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November 2006

Time Management

by Dr. John C. Maxwell

Time is precious. Ask the coach whose team is behind in the final seconds of a game. Ask the air traffic controller in charge of scheduling takeoffs and landings at a major airport. Ask the news reporter who has just received a breaking story from the AP wire. Ask the cancer patient who has recently learned they have only two months left to live.

Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have. Our days are identical suitcases—all the same size—but some can pack more into them than others. No one has a magical ability to make time, but if our lives have direction, we can make the most of the moments we have been given.

Time is more valuable than money, because time is irreplaceable. “You don’t really pay for things with money,” says author Charles Spezzano in What to Do between Birth and Death. “You pay for them with time.” We exchange our time for dollars when we go to work and then trade our dollars for everything we purchase and accumulate. In essence, all we possess can be traced back to an investment of time. Time stewardship is perhaps a leader’s greatest responsibility. In the words of Peter Drucker, “Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”

In this edition of LW, we’ll look at five characteristics of people who use time wisely. The goal of the lesson is for us to understand how to maximize the precious minutes given to us each day.

Five Characteristics of a Wise Steward of Time

#1 Purposeful

People who use time wisely spend it on activities that advance their overall purpose in life. By consistently channeling time and energy toward an overarching purpose, a person most fully realizes their potential.

We cannot reach peak performance without a peak purpose. Purpose enlivens all that we do. In fact, I believe the two greatest days in a person’s life are the day they are born and the day they discover why. Uncovering purpose helps to refine passion, focus efforts, and sharpen commitments. The cumulative result is to amplify the achievements of the wise steward of time.

#2 Committed to Values

People who use time correctly underscore their values with the time they spend. By acting in accordance with their beliefs, they find fulfillment. Failure to identify values leads to a rudderless existence in which a person drifts through life, uncertain as to what they hold dear. Clarity of values is like a beacon of light, guiding the way through life’s twists and turns.

When extended to an organization, values inspire a sense of broader purpose. They make work worthwhile. In an organization, if vision is the head and mission is the heart, then values are the soul. Values endow day-to-day operations and transactions with meaning.

#3 Attuned to Strengths

People who use time correctly play to their strengths. By doing so, they are most effective. People don’t pay for average. If your skill level is a two, don’t waste substantial time trying to improve since you’ll likely never grow beyond a four. However, if you’re a seven in an area, hone that skill, because when you become a nine, you’ve reached a rare level of expertise. As Jim Sundberg says, “Discover your uniqueness; then discipline yourself to develop it.” You are blessed with a unique set of skills and talents. Find them, refine them, and let them carry you toward success.
I have identified four main strengths in my life. I lead well, create, communicate, and network. That’s it. I stick with those strengths and avoid getting caught up in commitments outside of those areas. By narrowing my focus to four strengths, I gain the greatest return on my investments of time.

#4 Choosers of Happiness

People who use time correctly choose happiness by prioritizing relationships and recreation. While choosing happiness may seem simple and obvious, far too many leaders are trying to prove themselves and validate their worth. These leaders chase after power and prestige, and along the way, their friendships wither, their family is ignored, and they skip vacation after vacation. In the end, any success they earn is a hollow and lonely achievement.

Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness. Prioritizing time to cultivate relationships is a hallmark of a healthy leader. Likewise, scheduling leisure combats stress and allows us to delight in the hobbies that bring us joy. However, in the end, happiness is an inside job. We are wise to surround ourselves with family, friends, and fun, but ultimately we determine our internal response to the people and circumstances in our lives.

#5 Equippers

People who use time correctly equip others in order to compound their productivity. They realize the limitations of individual attainment, and they build teams to expand their impact. By developing an inner circle of leaders and investing in them, wise time-users multiply their influence.

Equippers recognize that legacies are carried on by people, not trophies. They pour themselves into the lives of others and watch the ripple effect of their leadership spread through those they have taught and mentored. Equippers seek significance over the long term, which causes them to have a vested interest in the success of their successors.

Review

As much as we would like, we can’t find more time—it’s a finite and constantly diminishing resource. However, we can learn to spend time wisely.

People who use time correctly are…

1. Purposeful
2. Committed to Values
3. Attuned to Strengths
4. Choosers of Happiness
5. Equippers

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at www.maximumimpact.com. "


Serenity prayer

Many people spend their days in anger and aren't aware of it. The conditions of work and life make many of us angry; we feel powerless to change them, and our frustration angers us more.

The Serenity prayer asks for "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." If we examine our lives fearlessly, we may find many things that are in our power to change.

Since we cannot change, or do not choose to change some things, we'do do well to accept them, instead of spinning our wheels in unproductive anger or turning the anger in, against ourselves. And when we summon the courage to change the things we can, our lives will bless us.

Today I'll look at anger as something I've chosen, instead of something inevitable. Is it something inevitable? Is it covering fear? How can I resolve it?


Live your best today

You better live your best and act your best and think your best today: for today is the preparation for tomorrow and all the tomorrows that will follow.

What's done is done.What's been said is said. We can't undo the mistakes of yesterday. And occasionally they create the barriers blocking us today. However, we can make sure that our behavior today doesn't  contribute to unnecessary problems tomorrow.

A negative attitude towards other people and towards life's circumstances become habitual. Fortunately, a positive attitude does as well. The choice rests  with each of us to respond in ways fitting to the preferred attitude.

How much easier all situations are when we are respectful, hopeful and interested. Likewise, the trivial matter can become a major catastrophe when we struggle unnecessarily and with carping egos. We make the world we find, at home, at work, and at play.

Today is mine to take. Let me choose my attitude with care.


Relationships

"Relationships are only as alive as the people engaging in them.

-Donald B. Ardell

We receive from every experience in proportion to what we give. In other words, the richness of our lives is necessarily dependent on the depth of our commitment. Reserved involvement guarantees only limited rewards, while whole-hearted efforts promise full-scale returns. In all aspects of our lives, we'll find this to be true.

Our relationships gift us justly. These experiences with others are woven together, and their beauty is equal to the beauty we bring to one another's company. However, if we bring only criticism and bleak hopelessness to a relationship, we'll find despair rather than joy. Every relationship is the sum and substance of the partners involved. No relationship is more fruitful than the efforts of those doing the pruning.

How much do I give to the relationships I deem meaningful? They bless me in just proportion to what I give. Today gives me a chance to make a greater contribution.


Self evaluation

"When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger."

-Epictetus

We take note of others' shortcomings and frequently record them in our minds, and then rely on these memories to feel superior. Seldom do we perceive our own failings as clearly. It takes courage and determination to inventory all our traits, both the pleasant and the unpleasant. It also takes an honest desire to know ourselves before we can fully access the value of our traits. We can be certain, however that the shortcomings we've noticed in others, we'll discover in ourselves.

It might well be a worthwhile exercise in personal development to let what bothers us in others guide our own attempt at self-improvement. For instance, if another's cynicism trigger's negative feelings in us, we can be fairly certain we, too, respond cynically on occasion. Then we can make the decision to clean our own house. We aren't perfect, but we can strive to like ourselves, and others. Self-improvement and self-love will make it easier to accept someone else.

If I don't like something someone is doing today, I will take an honest look at myself.


Keeping the Promise

"Promises that you make to yourself are often like the Japanese Plum tree-they bear no fruit."

-Frances Marion.

Promises are merely empty words if they aren't backed up by action. And action is really preceded first by deliberate resolve, then verbalized commitment (often to someone besides ourselves), and finally, a carefully laid out plan of steps to be taken. Promises that are made,but not kept, quickly hamper any progress we dream of making. They hang like weight on our shoulders, reminding us of the weak resolve.

Only actions can fulfil our promises. Perhaps, we would do well to make a promise, any promise, only for a day. We can always renew it tomorrow.

The additional and unexpected gift is that a promise kept, no matter its magnitude, enchances our self image. And since we can live one day at a time, no promise need be made longer. All of us can manage to fulfil one promise. for one day, if we believe in it in ourselves.

Today offers me the opportunity I need to feel better about myself.


Dreams

"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it,

If you can dream it, you can become it"

-William Arthur Ward

Our dreams and our aspirations are our invitations to set new goals, attempt new tasks, dare to travel uncharted  courses. We each have gifts to offer our fellow-travelers, but most frequently need encouragement to recognize our own strengths and talents.

Seldom do we rise in the morning fully eager to join in the opportunities that await us. More likely we have to prepare our minds, center our emotional selves, nurture the inner person who may fear the experiences the day promises.

Its normal-completely human -to be conscious of our incompetencies while lacking awareness of our abilities. To them we give scant attention, generally blocking ou the praise they elicit. To our failings, however small, we compulsively devote our attentive minds. We forget that today's abilities were last year's incompetencies.

Achievements today will be many, and they are indication of past dreams. My hopes today will guide me towards future achievements. My failings are few and help to keep me on track.


Things that do not require talent

By Dr. John C. Maxwell

Talent grips us. We are overtaken by the beauty of Michelangelo’s sculpture, riveted by Mariah Carey’s angelic voice, doubled over in laughter by the comedy of Robin Williams, and captivated by the on screen performances of Denzel Washington.

However, we live in a world of upsets. The most talented do not always end up as celebrities, and those with less talent often do. Upsets are written into our history and occur around us every day. A ragtag army of revolutionaries defeated the British Empire to free the American colonies and to found a new nation. As a startup company, Google outwitted and outperformed entrenched search engines which had far more capital and name recognition.

Why are the most talented not always the best? What enables the less skilled to be, at times, far more successful?

The goal of this edition of LW is not to minimize talent, but to emphasize qualities independent of talent which, when practiced, add value to others and ourselves. While the four traits I’ve highlighted in this lesson are not comprehensive, they are among the most prominent qualities that do not rely upon talent.

Teachability

The desire to listen, learn, and apply is not innate, but when cultivated, it aids the growth and development of a leader. In the words of Henry Brooks Adams “They know enough who know how to learn.”

Look for and plan your teachable moments. Intentionally ask questions to draw out the depth of experience and knowledge in those around you. My best friends are my best teachers. I love to learn, and I am fascinated by individuals who have a wealth of wisdom to share. As Beltasar Gracian said, “Make your friends your teachers and mingle the pleasures of conversation with the advantages of instruction.” Find teachable moments, and make them count. Live to learn and you will really learn to live.

Successful people view learning differently than those who are less successful. For successful leaders, learning is as necessary as breathing. They crave knowledge and seek it out through books, conferences, conversations, and evaluated experiences. The unsuccessful person is burdened by learning, and prefers to walk down familiar paths. Their distaste for learning stunts their growth and limits their influence.

Initiative

Initiative is the inner drive that propels leaders to achieve great dreams. American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, held to the following maxim about initiative: “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Leaders with initiative have an eagerness to make things happen. They have a positive restlessness that prevents them from being content with average.

A person with initiative accepts responsibility for his or her own life. Such a person authors their own history. As Elbert Hubbard says, “The world bestows its prizes, both its money and honors, on one thing and that’s initiative. What is initiative? I will tell you. It is doing the right thing without being told.” Initiators incline themselves toward action.

Passion

Passion is a faultless predictor of success. How many high achievers lack enthusiasm? How many great leaders do you admire who are indifferent? A dispassionate person will not go far before they give up hope of achieving big dreams. On the other hand, a person of passion will move mountains to see their dream come to fruition. Passion long outlasts talent for a leader in pursuit of a vision.

When it comes to passion, there are two kinds of people: fire lighters and fire fighters. Fire fighters focus on what’s wrong with an idea rather than what’s right. They possess a doubting spirit, and they resist change. Fire fighters love the words “Yes, but.” They are always finding flaws, and they dampen the fire inside of those around them.

Avoid fire fighters at all costs, and instead, seek out fire lighters. Fire lighters are encouragers. They uplift and sustain others through tough times. They share in triumphs, and spur others toward bigger and better performances.

Successful individuals prioritize their commitments according to their passion. They refuse to be dissuaded from living out the dream inside of them. When troubles come, they don’t have to artificially generate perseverance—it sweeps over them like an ocean wave.

Courage

Courage is an every day test. We often think of courage as a quality required only in times of great danger or stress, but courage is an everyday virtue, needed to live a life without regrets. In the words of James Harvey Robinson, “Greatness, in the last analysis, is largely bravery. Courage is escaping from old ideas and old standards and respectable ways of doing things.”

Plentiful reasons add courage to the list of admirable qualities that exist apart from talent. We need courage to seek the truth when we know it may be painful. We need courage to change when it’s easier to remain comfortable. We need courage to express our convictions when others challenge us. We need courage to learn and grow, especially when doing so exposes our weaknesses. We need courage to take the high road when others treat us badly, and lastly, we need courage to lead when being in front makes us an easy target for criticism.

Perhaps Miguel Cervantes best summarizes courage: “He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses friends loses more; but he who loses his courage loses all.”

Summary

There is no substitute for talent, but there are several supplements that can transform even modest talent into greatness. Teachability, initiative, passion, and courage are a sampling of qualities that endow talent with effectiveness and spur average skills sets into extraordinary success stories. Don’t minimize talent, but magnify the qualities that can accompany it, and build them day by day.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at www.maximumimpact.com. "


The Present

"Dwell not on the past. Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onwards you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed."

Eileen Caddy
Spiritual Writer


How to Get-and Stay-Motivated

By Michael Masterson

Have you ever been charged up to reach a goal, only to see that charge dissipate over time?

This is a very common problem. In fact, it's the main reason most people never accomplish their lifetime objectives.

ETR reader Dave Jacobs wrote me a few weeks ago with that very problem. He said:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for all you do to help those of us just beginning our journeys to more successful lives. I have recently taken a series of significant steps toward achieving my Life Goals. As I see myself moving toward my goals and increasing my productivity, I'm (predictably) excited and energized. But what about two months from now? Two years? How can I maintain the energy and enthusiasm I have now? How do I sustain my current level of focus and productivity? What do you think are the crucial factors to being consistently motivated and focused?

The good news is that Dave is super-motivated now, and he really, really doesn't want that motivation to fizzle out. That's why he wrote to me - so he could learn some trick or several tricks to ensure that he keeps going strong for as long as he needs to.

No doubt you have felt the same way Dave is feeling right now. I've faced the same problem myself several times in my life. I hope the following story can help both you and Dave.

In high school, I was a lazy student. My priorities were sports and social activities. Because I'd inherited some raw brainpower from my parents, I managed to maintain a grade-point average that got me into college ... just barely. But I knew that unless I learned to learn, I wouldn't make it through four years, and I'd probably spend the rest of my life earning $10 an hour as a manual laborer.

So at the end of my senior year in high school, I made up my mind to quit being a goof-off and become, in college, a much better student. I spent the summer prepping myself by working out a study schedule and doing some background reading. But I was afraid that I would revert to my bad habits, abandoning my studies for sports and partying before the end of my freshman year.

To make that unwanted scenario less likely to happen, I found a "nerd" to share an apartment with and refused to sign up for any sports or pledge any fraternities. I told my friends that I would be "out of touch" for at least a year. I explained my goals to them and asked them to respect me by leaving me alone until the following summer.

I realized that I needed to make a radical personality change to be able to resist the temptation of regressing to my high school habits. So when school began, I sat in the front row of every class - something I'd never done in high school.

I started off strong by doing at least 50 percent more than I was asked to do. If the assignment was to write a 500-word essay on religion, I'd write 750 words and include a glossary of impressive sources. If the assignment was to read King Lear by the following week, I'd read it twice. And then I'd go to the library and read critical essays about the play so I'd be aware of all the major interpretations.

I also made it a point to raise my hand every time a question was asked and to turn in extra work, even when it would get me no extra credit. In short, I turned myself into a straight-out and full-blown brown-nosing student ... and I made sure my instructors - and my fellow students - saw me that way.

In the beginning, many of the other students in my classes did as much work as I did. But as the weeks went by, most started slipping a little bit. Each time they fell behind, I got motivated to work even harder. And I was thrilled when I got those early test scores back. I had never before understood how good an A or B+ felt.

And that feeling motivated me to push even harder. With each passing week, the distance between me and the other good students widened. By the middle of the semester - in virtually every single class - I was clearly the best.

The response I got from instructors and students fueled my ego. Being the best student in a class felt much better than being the class clown.

By the time my freshman year was over, I saw myself as a completely different person. I was no longer the funny screw-up I'd been in high school. I'd changed into the "Teacher's Pet" who sat in the front and had the right answer to every question.

Once my image of myself changed, my motivation became permanent. I couldn't screw up any more, because it was simply unthinkable. I was the best student in every class, and I was going to make damn sure everybody saw me that way - no matter how much work it took.

So ... if you see yourself as someone who may be able to start out strong, but never really accomplish anything great, you need to drastically revise your vision of yourself. You have to turn yourself into number one at whatever you do - the person to go to when no one else can get the job done.

To become that person, you will have to:

1. Get up early, and give your day a jumpstart by doing something meaningful ... first thing.

2. Work as late as you have to.

3. Do at least 50 percent more than what is asked of you.

4. Volunteer for challenging assignments.

5. Educate yourself on the side.

6. Become better than anyone else at the essential skills you need to accomplish your goal

Becoming top dog takes a lot of extra time, so you'll have to make significant sacrifices.

If you are like most people, your biggest distractions will be television, the Internet, friends, and family. Get rid of your TV. Limit your Internet use to one hour a day. And let your friends and family members know that you won't be able to spend much time with them in the foreseeable future.

Work like mad until you've become number one in your class, job, or hobby. When that happens - and it shouldn't take more than six months - you'll feel great about yourself. And once you experience that feeling, you'll never have to worry about motivation again.

Well ... almost never. As I said at the beginning of this article, I've needed a motivational recharge more than once in my life. Everyone does. But after the first time, you'll understand exactly what you have to do to get yourself going again.