10-10-10 (#666)

I’m writing this on Father’s day, having spent the majority of the morning eating breakfast in bed and watching the US Open with assorted children sprawled on top of me. I love my kids, and one of the reasons I believe they love me too is that I made a decision years ago that one of the most important things I would be grateful for on my deathbed was having been a part of their lives growing up.

However, from time to time life makes requests of my time that feel an awful lot like demands, and I’m in the midst of one of those times right now. This busy-ness is not lost on the children, one of whom concluded their handmade card with the line “Stop working so much – we’ve got tennis to play!”

While there was a time where this would have evoked guilt (“What kind of a father am I not to take the time to play tennis with my kids?“) or even anger (“Don’t they know how much I’m doing so that they can have a better chance in life?“), these days I’m fairly comfortable with my life/work balance.

In Supercoach, I share the three elements that any effective time management system has inside it – clarity, structure and boldness. That is, it will provide clarity about what’s really important and a structure that enables you to continually put first things first. What you must provide is the boldness to actually do what matters and not get caught up in the “tyranny of the should”.

So I thought it would be appropriate to take a few minutes today (before I’m taken out for a BBQ lunch by my family) to share one of the simpler tools I’ve come across for making clear, priority based decisions on a regular basis.

It comes from a new book by Suzy Welch, wife of GE genius Jack Welch and a noted journalist and author in her own right.

Here is all you need to do:

1. Frame your decision in terms of a simple question.

Examples:

  • Should I finish this tip now or go upstairs and be with the family?
  • Do I take the higher paying job with longer hours or look for something part-time?
  • Do we try to move house now or wait for the market to bottom out?

2. Gather information on the options – in other words, know as many of the facts as you can before you decide.

3. Consider your options from the following perspectives:

  • What will be the impact/consequences of this option in ten minutes?
  • What will be the impact/consequences of this option in ten months?
  • What will be the impact/consequences of this option in ten years?

4. Analyse your answers and make your decision about what to do.

Here’s how it worked when I was trying to decide whether to write today’s tip this morning or after the kids have gone to bed this evening:

If I write it now…

  • In 10 minutes I’ll be 1/3 of the way done.
  • In 10 months, what will have made the biggest difference is that I took the time to consider the consequences of this and a thousand other daily decisions
  • In 10 years, there will only be one child still at home and father’s day will probably consist of a couple of phone calls (if I’m lucky!)

If I write it later…

  • In 10 minutes, the golfers will be one hole further along in today’s play and the kids will have gotten into at least one fight over who gets to hold the kitten. However, later in the day when all my other writing commitments have been pushed back, I will be tired and grumpy about how much I have to get done by tomorrow
  • In 10 months, nobody will remember which way I spent an hour of Father’s day morning, myself included
  • In 10 years, there will only be one child still at home and father’s day will probably consist of a couple of phone calls (if I’m lucky!)

By taking an hour to write the tip now, I’ve freed up my attention to be fully with my family for the rest of the day. When I sit back down to write this evening, I will have had a lovely day and be free to jump straight in to tomorrow’s deadline!

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy father’s day!

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