Most Powerful Use of Time

Categories Career, Focus, Leadership

Peter Bregman wrote a thought provoking essay on leadership in the HBR blog.   Woody Allen once said 80% of success is about showing up.  Bregman’s analysis is covering the remaining 20%.  It is essentially about maximizing one’s impact at any given moment.  He gave a good example about someone who regularly runs on the track mill.   Obviously, running on the track mill is much better than not exercising.  However, this approach could be far from the optimal impact one can attain.  Has he considered other approaches to improve himself further for the same amount of time invested?   The person would never be a world-class runner if he only “shows up”.  According to Bregman, we could be merely squandering time and effort on things that do not move us toward the real goal, although we are physically there.  I can certainly relate to that as this is quite common at work.  People would show up in meetings.  They might exchange pleasantries or even try to scratch the surface of the core issues.  However, a lot of courage is required for people to challenge each other, or better yet, holding himself accountable for goals rather than evading responsibilities.  Similar phenomenon is also common in the government.  Even the elected officials with good attendance record may be just playing partisan politics, rather than trying to solve the key issues at hand.  They are killing time rather than moving the ball forward.  We can also apply the same analogy to talent management.  A person endowed with a high I.Q. should, in theory, produce more than one with a lower score, all else being held equal.  The problem is that things are not equal.  The more “intelligent” person may not be pushing the envelope.  He or she may not work well with co-workers (i.e. low E.Q.) or he may not be pushing himself to his full potential capability which is actually quite elastic.   This is why I.Q. in isolation is a pretty useless metric.  Unfortunately, the 20% analogy used earlier may be misleading because we can often do a lot better than 20% above just “showing up” if we take advantage of every moment.    I think the concept is easy to grasp but it is hard to do.  Thinking or sticking to a particular goal actually takes a fair amount of brain cycles but it is worth it.

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