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What's the time telling you?

Posted by Aubrey Warren on 18 September 2018
At some point when we were young we learned to tell the time. For those of us of a certain age that meant working out what the "big hand" and the "little hand" on the clock meant. In the digital age it's more a case of interpreting the numbers I guess.

Being able to "tell the time" is an important skill. It helps us schedule, plan, monitor, and coordinate our activities with others. A sense of time helps us develop patterns of activity and daily rhythms. Being able to "tell the time" also gives us a sense of presence of knowing where we are in relation to what needs to be done and what's happening around us.

Time has increasing value as we mature and our responsibilities increase. The carefree days of childhood become demanding schedules to be met. Our time becomes increasingly precious as we realise how much there is to do and how finite it is.

And that means that being able to tell the time is only one part of our relationship with the minutes and hours on the clock. Because each day the time is also telling us something.

How you spend your time is a reflection of what is most important to you, what has most value, what has your attention. And sometimes those minutes and hours tell a different story to what we might wish.

"Tell me what you value and I might believe you," said the later Peter Drucker. "But show me your calendar and your bank statement and I'll show you what you really value."

So, what is your time telling you?

Our daily schedules and activities tell the story of our lives. If it's true that our future is created by our daily routine, how is the future shaping up? What positive seeds are being consciously planted and nurtured within our daily activities? And, to extend the metaphor a little, what "weeding" of our schedules might need to be done to protect the things of value that have been planted?

We often talk about "spending" time. But we also know that it's important to "invest" our time. Time is easily spent and how we spend it says something about how we value it. Often the urgent, immediate, easy or trivial captures our attention and wastes our time. (And sometimes those activities also extract ongoing payments, with interest.)

It can be harder to invest time than to simply spend it, but we know it's crucial to not only creating a future but also to living a life aligned with what we value.

So, where do you or can you invest a bit more time in the things you value and in the future you want to create? How can you protect that time, expand that time or create that time even if it's only a matter of minutes to start with?

"The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda," counsels leadership writer John Maxwell.

That daily agenda not only creates (or hinders) our success, but also communicates to others what we deem "success" and achievement to be. Our use of time tells others what we value.

In The Leadership Challenge, Barry Posner and James Kouzes relate this to the "signals" leaders send through how they spend their time. "How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator of what's important to you," they say. "Visibly spending time on what's important shows you're putting your money where your mouth is. Whatever your values are, they have to show up in your calendar and on meeting agendas for people to believe that those values are significant."

An occasional calendar audit and/or a meeting audit can provide a good check-up on how we're using our time budget and how our use of time is communicating our values and priorities to others. Is it telling the story we want it to tell?

Our time is applied primarily through our presence, attention and energy. These are vital resources in influencing others. People trust what they see and experience. Where do we place our presence? To what (and whom) do we give our attention? To what to we apply our energy? And what messages are those behaviours sending?

When we're young we learn to tell the time. As we mature we learn to use and manage time. And as we seek to lead the lives we aspire to we need to consciously tell ourselves that time must not only be spent but invested in the things we value.

And as leaders, we must be conscious of how, where, when and with whom we are spending and investing our time each day, because our use of time tells others what is (really) important.

We all know the saying "Time will tell". And it does. Every day. So what's your time telling you?


Aubrey Warren

Situational Leadership® Master Trainer and Australia and New Zealand Affiliate for the Center for Leadership Studies

© Copyright Aubrey Warren 2018

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