This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on…
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”Napoleon Bonaparte
Fail to plan…
…and you plan to fail. End of story.
You wouldn’t pretend to run anything significant without a plan. Yet some people never plan anything…their lives…their time. They waste something much more important than money. They waste their time. And their time is the currency they exchange for the chance to realise their potential…to be what they want to be. A waste indeed.
If you have a job…
…it can be tempting to feel that because you have hired your time out to your employer, having your time wasted by yourself and others is not so bad. That only works if you don’t want much in return for hiring out the prime of your life to someone else. Don’t be cheap.
Planning’s not for me…
It may not suit you. You may be a smell-the-roses person, in the moment, not future-focused. Well, the future’s focused on you and it’s coming at you, one inexorable second at a time.
But a plan is not a straight jacket. Your plan is a roadmap to your desired goal. Your plan may not withstand first contact with reality, but it’s the planning that counts. When you have a plan, obstacles are smaller, setbacks more minor. You will find a detour. Your drive and motivation are higher. You are more win-able; more able to win.
Note to self…
…when was the last time I hit a barrier? If you cannot remember, a siren should be going off in your head. Maybe you have a do-nothing plan. Sometimes this is appropriate. Maybe in the short-term. Seldom in the medium and beyond-term.
Set goals in stone…
…and plans in the sand. You need to know what your goals are and what you need to do to make them happen – the high payoff activities I go on about incessantly. Then you need to fill your available time with these activities. This is where planning fits…it’s the bit between goal setting and achievement. It’s about a) defining your high payoff activities and b) making sure you have the space and resources to execute them. That’s it. Simple.
Stop the clock…
But you need to be crystal clear on your goals. Don’t skip this bit. Without this, you can only plan to get through all the stuff that’s already surrounding you. Your to-do list. Then, you are indulging in what is laughably called time management. As if you can manage time. This is like being busy on the Titanic.
Abandon ship…
But if you are clear on your goals, and then plan, plan, plan…then you’re not time-managing, you are self-managing.
And in first place we have…
The number one high payoff activity for everyone is planning. So plan to plan. Schedule time for it. Give it space. You will free up infinitely more time by planning than the planning process itself will consume. Spend time to save time. Planning is the turbo charger on your productivity. Do it yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily.
So – what to do?
Start small. Plan for tomorrow…today. Ten minutes with your notebook, diary, whatever you use. Write down the high payoff activities that will consume 60 to 70% of your day tomorrow. The things you will do that will deliver what you want, come hell or high water. The things you will do first.
Then, in the morning, pursue these activities with maximum prejudice.
Do you think this will make a difference to you?
In a month?
A year?
A decade?
This is self-management. Maybe it’s even self-leadership. After which, all is easy.

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