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“Time is God’s way to keep everything from happening at once” — George Carlin

I believe that the most critical factor to individual success is the highly developed sense of discipline. It enables one to generate an enormous amount of valuable results, to get the necessary work done,to maintain one’s self-esteem and the sense of well-being.

When I started in solo consulting, many people told me that they wouldn’t be able to work on their own because they’d spend days looking out the window, playing with their dog and browsing the Internet. We see this often enough in organizations too. Despite the structure and discipline that corporate life imposes, whole department keep themselves busy by working on tasks that have no value.

In IT, as an example, you will routinely find great redundancies that have been instituted to “service the internal clients better” – the many layers of project and portfolio managers, reporting analysts turning up heaps of reports with performance metrics that no one cares about, and enforcers of procedures.

Success in life and in business is defined by results of one’s work, not by the tasks one performs.  The sense of discipline enables talented individuals to channel their energy to achieving these results, away from the “tasks” that have marginal, if any value. 

Personally, I understood this early in the game and it has made a world of difference in my life and work.

Here is how: go to as many meetings as possible.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Working with a variety of organizations is a bonus of the consulting profession and I have long ago discovered that there are some common kinds of organizational “unhappiness”, its sheer variety notwithstanding.

Take the issue of the lack of time. Paradoxically (or, perhaps, not at all so), environments where complaints of “no time” are most common, waste time left, right and centre. If you hear this complaint in your organization, take a careful look around.

Meetings seem to be a common waste of time , despite everything that has been said and written about effective meetings in the last 50 years. I see people getting together to disseminate information, to “keep each other in the loop”, to gab. Stop it! Enough!

Get together if a decision needs to be reached. Get to it quickly, capture action items and adjourn on time. Discussion going on a tangent? Interrupt, suggest to take it offline. Invited to a meeting you have no business to be in? Politely decline.

Life is too short for this.

I guess you’ve heard it thousands of times. We have no time for this. We are stretched. We are busy. We are doing more with less. We are in a survival mode.

Give me a break. There is no such thing as “no time”. It is merely a matter of getting your priorities straight. If you don’t have the time for something, you either don’t want it or are afraid of it or just don’t think it’s important enough.

I spoke to a consultant yesterday who needed an advice on setting vision, mission and values for a shared services organization. I was happy to provide an advice to a colleague, since I have been known to get this objective accomplished in just 45 minutes.  As I was outlining the process for her, I suggested a half-day group meeting with the organization’s top officers.

My colleague told me that she was told upfront that such a meeting would not be possible due to the fact that these people are too busy.

This is an incredibly pathetic excuse and a sign of a lost organization desperately needing help. If the management cannot set aside half a day to work on what very well may be the most important thing, the guiding framework of their organization, they either don’t see it as a priority (incompetence, should be dismissed for this reason) or oppose the change (sabotaging decisions of their superior, should be dismissed for this reason).

There is no such thing as “no time.” Get your priorities right and you will find time. I promise.

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