Work With Intention: The Three Components of Performance Time

By Brian MoranBrian Moran

Everything you want to accomplish in life requires an investment of your time, so when you want to improve your results, you must consider the fact that your supply of time is limited.

Even in this era of innovation and technological advancement, time, more than any other resource, is the limiting factor. Let’s face it, everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. Even more vexing is the fact that the supply of time is completely inelastic. No matter the magnitude of demand, the supply is fixed. Moreover, it’s perishable. And yet, time is perhaps the most squandered of all personal resources.

To become great, you must choose to allocate your time to your greatest opportunities. You will have to choose to spend time on the difficult things that create your biggest payoffs. To be great you will need to live with intention. This will require you to be clear on what matters most, and then to have the courage to say no to things that distract you. You will need to guard your time intensely, delegating or eliminating everything possible that is not one of your strengths or does not help you advance your goals.

To be your best, you must intentionally align your time and activities with your strengths and your unique capabilities. When you do, you will also experience a new and ever-increasing level of performance and satisfaction. To achieve this level of performance will require that you carve out time for the strategic—those actions that are important, but not necessarily urgent. Strategic activities don’t typically have an immediate payback, yet they create substantial returns in the future. To stay focused on your strengths, you will need to manage your interruptions and keep the low-payoff activities to a minimum.

In spite of the priceless value of time, many people engage each day on its own terms. In other words, they satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented; spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving much thought as to the relative value of the activity. This is a reactive approach in which the day is controlling you thus preventing you from performing at your best.

The key to successful time use— intentional time use—is not trying to eliminate these unplanned interruptions, but instead to block out regular time each week dedicated to the strategically important tasks. We call this Performance Time and find that it is the best approach to effectively allocating time that we have ever encountered. Performance Time is an easy-to-use system that allows you to operate like the CEO of your business and life by spending your most valuable asset—your time—with intention. It utilizes a simple time-blocking system to regain control of your day and maximize your effectiveness.

There are three primary components of Performance Time: strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks.

Strategic Block: A Strategic Block is a 3-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled in advance. During these blocks you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no e-mails, no visitors – no mental interruptions. You focus all your energies on the preplanned items – the strategic and money-making activities. Doing so concentrates your intellect and creativity and produces breakthrough results. You will be astounded by the quantity and quality of the work you produce. For most people, one strategic block per week is sufficient.

Buffer Block: Buffer Blocks are created to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day. Almost nothing is more unproductive and frustrating than dealing with constant interruptions, yet we’ve all had days when unplanned items dominated our time.

A Buffer Block allows you to take what would otherwise be inefficient activity and make it more productive by grouping it together. In this way you can handle each item expeditiously and move through the list with some momentum. This allows you to stay focused throughout the day on the important activities.

For some, one 30-minute buffer block a day is sufficient, while for others, two separate one-hour blocks may be necessary. The power of buffer blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive so that you can increase your efficiency in dealing with them and take greater control over the rest of your day.

Break-out Block: One of the key factors contributing to performance plateaus is the absence of free time. So often, entrepreneurs and professionals get caught up in working longer and harder. This approach is an energy and enthusiasm killer. To achieve greater results what’s necessary is not more hours. On the contrary, often it is more free time.

A Break-out Block is a minimum 3 hour block of scheduled time that is devoid of any work related activities and thoughts. It is time set aside to rejuvenate and replenish. Use this time for fun. Enjoy the hobbies in your life. Spend time with family and friends. Play golf. Go shopping. Get some exercise. Go fishing, or sailing…whatever you like to do that is non-work related. You need this time to rebuild your reserves and to open yourself up to fresh ideas and perspectives.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If we take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.”

Everything that we achieve in life happens in the context of time. The reality is that if you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance. While it’s true that we control our actions and not our outcomes, our results are created by our actions. It stands to reason that the actions that we choose to take throughout our day, ultimately determine our destiny.

To realize your potential, you must learn to be more mindful about how you spend your time. Living with clear intention goes against the powerful natural tendency to be reactive because it requires you to organize your life around your priorities and consciously choose those activities that align with your goals and vision. When you use your time intentionally, you waste less of it and spend more of it on your high-value actions. Intentionality is your secret weapon in your war on mediocrity.

The key to successful time use is not necessarily in eliminating unplanned interruptions but in regularly blocking out time for the important activities. Just gaining control over a few hours each week often has a dramatic effect. Learn to use your time with greater intention and you will not only be more effective, but you will also feel a greater sense of control, less stress, and increased confidence. Try Time Blocking, it works!

Brian Moran, President and Founder of Strategic Breakthroughs, has amassed over thirty years of expertise as an executive, coach and consultant. Brian realized that most people don’t lack ideas but struggle with their effective implementation. His new book, “The 12 Week Year” is a powerful guide to creating results through Focus, Commitment and Accountability! Brian is a recognized expert and speaker in the field of leadership and execution. To learn more about Brian Moran, please visit BrianPMoran.com.

Workout Wisdom For The Workplace

By Eileen McDargh

Eileen McDargh

The dictionary defines workout as a “physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.” Sounds just like our workplaces where effort is expended to provide either a product or a service.  Look closer at a gym and one can learn seven lessons in leading self as well as others for performance improvement.

Lesson #1 –  Everyone needs a baseline: How can you track improvement if you have no idea what is your current capability or baseline? In a gym weight is but one measure of physical ability. You also consider body fat, inches, how many repetitions of a specific exercise and more.  The truth is, you might not lose a pound but become stronger and leaner by muscle development.  What are at least three different baselines that would be good benchmarks for improvement? For example: What is your current number of client contacts that you make?  What is your current level of quality reports you generate?  You get the idea!

Lesson #2 –  To get results, you must vary your routine: I see gym members who have been coming for months and yet there is no sign of any improvement. What I discovered is that their bodies plateaued and the muscles simply remember the exercise and is no longer challenged.  We can do the same thing in our work. There’s comfort in the familiar but there is also little room for improvement.  How might you change your “routine” and try a new way of getting a task completed?  Perhaps you’ll even discover that your routine contains activities that can be discarded or given away!

Lesson #3 –  Plan your hardest work for your optimum time: Everyone has a time of day in which they feel most alert and engaged. To the degree that you can put your most difficult work within YOUR best time slot, do it. I am pretty darn useless after 6pm but I can rise and shine in the early morning which is also my exercise time.

Lesson #4 –  A workplace workout buddy keeps you honest: Think of this as your accountability partner. In a gym, a trainer serves that role: watching, recording, and assisting with specific exercises. In the workplace, many of us serve as coaches to senior level executives. These executives need someone to “keep them honest” and focused. We can all find and use an accountability buddy.

Lesson #5 – Know how much time you can take off without losing your “tone”: It’s a hard fact of life but stop exercising and within three weeks, our bodies lose muscle tone. Doesn’t seem fair and yet, the same thing is true of work. Stay out of the business for months, and it will be harder to jump back in. Whether you are on sabbatical, seeking a new position, or waiting for an employment contract, stay engaged. Read. Network. Practice. Unless, of course, you have decided to retire and move to Fiji.

Lesson #6 –  Be clear on exactly what you can really do: Try as hard as I might, there is no way my body will do a split, a handstand, or a cartwheel.  I watch one man who can move his feet like greased lightning in a kick box routine that would have me tripping myself and everyone next to me. However, I am strong with weights, cardio step, and climbing mountains.

In the workplace, what do you honestly know is not within your forte and never will be? If cold calls make your skin crawl, then learn how to ask for referrals from people whom you already know.  If you are interpersonally intelligent but math leaves you clueless, don’t apply for an accounting position.

Lesson #7 – Strength, endurance and flexibility are all important: Just as these three qualities are a hallmark of a good workout program, so too are they critical for effective career development.  Strength of character and a will to learn provide a breeding ground for success. Endurance allows you to be in the great game of work for the long haul. Without flexibility, rigidity steps in and many an organization has vanished because of outmoded thinking, dated systems, and legacy procedures. What are you doing to grow in strength, endurance, and flexibility?

Workout wisdom truly works out in today’s global, 24/7 world.

Since 1980, Hall of Fame speaker Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter.  Executive Excellence ranks her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development.  Looking for help with work and life challenges? Visit www.eileenmcdargh.com today!