Take Time

As we quickly approach the holiday season and the frenzied feelings it brings, we should compel ourselves to take personal inventory of our time management skills.  We are constantly pulled in many directions during the course of any “typical” day.  It’s how we handle not only the unexpected but our ordinary tasks that will determine how successful our day will be.  We need to be especially cognizant of this during the holiday season, when our personal and professional schedules are even more difficult to balance effectively.

John Wooden once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”  As you progress through your daily routine, try to keep in mind that you’re better off spending a few  more minutes getting it ”right” the first time.  If you’re pressed for time to begin with, you certainly can’t afford wasting time repeating the tasks.  My mentor once posed an interesting question when we were discussing my time management concerns:  “Is there a negative effect if you don’t complete what you’re working on?”  When I answered, “Most likely, no,” he responded: “Then put it to the side and work on something that will.”  I think of that exchange at least once a day and have shared it with others, as it keeps me focused on what is important.

Too often, our schedules are so packed that we find it difficult to find time that isn’t spoken for.  While this is unavoidable at times, there is still an inherent need for a little down time during the day.  Whether it’s taking  lunch, going to the gym, going for a walk, etc., the mind needs a change of scenery to recharge and re-energize.  Lorraine Hansberry said, “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  Although it sounds very elementary, when is the last time you actually sat down for a few minutes to just think?  If you have to pause to contemplate the answer, then it hasn’t been anytime recently.  The most successful people, in life and in business, tend to be people who always have great ideas, new insights, and a fresh perspective.  Those same people all have one thing in common: they take the time to meditate and re-evaluate their environment and surroundings.  They make the time to think about what can be changed for the better.

An important aspect of taking time to reflect is recognizing those tendencies, habits, and behaviors which need improvement.  Each of us has traits that we know could improve from some refinements.  Unfortunately, taking time for ourselves is usually last on our list of priorities.  Always make time for yourself.  It’s not selfish, nor greedy.  Rather, it’s very necessary if you want to become better both professionally and personally.  You will always be pulled in different directions and endless interruptions will never cease.  If you don’t make the time for yourself to become better, you will never be better.

William Penn said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”   How will you use your time?

Your Time is a Gift

Unfortunately, the holiday season has become too commercialized and focused on all the wrong things.  We have become desensitized to its true meaning.  The retail marketplace started putting up Holiday decorations after Halloween in an effort to salvage what has been a dismal year for them.  Soon, we’ll be concerned with making sure we have everyone checked off our gift list, sending back party RSVPs, and mailing holiday greetings to friends and family.  I must caution you to take pause before this frenzy happens and consider the following:  you have the opportunity to give an incredible gift that will leave a lasting impression long after the presents have been opened, the parties visited and greetings exchanged – you have the opportunity to give your time and effort.  No one is more appreciated in the world than someone who donates their time with the goal of lightening the burden of another or advancing a common cause.

There are too many worthwhile volunteer organizations to list here, but all would surely welcome your time and talents.  Elizabeth Andrew said, “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”  This is the mantra of all people I know who volunteer on a regular basis.  Whether it’s a charitable organization, trade or professional association, or place of worship, all would sincerely appreciate any time you have to spare.  Though balancing our personal and professional schedules is an ever growing challenge, supporting a volunteer effort will leave you fulfilled beyond belief and with the strong desire to give even more of yourself.  No one volunteers hoping to receive accolades or credit.  We find an initiative we sincerely believe in and hope that we are able to make a small difference in its progression.

While it is true that all charities need financial support, most need volunteer support just as much, if not more.  Meals aren’t delivered to the needy on their own; shelters cannot clothe the unfortunate without assistance; industry initiatives are not advanced without intellectual support and fresh ideas; society does not improve as a whole without true, honest, good-hearted help.  Sherry Anderson said, “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”  There aren’t many better descriptions than this.  We don’t get paid but we certainly never, ever feel worthless or unappreciated.  Though most would disagree being called priceless, those who rely on the efforts of volunteers would state we are exactly that: priceless.

Tom Brokaw said it best:  “It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”  Everyone wants to feel as though they have contributed toward achieving a goal.  Everyone wants to feel a sense of accomplishment, that they have made a difference.  Unfortunately, not everyone realizes you are able to experience those tremendous feelings through simply giving of yourself.  Find a cause that speaks to you and get behind it as best you can.  Even a few hours a month will make a difference.  Be bold and lead by example.  Remind colleagues, friends, and family that the holiday season is about appreciating what you do have.  Show them that this appreciation is truly achieved by helping others for no reason other than just to help.

This holiday season, I urge you to give your time and energy as a gift.  Show you’re willing to exemplify the true meaning of the spirit of holiday season.  Make a difference.  There is nothing stronger than the heart and willingness of a volunteer.

As an encouragement to others, please let us know to which charities you’ve donated your time and energy and, more importantly, how you felt after giving of yourself.

Small Difference Between Victory and Defeat

Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try but it’s the continual effort which drives us toward that goal.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to continually encourage our colleagues to maintain the high level of effort required to reach the team’s goals.  Though it can be hard to convince people to keep pushing forward, to not give up, I’m reminded of Napoleon Hill’s words: “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”

Below are some thoughts/facts which I refer to whenever I feel the desire to give up.  They are from S.L. Parker’s “212, the extra degree.”

  • In the 10-year period between 1997 and 2006 the average margin of victory in the Daytona 500 was just .175 seconds.  The additional prize dollars for first place: 60%.
  • The average margin of victory between 1982 and 2006 (25 years) in all tournaments on the PGA tour was less than three strokes – less than a one stroke difference per day.
  • During the 2004 Summer Olympics, the margin of victory between a gold medal and no metal was .06 seconds in the Women’s 800 Meter (running); 28 centimeters in the Men’s Long Jump and only 3 centimeters in the Women’s Long Jump.

Peter Brook once said, “Never stop.  One always stops as soon as something is about to happen.”  The next time you sense that you, or your colleagues, may be close to stopping, remind them of the facts above.  Let them see that often it’s a small effort that makes the biggest difference.

Be Careful Not to Stretch Your Personnel

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” – Peter F. Drucker

As we continue to embark on the journey toward an anticipated economic recovery, the ability to “stretch resources” has become a popular catch phrase.  While it is most prudent to conserve our expenditures and outlays in the interest of survival, we must be cautious to not begin to ask our employees to do the impossible – become “geniuses or supermen” – in their attempt to do more with less.  All employees want personal success while helping to contribute to the success of the corporation.  Without the proper resources, their innate desire to succeed will surely dwindle.

Most employees welcome a career that is challenging yet fair.  Their expectations of having the necessary resources to meet those challenges head on are not unreasonable.  As we all know, a good leader has the ability to test people’s ability to think differently, approach a task from a different angle, and increase their creative potential.  This is now most crucial as we may be asking our most valuable resources – our employees – to do more with less.  We need to find that utopia of creative involvement without appearing overbearing.  If we are able to achieve this, our employees will be wiser, better, and more successful when we return to a regular level of business.

While the worst may not yet be over, it is imperative we use this time wisely to encourage our people to better themselves, become stronger, and be ready for the days that lay ahead.  Challenge others to become better while the opportunity presents itself during this slow time.  Give them guidance and suggestions on how to approach their review for the exam and offer your help, if possible, should they need it.  Better your organizations and chapters by empowering your employees and colleagues to better themselves.

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”  – Peter F. Drucker