I see it all the time as a coach. If we are struggling, if we are striving, the “what” is usually obvious. The solution is within reach, but one thing stands in our way – enough time to DO it. Your agile effectiveness depends on your time management. Your leadership effectiveness depends on it too.

Never The Skill, But The Will

Very little of what Agile teaches, very little of what I teach for that matter, is new. Most of it is common sense. The difference is, as I often say, “not the skill but the will”. We have a dominant belief system that somebody else owns our time. We mistake a decision between two conflicting meetings for freedom of choice. It’s not.

So, when growth opportunities become available to us, we let them pass because it will take too much time. When will we have the time? Based on our current trajectory, never.

Who Owns Your Time?

This is one of the big difficulties with hierarchical models of management. Someone above you claims to know better than you how to spend your time. They dictate what meetings you must go to and what ones you can skip. Thanks to the artificial need to stay in the loop, we get confused about what meetings require our presence.

As a result, the average working day fills up with time blocks dedicated to anything but work. Over time, we find comfort in meetings because we never have to do anything scary. We can disappear into a room and avoid criticism, rejection, and failure. To agree on what’s agreeable is a triumph.

In fact, our days are so full that the only time to work on meaningful work is before the day begins at 9:00 AM. Make that 8:00 AM. (Let’s be honest, it’s 7:00 AM.) The lunch hour meeting is the new normal, as is the three-hour work block after dinner.

These encroachments take away from our family and wellness time. Our relaxation, sleep, and proper nutrition suffer too.

Tips To Ignite The Change

Change starts with the belief that you own your time. Managers should hold people responsible for the outcomes they deliver. But they shouldn’t have their noses in how or where they spend their time.

After the belief comes the courage to act according to that belief. This usually means acting in opposition to the reality on the ground. This feels like civil disobedience. This is scary. This has consequences.

But what are the consequences if you hate your life? What happens when you’re neglecting your highest priorities? What good is perfect meeting attendance if you’re burned out, stressed out, and sick? No matter how well paid you are to do it, is it worth it? We shouldn’t even be making these kinds of choices as a function of our employment.

Say No

The cure lies in the cause. Reclaiming your time is as simple as saying the word “no”. This could be blocking out your part of your calendar so that nobody else can claim your time. In case you’re worried that people will notice and challenge your autonomy – they often won’t. (The good thing about our robotic work life is that nobody is paying attention to your calendar.)

The genius of this move is its simplicity. If you avoid the mistake of asking for permission, the change will go undetected. In a few weeks, you’ll see that there are no negative consequences to opting out of the zombie walk. At this point, you’ll realize that this way of working is better.

Should anyone challenge you – you’ll be ready to push back. It’s not worth staying at a company that won’t let you exercise your own freedom. There will always be people who don’t understand it. There will always be people who don’t believe you should have it. But it’s worth asking the question – are those the kinds of people you want to work for? Why should I work where I’m not able to do my best work?

Courageous Questions, Courageous Action

These are bold and courageous questions, but everything worth having in life can only be gotten one way… through bold and courageous action. I hope you take this small step. My clients experience radical change when they do. The real benefit is not the relaxed calendar, but the confidence to expect the best for yourself.