Not Enough Time………….to Lead?

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

As Scotty always said in the original Star Trek series……., “We’ve got to have more TIME, Captain!”

With over 30 years of working in a bureaucratic organization, being one of the “busy people”, I am not convinced that it is time that we lack.  It is our perception of work as “everything is important” and the habits we have formed from our bosses, co-workers, etc., that reward you if you say “I’m so busy” and make you feel your aren’t busy enough if you don’t have “too much on your plate”.  We have developed a love hate relationship with these concepts.  If you do have a chunk of time to breathe……..a panic feeling sets in because you aren’t being “busy”.   Busy and productive are horses of completely different colors.

The “busy” brain is less efficient when you don’t take breaks – it slows down to a crawl.  Have you ever noticed when you have taken a couple of hours, to give yourself a break, that you have all this extra energy to focus on it again?  So what is better………slogging through the day, feeling stressed about getting the all-important project done, or taking your time, giving yourself a chance to think about ways you can do some of the things you like about your job, re-energize your mind and body, in order to take a shorter time to really focus on and finish your project.  

Deadlines, putting out fires, loads of paperwork, emails you HAVE to answer, or the world may fall apart (rarely does this happen). Leaders have been brainwashed that it is not cool unless you are totally overwhelmed all time.

Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself, have you ever been in a situation at work where someone asked you how it was going and, even though you weren’t super busy, you felt that you needed to say that you were?  This is the culture of busy.  This habit that has been programmed in our minds. I have often felt the pressure to say I’m too busy when others spout it off at me when I see them.  Even if I am not.  They usually say it with a chagrined smile on their face at this perceived “badge of busyness” honor.

This culture and habit of busyness has been programmed into our heads over time, repeating the message to us that we aren’t “worthy” unless we are too busy.  We attach our self-esteem to this concept.

How about the feeling we get when we are frantically working against a deadline, heart beating rapidly in a mild (or not so mild )panic  Ever notice sometimes when suddenly you have finished the project and all of a Sudden – flash! The stress is completely gone!   Why do you feel so much better when 2 minutes ago you were frantic?  What changed?  You did! The pressure that you habitually put on yourself is no longer there.  You are doing it to yourself!  How do we reprogram these habits?

Set a timer to take frequent breaks, walk around and talk to co-workers, do something to help them.  This generates a good feeling for you to take back with you to your desk or project.   This one is simple and can really help.  Write down the things that are freaking you out about your project or dealine, then turn it completely around to the positive – “I have plenty of time to get this done”, “I have all the skills I need to complete this”, “my boss is going to love the results when I am finished”, “I am going to use my amazing creative mind to add zing to my project.”  Repeat this many times until you believe it.  Don’t just say it………..FEEL the emotions behind what you are saying or thinking.  This is what successfully changes your programming.

Another way to save time is to take your time back by communicate regularly with staff.  So many leaders say they don’t have time to talk to their employees or time to be proactive, when, in many cases, they have never tried, or tried once and it didn’t go well.  How many times do you do something well the first time?  It takes practice! Here is the reward.  You take the time to communicate with employees and some important issues come up that you can resolve quickly, catching the smoke before it becomes a raging inferno.  Being in the communication loop with your people saves time in many cases, resulting in the opportunity to resolve problems before they blow up and cause MORE time to handle.  Does this idea make you uncomfortable? Good!  This means it a chance for you to grow and evolve into a better leader and manager and make life easier in the process.

Another time saver many leaders overlook.  Do what you can to keep the talent that your hire.  I have seen the repeated pattern – employees get hired, they never get talked to as human beings by their supervisors, they feel ignored, get disgruntled, and leave.  It takes up incredible amounts of time hiring, training, evaluating new staff every 1-2 years.  It makes no sense, yet I have seen it over and over.  You know what else is happening?  These employees are giving the bear minimum to their jobs because they don’t feel what they are doing matters – so THEY stop caring and do just enough to get by.  Engaged staff feel valued.  They feel they are making a positive contribution. Productivity goes way up.  Increased productivity saves time.

It’s not that there isn’t enough time, it’s that there isn’t the right focus on what is most important.  Leaders can reprogram their brains to start taking a proactive and supportive approach.  Write a list of what you think your priorities are and ask yourself “which is more important” until you get to your top 5.  Neuroscience proves the brain cannot focus on more than 5-7 things at one time.  Share this top 5 with your staff.  Figure out how to engage your staff to help with your list.  Connect their work with your priorities.  Get your bosses to do the same.

It requires a definite frame of reference shift.  It is not difficult.  It is changing your old habits and making new ones to help you save time and be productive through helping you and your employees thrive.  Even in hard times.  It builds resilience.

“We may not be able to “change the laws of physics”, as Scotty says, but we can change our focus and habits to become less reactive and intentionally take time back for ourselves, our employees and our organization.

For more tips on saving time and thriving in your job contact me at

My email:

Take the time!😉


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