Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Calendar, a Clock and Your Head

calendarIn college I spent a fair amount of time directing shows in the television studio. I loved nearly every aspect of it and took particular pride in ending my programs exactly on time which was an important skill.

In my professional life I manage business meetings tightly. Critics have accused me of being a slave to the agenda and sacrificing spontaneous communication and dialogue in favor of efficiency. On the other hand, participants frequently praise me for staying on topic and thank me for valuing them by starting and stopping on time.

Having lived in California for over 18 years, I'm far from a stickler on this stuff. I don't even wear a wristwatch any more. I’ve been repeatedly schooled that, “time is simply a man-made construct” and “maƱana” doesn't mean tomorrow, it means, not today.

I've seen these behaviors devour less tolerant people from the Northeast who resent the suggestions to “just chill.” It drives the anal-retentive nuts when others are “fashionably late” or casual about missing deadlines.

Although it can still irritate me, when you are surrounded by a culture that doesn't like the rigidity of deadlines and feels too much pressure from the ticking clock, you have no choice but to adjust.

I won't argue the value of a zen-like peace that can occur when you have a life with no time constraints. However, I will argue in favor of leadership and living a productive life because eventually you are going to die. So no matter what your philosophy, that’s a looming time constraint. To me, it’s better to embrace the beauty of time.

There are three things you should begin to use in at least a cursory fashion; a calendar, a clock and your head.

A calendar gives you a better perspective on what's coming up. You know that Christmas is on December 25th, that taxes are due on April 15th and you know the date of important appointments. It might be a day in advance, or a month, a year, ten years, it doesn't matter. The point is you know what's coming.

(Full disclosure, I’m addressing a belated birthday card to my brother. For the 42 years that I've known him his birth date has never changed. Yes, I called him and did the Facebook and Skype thing, but why couldn't I get a simple card out to him in time for his birthday? Because I'm a dork. Just like everyone else who misses a fixed date on the calendar. You can try to celebrate your failure to plan by labeling it procrastination or some other sexy sounding affliction, but all it does is broadcast the fact that you are a dork.)

A clock serves the same function as the calendar but with greater immediacy. It’s a realtime planning tool. Just like you know things are coming at a particular date, you know some things are coming at a specific time. Airplane departures, Hotel check-outs, last call at the bar or what time Macy’s opens on Black Friday are a few examples. You can also use your clock to make note of the duration of things for future planning. Perpetually late? That’s a clue that you need to spend more time on your planning.

This brings us to your head. Each of us are blessed with a thinking mechanism. Maybe some people need to take it out of hibernation and exercise it a little bit. With it, you have the ability to deduce and decide. Things come up out of the blue ruining well laid plans. Don't become a victim of life’s whims. Incorporate them into your plans. Think a little, don't simply react. Instead, process information for a second longer and respond to situations, based on your values and purpose (discussed here) rather than something fickle like your current mood.

I know if you consider yourself a free-spirit this all sounds like a horrible constrictive burden. It's not, so, get over it. At least becoming aware of what's on the calendar, what time it is and your capacity to solve a problem can change your life. Want to change it dramatically? Invest more time into you're planning and what you'll do in the event your plans fall through.

Need help acting on any of these concepts? Karl Bimshas Consulting’s Life Coaching Services (link) can help you find the a-ha within.

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