Time’s a thief? Urgent vs Important

Time’s a thief? Urgent vs Important
on November 28, 2013 in Blog, News

Time feels like it speeds up around this time of the year, doesn’t it? With  festivals like Divali and Eid just past, and Christmas festivities to come, we all look forward to celebrating in this, the darkest time of the year.

And in the meantime, there are all those projects to be finished before the deadline of the holiday season. Sometimes we can feel hounded by time itself – there’s just not enough of it between now and the end of the year!

I reckon that how we view “time” is pretty key in our approach to leadership.

One thing to be aware of, for example is that your colleagues may have a rather different sense of time to you. (Being a Brit married to a Swiss, I notice that there are some cross cultural issues around time to manage, very close to home!)

Fons Trompenaarsc has researched this cross culturally varied sense of time. We use his work in our Inclusive Leadership workshops quite a bit.

sequential-or-synchronousAs he puts it: those with a “sequential” approach to time, see being late as just plain rude. Those with a “synchronous” sense of time see relationships as more important. (eg, if they are involved with an important conversation with a client they may be a little late back to the staff meeting.)

Surfacing these differences and talking about them with colleagues is an important aspect of leadership today.

Confusing urgent and important

There is however, a different kind of confusion around how we view time – and this time it’s internal to each of us. I have noticed that in my work with leaders, whether in my coaching practice or in leadership development work, when thinking about time, some of us confuse the urgent and the important.

In the absence of overarching aims it is hard to distinguish between the two. At its’ worst everything feels urgent, and we can get stuck in a spiral of busyness, leading to burnout and exhaustion. And how productive a use of our time is this busyness anyway?

The risk is that we can feel that the last few recessionary years have lent a further sense of crisis and urgency to our approach in leading our organisations.

So, as we regain perspective and choose to step out of a sense of “crisis management”, it is high time to pull back and start to view the time horizon as wider now.

There is however, a different kind of confusion around how we view time – and this time it’s internal to each of us. I have noticed that in my work with leaders, whether in my coaching practice or in leadership development work, when thinking about time, some of us confuse the urgent and the important.

In the absence of overarching aims it is hard to distinguish between the two. At its’ worst everything feels urgent, and we can get stuck in a spiral of busyness, leading to burnout and exhaustion. And how productive a use of our time is this busyness anyway?

The risk is that we can feel that the last few recessionary years have lent a further sense of crisis and urgency to our approach in leading our organisations.
So, as we regain perspective and choose to step out of a sense of “crisis management”, it is high time to pull back and start to view the time horizon as wider now.

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