For additional insight I must also refer to Chapter 2. (My summary of it is here)
If you don’t actively (and sometimes aggressively) decide whose agenda you are going to spend time on, it will be decided for you. Others will exert their influence on you and you will end up showing up when and where they tell you. In that world, the only possible answers are “Yes” and “I can’t, I’m already booked”. There is no checkbox on the form for “I choose not to”.
How do you evaluate your success in this? Basically you rely on other people to tell you how you’re doing, based on how happy they are with you, how often you show up when prompted, how often you chose them over something else.
The best time management techniques are still powerless to change your direction or move you toward a goal, if the raw material used as input is the same as last week. If you end up with the same percentage of time spent on each task, just arranged in a different order, it’s deck chairs again. You might be going in the right direction, but it would be random chance if so. But if you are able to squeeze out an extra 5% of time for something *you* decide is important, that is forward progress. Both skills are important: use your time management skills to be frugal with what you have and to be consistent, and use your personal goals and personal plan to invest your “savings” wisely.
Chapter 1 says “You are the programmer.” Chapter 2 says “Write the program.” You have various roles, and you wear various hats. This starts by working out what your goals are corresponding to each role, and what obvious next steps should be taken toward those goals. With that, you will develop a pretty clear picture of where your priorities are. Let that be the wind in the sails to power your forward progress.
If your own agenda is the starting point, you decide what to spend time on, and you can weigh the various demands on your time based on your own decisions. Other people will make demands on you, and you are still responsible for fulfilling commitments, but you are the final arbiter instead of other folks dividing you up among themselves leaving you nothing for yourself. The possible answers are “Yes” or “I already have a prior commitment at that time”. (If you feel like explaining, that’s fine, but you reserve the right to say “Further information is not available” :)
In this scheme, you measure success not by the smiles on the faces of others, but by the checkmarks appearing next to the things you already decided are important. Of course the result will be “eerily similar” to your current weekly plan. If the results are similar, then maybe you were doing a good job working your own priorities already, without putting pen to paper on them. But, wouldn’t it be good to have a tool to measure how you are doing with regard to the commitments you make to yourself and those most important to you.
You will rarely get everything done that you planned so ambitiously, but at least you have a device you can use for reclaiming bits of time. As Covey wrote, “You can say No with a clear conscience because you have a bigger ‘Yes’ burning inside.”
If you peek at my latest postings you will find this funnier. Things happen for a reason, sometimes. Timing is everything.
Good posting by the way, I got a lot out of it.
mmm….Well put. I think too many people live for everyone else instead of themselves. It drives me nuts when friends say “I want to do x,y,z but I have to keep doing a,b,c for e,f,g…” Inside I want to just scream “You make the choice..” at them sometimes.
If you ever get a chance.. there is a really OLD book called “games people play” which is about our roles in life and how many of us live as the “child” and never grow up to being the adult. It takes a conscious effort to control ones life and send it where you want it to go.
Nice post.. =)