Managing time and the demands of life and work is one of the most common issues – if not the number one issue – I deal with in executive coaching. No one who is in any kind of responsible position these days – and that includes students, volunteer workers, parents, and care-givers, as well as those in careers or professions – seems to escape the extreme pressure of time and performance from an increasingly demanding world, myself included.
When confronted with this issue one of the first questions I ask clients is this: “What percentage of your time and / or work do you have control over?” Many will invariably answer that they have very little control, but others say they have a great deal, seventy-five percent or more. Either way what we usually discover is that after dissecting their circumstances most people actually have much more control than they realize.
The problem I have found is that most people allow the demands of life and work to control their time and energy rather than setting priorities so that they can be in control. I know, I know! There are some really demanding bosses out there. But hear me out, either prioritize and gain some control, or you may pay a big price. My friend Diane did.
She and I were great friends and longtime work colleagues. I admired deeply her consummate professionalism and extraordinary work ethic. But therein is where the problem developed. Diane’s husband once confided in me about his concern for how much work she brought home and the late hours she worked. We had the same job, yet I didn’t do that. I tried to coach her in ways to delegate and prioritize, but to no avail. Eventually her health began to fail – at way too young an age – and . . . well her story does not have a happy ending. I still grieve that I could not find a way to help my friend.
Too many of us, I’m afraid, live by demands when we should live by priorities, yet if we can learn to do that we will not only live happier, healthier lives, but also be much more effective and productive than we could ever imagine. Try it for yourself and see what happens. If you need help find a friend, colleague or coach to work with you. It works.