - write them all down and prioritize one through ten or whatever length of your list. (If you have a list of over twenty things - OK - quit micromanaging and delegate - shesh!)

Now, give yourself a deadline for each of these items. In school we have forced deadlines (mid terms, finals, advisor office hours). Force yourself to do this - realistic or not, you may not know because of others that are involved (the source of our fires) but this will force you to keep it on your radar. For example this is my list: 
  1. Practice Dissertation Proposal conference call with Accountability Partner - July 11 (Mon)
  2. Finish Writing WM #10 - July 11 (Mon)
  3. Finish reading "Taming the Abrasive Manager" (for possible course text) - July 13 (Weds)
  4. Download NVivo9 Software onto laptop - July 15 (Fri)
  5. Email "hello" to French students - July 16 (Sat)
  6. Finish outline short story (Invisible Fence) - July 22 (Fri)
  7. Pack for AoM in San Antonio - July 28 (Thur)
Notice that each of these are actionable and not ambiguous. This is key to ensure that there is something you are able to actually do versus something that is rather vague and non actionable. For example 'Email "hello!" to French Students' is precisely what I need to do versus "Contact students" which could have all sorts of meanings (phone, email, which students, etc.). Giving yourself very direct instructions for your list will increase the likelihood that you will DO it! 

Now, think how long will it take to complete each of these tasks? Finish outline of short story could take me one to eight hours depending upon how far I want to take it so I may consider breaking this up into pieces putting it into my schedule incrementally but I don't work that way - once I start it I have to finish it with no interruptions. Same with writing a blog - I lose the flow if I'm interrupted. So know your style of dealing with these things. Don't let others dictate it.

As managers we are often caught up in the ad hoc role of firefighter versus productive and proactive leader, organizer, and planner. If you heed this advice, you'll likely be the one forcing others to move to your schedule versus the other way around!

So why is this weird management - because few of us actually do this and accomplish it consistently thus making it a extraordinary phenomenon. Ask a few colleagues - "How many fires did you have to put out today?" Their response will be 'enlightening!'

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