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The Time That Defines Me–How Will I Use Today? A Guide to Making Sense of What You Do

“Tell me what you do with your day and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Does the day you got up to this morning–make sense to you now that you’re into it? Is your day getting you to where you want to be–or are you being dragged down a raging river of events with the current so strong you can just hold on?

Your 86,400 Seconds Day

I used to think that money was the great limiter of life, but the limiting factor of life is really time. It is never too late to make another dollar. I know people who were broke at 60 who are quite wealthy now. Yet no one has been able to earn more time.

Time awards us each 86,400 seconds a day. I know of no other way in which we all have been created equal–only on the individual days we spend on the planet together.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, “Tell me what you do with your day and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Building the Life You Want

There isn’t just one way to build a life. In Austin we had a famous transvestite named Leslie who I knew quite well. He earned $500 a year running for mayor of Austin and dancing on Congress Avenue. He put a smile on people’s face and will be remembered longer than most of us.

Work in a World Where Our Work Is Never Done

There are many ways to shape a life, but our Tuesday Report mission is with those of us who have chosen to excel and scale our performance within organizations–to achieve, grow, and take organizations forward.

The first rule to remember is that you’ll never, given what you have to do, live up to the expectations of those around you–there are too many complicating factors. A CEO friend of ours confided to a trusted lieutenant, “I wonder who I’ll disappoint today?” It is certainly not that you don’t want to respond to every request–it’s simply you can’t with the 86,400 seconds you’ve been given.

Believe it! You’re doing the Work of 30 – It’s Not 1980 Anymore

We often have the mindset of the 1980’s that work is a manageable series of tasks that lead to “getting our work done.” This is never true in the 21st Century. In today’s world, one task accomplished generates a whole new series of new actions–work is never completed in the sense that it used to be.

Prior to 1990 we easily had 30 people doing what a single person does today. Then we dictated letters, others typed them, and the mailroom took addressed correspondence and put it into envelopes and sent it out. There was no voicemail, we spent hours at the copier, and FAX was a new and amazing technology. There were errands and showing up in offices in the hopes the person we were looking for would be there.

We were moving into the new Information Age in the early 90s. We needed more efficient telephone systems, copiers, and courier systems. We needed better and more information.

Limiting and Shaping Our Life – The Information Age vs the “Too Much Information Age”

We have left the Information Age for the “Too Much Information Age.” There are too many emails and collaborative work spaces. What took 10 years of research in the pre-digital age at multiple libraries around the world now with a few searches in a few minutes bring us more information than we can use. YouTube tells us how and the history of what they did back when, Facebook and Instagram connects faces with the faceless.

The Time that Defines Us–24 Hours of Being Me

Here are some useful principles in shaping the day in the Age of Too Much Information that we can use to build our life of tomorrow.

  1. Know What You Value/What’s Important– and Don’t do What You Don’t Value. You would think that determining values would have little to do with “twenty-four hours of being me,” but if you don’t write down your values, you’ll spend a whole lifetime living the values of someone else. That’s sad. The point is, you must be very intentional in what you do based on your values or your life will turn out to be an accident.
    Determining what you value will help you sort out the good things you can do from the great things that have impact. Understanding what you value should help determine what to do with the 200 emails you get a day and the deluge of meeting requests. Values will help you shape your day into a manageable event.
  2. Be Clear About Who is in Charge – and Answer to Those You Clearly Need to Answer to. Know that YOU are in charge, along with those around you that you value. Believe in a vision that compels you, but not in the artistry of someone else’s sales pitch. Organizations today will engage you until it no longer serves them to engage them. You are CEO of your own personal company. Believe yourself and follow you.
  3. Stake Out the “Do Or Dies” of Your Day. A top executive of a large client company gave us his formula for getting done what he needed to get done that day. He said he selected 5 “do or die” things that “I MUST ACHIEVE today.” It’s the biggest, baddest dragons you see on the horizon. Forget the hundreds of things people want you to do on their agenda and concentrate on your five “do or dies.”
    There’s more than Just a To-do List. I must make the choice between a hundred hard decisions and select among all the people who are pressing me to engage. To do lists and calendars are basic tools, but they can take you into the weeds. I found over 50 time management apps with a single search, even one app that will send you an email to tell you what you haven’t done. This kind of system to organize your work can create chaos because it takes you away from the focus of a defined path.
    These time management apps create an exponentially growing, really scary mountain of things to do. They may help you accomplish what you need to–or they may take you into trivialities, which we see sometimes even at the C-suite level.
  4. Family and Relationships Come First. We have interviewed executives who cashed out with large fortunes, whose health is broken because of 24/7 life dedication to their organization. An occupational hazard of being a rising leader in an organization is that family and relationships become collateral damage. Refuse to lose family and relationships to anything else.
  5. Work for an Organization that Leaves a Footprint. Sometimes you just have to take a job because it pays the bills. I always consider survival to be number one–starvation of oneself and family is not good. Time in those jobs can be a meaningless eternity.
    But I have always looked for work that leaves a footprint in the world. Organizations of the last 50 years have changed the world in significantly better ways. One immediately thinks of big data that unifies knowledge and healthcare that allows us to live longer and better lives. I also know people who are therapists and insurance providers who make huge differences to people.

From the earliest experiences of man we have taken care of each other, invented tools and created art. I believe that the creation of the elements of civilization as we know it is what has made us human beings. We owe those builders of the past our lifestyle today. Because of past builders, we can enjoy today recreation, family, life and love. I believe that what we do today in some small measure is a building block for tomorrow. In the greater scheme of things my life is a tiny spark that is seen for a moment, but together we can make a fire.

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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