Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's About Time

I remember seeing a documentary years ago about the transition from the Carter White House to the Reagan era.  In the film, the Carter Chief of Staff is talking to his incoming counterpart and says something to the effect, “you’ll be managing the most valuable commodity in the entire world – the time of the President of the United States.”

In the years since then I’ve thought often about that statement – and about how much planning and effort must go into scheduling the time of the president.  But I never really think about it without also thinking of my own time – and realizing that my time is likely the most valuable commodity I’ll ever manage.

In the month or so since retiring I’ve given even more thought to the management of my time.  My first thoughts were about how much more time I’d have without the “deadlines and commitments” Bob Seger sang about – no longer forced to figure “what to leave in or what to leave out.”  No longer would my calendar be filled with the meetings and phone calls that have dominated my days (and nights) over the last few years.  Finally, my daily “to-do” list would shrink and leave the margin in my days that I’ve dreamed about for years.

But upon further reflection I’ve come to a few simple conclusions.  First, I still have exactly the same 24 hours in a day I had before.  And while I have fewer people trying to dictate what I do, this has NOT translated to fewer demands on my time. 

It HAS however, made it abundantly clear that I am the one responsible to manage my time- my choices are generally mine and mine alone.  There is no one to blame but me for any misuse of my days.  This leaves me more keenly aware of the need to be strategic with my investments of time – to choose wisely, with a sense of balance and a constant eye toward the things that are truly important to me. 
You see, I am my own “chief of staff” – but then I really always have been.  And from time to time it’s good to be reminded that I am managing my most precious commodity.  Dare I ask who your chief of staff is?  How well are they doing their job?

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but I really don’t have the time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Things First

The “new year” is finally here.  I can now say this is my “first” blog post of the year.  There will be a lot of “firsts” in the coming days.  The first time in 2011 that I make it to the gym, the first healthy meals on a new diet, the first smart spending choices keeping me within my new budget – or my first chance to show I care about people and do something meaningful for them.  

But I figure other firsts in the coming days will include the first time I blow off the gym in favor of a nap on the couch.  The first time I stray from my new diet – the first time I overspend – or, the first time I treat someone I love in a way I would never dream of treating people I don’t even know.

I love the concept of a clean slate!  And, isn’t that why we make such a big deal about the start of a new year?  We long for the “fresh start” – the chance to close off things in our past that had gotten messy or had begun to weigh us down.  We want the chance to start clean, no mess – no heavy load.

Often my resolutions have been to start “doing” this or stop “doing” that.   In the beginning I am motivated by the clean slate – I want to keep it clean.  But in time, that simple motivation isn’t enough.  Just wiping the slate clean doesn’t really change who I am or how I think and behave.  So this year I have resolved to focus more on who I am becoming than what I’m doing.  

Oh, and I think I will try wiping that slate clean every morning – why wait a whole year?