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Time Management is Career Management is Life Management

January 14, 2010

With the work I’ve been doing with the Leadership Academy at my school, I’ve had another opportunity to write a blog entry that relates to the learning and take-aways I’ve had in that program – and in my MBA as a whole. 

On Saturday we’ll be doing another experiential Leadership Activity – the first of the new year.  These are typically all-day activities the member of the Academy have attended that are designed to excercise certain skills and capabilities that you usually won’t see used in a classroom.  Next week I may blog a little more about some of these activities, including Saturday’s.

My latest post on the Leadership blog:

Time Management = Career Management = Life Management

One of my struggles as my MBA has progressed has been the issue of Time Management. Even when I’m not in class, I feel consumed by class work. There’s so much reading and studying to do, I have to consciously decide which things I will not read in order to have time to work on assignments and readings that I believe are more crucial.

At the same time, holding down a full time job that only gets more demanding with each passing month while working on an MBA has left precious little time for other very important things, like being a good husband, pursuing hobbies and self-defining interests, and working on career and post-MBA planning. With a baby on the way, the question of how to work all of these tasks into my life on top of helping my wife care for a newborn infant simply boggles my mind.

However, one thing I’ve learned so far in the Leadership Academy is that effective Time Management is a crucial leadership skill, and one I’m going to need if I’m going to reach my fullest potential, both in my career and in my life.

One of the first steps in effective time management, I’m learning, is planning. That means taking time (even if I don’t have any) to list what important things absolutely have to be done. It also means setting realistic expectations for when they can be done. I also took a little time to do a little informal time study of how I use my time. (That was both enlightening and disheartening; once I’d blocked out time each week for the big things like work, class, studying, commuting, and sleeping, there wasn’t a lot of time left for anything else.) But by planning my time out, and keeping a list of things that I need to work on each day, I’m able to accomplish a surprising amount.

I’ve also learned that I need to set time for the things that I consider my highest priorities, even when these things are less formally structured. By that I mean, I need to set time up front for my wife and family—which I consider my highest priority in life—and for writing, which most people might classify as a hobby, but which I classify as a pursuit that defines my sense of self to a far greater degree than what I currently get paid to do. From my wife, I’ve recently learned to block time for these sorts of tasks right at the beginning—and to give yourself a time limit on them—before moving on to the “to do list”. I still have to get the to do list done, but by spending an allotted amount of time, as soon as my discretionary time is available, on these sorts of tasks, I’m better able to get both my to dos and my priority activities done. As an example of this sort of priority-shifting, with some encouragement I started writing a blog. Writing a blog has given me both the opportunity and motivation to write. Likewise, if I spend time at the end of each workday (when I don’t have to go to class) doing something with my wife and dog before starting my studying and preparation for classes, I will feel more fulfilled at home.

Tangentially related to time management is that of career management. I’ve not done near enough, at this stage of my MBA, to plan for my career after graduating. But while learning to take time to do that, I’m also improving on some important skills that will help me make the most of my career. Key among these is networking. I used a contact gained at one Leadership Academy event to start networking with people at a company I have some interest in, and I’m still working through a chain of contacts that is developing because of that initial outreach. I also plan to reach out to people within my own company to learn if there may be opportunities there as well. Developing this skill, and taking the time to schedule informational interviews, will hopefully pay dividends over time, and it’s something I need to be doing more of now, before the time comes when I’ll be looking back wishing I had.

If I take the time now to plan out my activities and focus on the things that are important to me, to my family, and to my career, ultimately I will have a happier and more fulfilling life. As those traits carry over into the workplace, I’ll become someone my company can rely on to get the important things done, because I’ll be better able to sort my priorities at work and focus on doing the things that are of most value to the company.

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