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Are you spending your time on the right things?

Time is the one commodity we cannot replace. How we use our time determines how we succeed in our careers and in our relationships. As a young man, I had the opportunity to sit in on a sales training session by David Sandler, founder of Sandler Sales Institute. He was commenting on how people he knew were bragging about the quality time they had spent with their kids. Sandler told us something that has stayed with me ever since. He said, “At work, it is about quality time. At home, it is about quantity time.”

Every one of us has worked with that person who felt that they were succeeding as long as they spent most of their waking time at work. Conversely, we all have been guilty of making up for lost time with our family by dedicating some intentional quality time with them. So we tend to ignore Sandler’s sage advice, and end up doing things in reverse. While how we spend quantity time with our families is up to us individually, how we spend quality time at work is something we can all share and learn from.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

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Poorly prioritizing our day
Often we spend our day knocking off all of the C-priority items, while we let the A-priority items languish until we have time or are forced to address them. We do this because at the end of the day, it feels good to be able to check a bunch of items off of our to-do-list. It is also a lot easier to quickly handle small items than it is to sit down and tackle the complex ones. The reality is getting the quick and easy things resolved may not be what your business needs, whereas finding solutions to your big issues may really help.

Falling in the “Perfect is the Enemy of Good” trap
Too many times people will delay completing a project or making an important call because they want to make sure they have all of the information or that everything they have looks just right. One can always justify spending more time or effort on something, but one has to ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” The Marines have their 70% Rule that says having 70% of what you need you should make it happen. The Pareto Principle says that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of the work. Spending extra time and resources to fill in the missing blanks at some point becomes worthless, if not detrimental.

Holding ineffective meetings
There are many things about meetings that we could get into, but first ask yourself, “Do we really need to have this meeting?” Don’t hold a meeting just because it’s on your calendar. If you do have the meeting, have a plan and make it quick. And just because you had the meeting slated for 30 minutes, if you get done after 10 minutes, end the meeting and give people back their time.

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Take time out of your day to just think
This is probably the most important, but most overlooked action. Having your schedule jam-packed with meetings and calls can feel effective, but are you really solving anything or moving forward? Something as simple as shutting the door and doing some quiet reflection can often be one of the most effective ways of solving problems, gaining insight, and identifying opportunities. Add some time engaging with people outside your normal network, then you’ll really start to get the juices flowing.

Quality time in your job and career doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional about it and not let the little things get in the way or distract you. Quantity time in your relationships is much easier. Listen to what Nike says and “Just do it.”

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