What a racket. As if we can manage time. Time is elastic, and not on our terms: Root Canal Time is very different from New Jersey Beach Time. I think all meetings should have a special clock that moves at three times normal speed. How’s that for time management?
The time management frame of thinking — a holdover from the industrial age — generates minutely-detailed agendas for training sessions and meetings. In my leadership work, I call that CICE: Concrete Illusion of Controlled Events. Beware the CICE folks. Trying to control other people, or events outside our selves is occasionally interesting, but mostly futile. We cannot manage time. We can manage energy. Right now, especially, we need our creative, critical thinking energy to care for ourselves and for those we love.
We control our perceptions of time by how we manage our energy. And energy resides only in the moment.
We manage energy when we practice specific behaviors:
- Be transparent with ourselves and those around us. Finding truth invests energy up front and then generates energy from that point on. Remember what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Strive for candor, seek clarity with yourself and with those around you. How much energy do we expend skirting issues and then having to revisit them again and again because we weren’t clear to begin with? This includes being clear and consistent about your values.*
- Identify only actions and events that are real and immediate threats: Where’s the Tiger? In other words, don’t be moved into your dinosaur brain unless there is a real, present danger. Why waste energy on things that aren’t dangerous, like worrying when others don’t agree with you? Or being defensive about feedback? How about ambiguity and change? In this current era of crisis, rehearsing for the wreckage of the future sucks our battery dry and provides no energy for dealing with what’s here and actual.
See http://blog.readytomanage.com/is-conflict-always-negative-or-where-is-the-tiger/ for more on that subject.
- Check our assumptions at the door. Unload preconceptions, attitudes, and anything we have made up about what should happen. Planning is a limited tool. Wear plans like a loose garment. It’s not about being passive, it’s about being agile. Getting twisted around unmet expectations is like punching a hole in your gas tank. Wasted energy.
- Triage: What can I control. What can I influence? What is beyond either one? Divide your energy between the first two categories and waste none on the third. Manage your energy from the inside out. BREATHE!!!
- Practice WAIT (Why Am I Talking?) and WAIST (Why Am I Still Talking?) Listen more, and listen without judgment. Explain less — the more we explain, the less people will understand. Compose, slow down, boil down, and check for understanding. Pace talking and listening in equal measure. There is no better use of energy than a powerful question followed by neutral listening.*
- Think of a pie chart, then draw one (or even better, bake one) if you like. If that chart represents available energy in a day — without being exhausted — how much of that energy pie do we waste? What would a better chart look like? Do this with your family, then eat some of your favorite pie for a reward. Focus on managing energy and time will be on your side.
*You can download a quick values assessment at
and a one-page list of neutral questions at
They’re both free. Help yourself and feel free to provide feedback.
And finally, drop in on the back2different podcast to hear people from all over the world in conversations about pushing forward through the pandemic rather than merely pushing back.
About the author
Mac Bogert is President of AZA Learning and a regular columnist for the Learning Counsel. He began his career as an English teacher. For the past 25 years, Mac has focused on the intersection of leadership and learning. In between, he is a musician, professional actor, yacht charter captain, staff development consultant, curriculum designer and author of Learning Chaos.