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Welcome to the People and Projects Podcast where you'll find interviews and insights on how to deliver projects and lead teams!

Nov 2, 2011

Maybe it's because I'm now in my second decade of running my business. Or it could be that our kids are getting older. But whatever the reason, it becomes more apparent to me each year that a key responsibility for us as leaders is to use our time well. For some time now I've enjoyed Peter's writing and have personally instituted many ideas from his new book.

In this premium episode I want to highlight some points from the interview with Peter about how we can better manage our time and attention.

It's not about getting everything done. It's about getting the most important things done. Peter referred to this in the interview. It's not about keeping things from falling through the cracks. In fact, he said there are some things we need to push through the cracks! I actually had a coaching client who once told me that she didn't feel comfortable going home at night until she had all her to-do's completed. I told her to buy a cot because you'll never be able to get everything done! It's OK to not have your to-do list empty. That's not the problem. The issue is when the important stuff falls victim to the trivial.

So the question becomes: are you spending your time well? That's an easy question to ask but a challenge to answer. In fact, sometimes we're so close to our day-to-day that we don't see the obvious gaps between what's really important and how we're investing the moments of our day. If you knew you only had, say, 10 years of life remaining, would you be doing the same work? Spending your days in the same way? I've had more coaching clients than you might think who basically say they're surviving in their role--tolerating it because if they did what they really wanted to they might not be able to pay their bills.

A big lesson I've learned after running a company this long is that it's not simply about can you earn the same as before. Rather, are you investing your time well? Are you leveraging your strengths? In fact, are you in a position where your weaknesses aren't a big liability? Peter talks about that in his book—it's an intriguing concept. How closely does your work line up with your passions? I'm not saying it's easy to find a job that gets perfect alignment on all dimensions. However, if you're spending most of your waking, working hours tolerating the job I'd like to challenge you on that. Life is too short. What can you do to adapt your current job into something more meaningful? Or what can you do to start migrating toward something more meaningful outside your current workplace? It took me a couple years to go from "this is a good idea" to "here's my 2 weeks notice!". But thanks to the perspective of the years I am immensely thankful that I took those scary steps. I challenge you to take some time as we wind up this calendar year and to put some concerted thinking into how you can better invest your time.

So, 18 minutes. Did you catch how Peter breaks that up? 5 minutes in the morning planning the day followed by a planned interruption at the top of every hour, then a 5 minute review at night. 18 minutes. What do you think? I've been practicing the first 5 and last 5 for well over a month now and I can unquestionably say it's adding value. I adapted Peter's end of day questions and review them most nights. A practical benefit has been remembering things to be appreciative about from the day. I'm struggling to schedule the hourly interrupt primarily because I don't have a watch with an hourly chime. But I love the idea of being reminded throughout the day, "Is this the best use of my time?" and "Am I being the person I want to be?" Those are powerful questions that don't get asked often enough.

I was in a session with executive coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith last month and he sent me a copy of his end of day questions. He has 27, including questions such as "How many high-fat or sweet foods did you eat?" and "How many times did you floss?" Personally I'm not sure I could ask myself 27 questions every night but Peter's recommended ones are doable.

Remember Peter's Ignore List? There's something freeing about being clear on what you're not going to do. In project management we call these exclusions and by clearing on what's not in, we can be more clear about what's in. Here's an example of something on my Ignore List. I've learned that free keynotes tend to lead to more free keynotes! So it's rare that I'll agree to deliver a keynote for free.

Here's another: you might be surprised by how often I'm approached by friends or even strangers to join their multi-level marketing program. I have nothing against such programs philosophically--I just have resolved to not sign up for any unless they are directly related to my business. An example of that is that I love a tool named SendOutCards. I use it and tell people about it all the time. In that case, I had no problem signing up, but even then, am mostly just a user of it. Knowing what you will ignore--or say "No" to--helps provide focus and clarity.

18 Minutes is a book that has helped me and I recommend it for you. But here's a hint: almost the entire book is available for free! Most, if not all, of the chapters are posts that Peter wrote for Harvard Business Review's blog. Here's a link to all of Peter's posts. Read some of those and then, if you are connecting with his content and style, get a copy of the book.

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Thank you for being a premium subscriber to The People and Projects Podcast. Please let me know what questions you have and if there's anything I can do to help you lead and deliver. Thank you for joining me for this premium episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

Total Duration 7:12

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