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The Talent to Manage Your Time
Business Journal

The Talent to Manage Your Time

by Brian J. Brim

How often do you hear people say, "I wish I had more time"? In a business world that's getting ever busier, people constantly feel pressured to find more hours -- or days -- to accomplish all of their goals and finish long to-do lists while still finding time to spend with their families and friends.

Let's face it: Everyone wants more time. And because you can't add hours to the day, all you can do is try to better manage, and ultimately maximize, the finite amount of time that you do have.

QUOTE: When seeking advice from time-management gurus, people often walk away with nothing more than unsatisfying 'words of wisdom.'

Some people excel in the art of time management, while others are never able to keep up. Whatever the case, we all could stand to improve in this area, and our odds of doing that are better if we make the most of our innate talents.

The problem is, when seeking advice on time management from books or gurus, people often walk away with nothing more than unsatisfying "words of wisdom," such as:

"Clear off your desk. How can you manage your time if your desk is a mess?"

"Just try harder. Just say to yourself, 'Today, I will be more on top of my time!'"

"Don't waste so much time at the water cooler! Just get your work done, then go home to your kids!"

You get the idea. These suggestions may be well-intentioned, but they simply won't do you a lot of good. Here's a smarter approach -- one that's sure to yield lasting results.

Tony's time problem

Tony struggled with time management a great deal. Like so many of us, he always felt like he had too much to do and not enough time to do it.

To help him think more about why he was having these problems, Tony spent some time with a strengths performance coach after taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a 180-item online assessment that measures the presence of talents in 34 areas called "themes" then reveals the user's top five themes. This assessment helps people understand areas where they have the most natural potential for growth and excellence. And the more they understand this, the more they can take control of the situations they find themselves in and navigate those situations more effectively.

Tony discovered some interesting things right away. First, it was natural for him to take on too much. Two of his top five talent themes are Achiever and Activator. People with powerful Achiever talents are continually driven to accomplish more, while Activator talents tend to drive people to action. Through Tony's strengths-coaching sessions, it became clear that because of these themes, it was natural for him to take on more and more projects, often beyond what he could reasonably handle. Driven by Achiever and Activator, this ambitious man of action simply couldn't say no.

Tony and the coach probed Tony's talents deeply to help him think about how he could manage his workload more effectively. They found part of the solution in the Responsibility theme, which was also among Tony's top five. Responsibility talents lead people to take strong ownership for the commitments they make. Knowing that this was one of his dominant themes helped Tony understand why he felt so guilty when he wasn't able to follow through on any of the many commitments he made.

Tony realized he could be more effective with his time if he maximized his Responsibility talents. So, thanks to the help of his coach, he began to ask himself one key question every time he had to make a decision about taking on a new project: Is this something I can commit to fully?

This approach helped Tony become much more effective in managing his time. By leveraging his Responsibility talents, Tony began to make more deliberate choices, which helped him avoid overcommitting himself. And clearing his calendar a bit helped him follow through more consistently on the commitments that he did make.

Tony still works hard. But now he works smarter, too. And -- voila -- he has more time.


Brian J. Brim, Ed.D., is a Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup. He is coauthor of Strengths Based Selling.

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