How do you spend your time?
By C. Fredrick Crum

Share this article:  

It is said that you achieve what you spend your time thinking about most. Professional athletes practice visualizing sinking the winning shot or hitting that walk-off home run in bottom of the ninth. They can hear the roar of the crowd. They can feel the elation of their accomplishment. This thought process of visualization focuses their energy and leads to accomplishing their goals.

In their quest to succeed, leaders often spend time thinking and working on creating or rethinking their mission, vision and goals for their organization. They visualize and work on developing their strategic plans, influencing the culture of the organization and moving their organizations forward. At least that is what executive leaders say they spend their time doing.

But when you examine how these leaders actually spend their time, my colleagues and I have found there is usually very little correlation between their established goals and what they focus their time actively thinking, conversing or working on. The alignment of their time focused on the goals they have set for themselves and their organizations is often nonexistent.

Here is an example: Organization A set three goals for the third quarter.
  • Increase sales by 3 percent over last year's third-quarter sales
  • Launch new product X
  • Expand Web presence
In reviewing a time audit with our client, the executive leadership of Organization A, it was discovered that only 7 percent of the leadership's time was focused on achieving these three goals. Most of their time was spent on labor contract disputes, personnel issues and logistics.

It was clear that after the executive leadership established the goals for the third quarter, it expected middle management to concentrate on achieving the goals. Once they "took it off their plate," it was on to other issues. The executive leadership team spent very little time thinking about or focusing their energies on the established goals. Guess what? None of the goals of Organization A were accomplished with in the expected time frame.

Reality: If the goals are perceived as not important enough for you and your leadership team to really focus on, it will be interpreted by others in your organization as not being important.

If your organization's goals are not getting accomplished, the first place to look is in the mirror. You must focus your time and energy on accomplishing your goals. You must ask yourself, "Has my focus been on accomplishing the goals? Is that how I am spending my time?"

A very revealing exercise is to keep a journal or log on how you spend your time. Log how much time you consume thinking, conversing or dealing with issues on a daily, weekly and biweekly basis. The results may be very enlightening.

If you find your attention is drawn to other areas of your organization, you need to rethink your goals or realign your focus.

C. Fredrick Crum is the president and founder of Effective Leadership Now.Org. He has spent more than 30 years working with leaders and leadership teams to improve their performance.