Three words on time management: focus, clarity and transparency

There are three words I say to myself on a constant basis: focus, clarity and transparency.

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These are the three words that straighten out most of the rough days I encounter when my schedule gets overloaded and when the demands on my time get too high. And yes, I still have to work at saying “no” but that’s a topic for another day.

When it’s to late to say no, I’m already committed and life has become chaos, I go back to those three words: focus, clarity and transparency. Here’s why:

Focus. If I can make a task small enough, I can do it. When I look out at a 12 or 15 hour work day – sometimes even longer work day – and trust me those days happen – then the only way I can deal with looking at a large long block of a work day like that is by breaking it down. Compartmentalizing helps as well.

I’m one of those people who has a surprisingly small desktop but I work with piles of work around me. In fact, I’m a “pile” person. Well, yes, there’s plenty of other office equipment around me, but I only pay attention to those when I need them. I keep my desktop clear, I put one task on my desk at a time. I do this as a reminder to focus on one thing. Sometimes when I juggle too many things and I feel like I have ADD (no offense meant to people who truly have this condition), I tell myself – focus, focus, focus. I chant it to myself.

Now I could be concerned that I sound crazy but nearly everyone I know juggles some steep stacks of work especially since over the years of I’ve become a small business owner and nearly everyone I know owns a business or is an executive of some type. Workaholics seem to find one another, that’s all I’m saying.

So I remind myself. One thing, just one thing – do one thing now and do it the best I can. I set small timeboxes for some activities and that time-driven sense helps as well. Chanting the word focus, telling myself to stay on task and do my work well helps me. When you own a business – even more than being an employee – your reputation is your business. I can’t get sloppy. So focusing and bringing my focus down to a small task and ignoring everything else enables me to think. Do one thing well – then worry about the next “one” thing. It helps.

My second word is: clarity. If you’ve done business with me, you know I use this word frequently. I can get obsessive about it and for one simple reason: if I don’t know what I’m working on, if there is any confusion – then how will I be able to work that task? What have I promised to deliver? And even better – what do you think I promised to deliver? Clarity. I often say you can be a lot of things around me – agitated or amazed, irritated or inspired but please don’t ever be confused around me. I try my absolute best in every situation – personal and professional to be clear about what I think, what I’m committing to and what I will do and what I won’t do. If there is doubt about that – let me correct that confusion, let’s us correct any confusion because life is short and confusion wastes time. Clarity fixes issues.

Transparency. I’ve found this word helps me when I’m dealing with the nasty bits of politics. Come on – we all work with politics – so let’s be direct about it. If I can avoid contributing to situations, I try to. If I’m transparent with everyone and everyone gets to know that’s how I work … then it just keeps getting easier. When someone came to talk to me recently, aka complain about someone else – my first question was have you talked to them about it? Its ok to complain to a friend, its ok to need to vent but its not ok to add to politics. When I found myself wanting to vent to someone about someone else’s behavior in recent days – I told myself the same thing. Ooops I thought, now I know who I need to talk to. If I can keep talking and work through tough situations and have tough conversations (go see the book Crucial Conversations because that book rocks) then I can help to keep “stuff” clear and that feeds back to clarity.

Time is up. I allotted only so much time to write this post. There are more tasks waiting for me so I won’t perfect this post – instead I’ll move on – to the next “one” thing.

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2 Responses to Three words on time management: focus, clarity and transparency

  1. Ajay says:

    3 simple but effective words. I would always remember your blog and apply it in my day to day work. somehow I seem to be messing up things.

  2. Tal says:

    True, these are very helpful things! especially when you’re working from home. I’m not exactly the most organized person in the world, but the first thing I do when I know there’s a lot of work ahead is clear the piles off my desk!
    about learning to say no – you only have to say yes to something quite impossible once, drive yourself nuts about it, and almost lose your mind – after that, saying “no” comes much more naturally! ;)

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