Don’t Just Manage Your Time – Lead It!

by Andy Wood on January 26, 2011

in Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance, Time

You can accomplish every task set before you, live your life as a model of get-it-doneness, and die with a clean desk… and a completely unfulfilled life.

It’s possible to check off every box on your to-do list today, yet go to sleep tonight completely joyless… only to do it all over again tomorrow.

You may be the one everybody calls for help with prioritizing, streamlining, simplifying and ordering, only for your phone to grow cold when it’s hang-out time.

I think I may have found the problem… and the solution.

Get out of time management.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit too strong.  Let me try again… Don’t just manage your time.  Lead it.

There’s a huge difference between the two.  In the next post I’m going to show you two questions that can revolutionize how you approach your day.  I started doing this about six weeks ago, and I can’t begin to describe the difference it continues to make in my days when I do it.  But first, I want to show you the difference between being a time manager and being a time leader.

Imagine a Dinner Party

Imagine that you have invited your 10 favorite people in the world – regardless of who they are or were – to a dinner party.  Miraculously, they all accepted and will arrive at 7:00 sharp.  You look forward to the heart-pumping excitement, the satisfaction of entertaining such special people, the delight you will feel in engaging them in conversation, and the joy you will experience in offering these people something of yourself.

(Side note:  If hospitality stresses you out, don’t just imagine… pretend.  Let’s assume you’re on an unlimited budget and you’re paying for all the details to be done.)

Everything goes pretty much according to plan.  While there are one or two surprises, you are completely satisfied, as are your guests, with the experience.  After everyone has said good-bye, you return to the scene to clean up.  You organize and store the leftovers, you clear the table, you wash the dishes, you put up any stray ingredients from preparing the meal.

From a time perspective, time leadership is what you do in preparing for the guests and the joy of that experience.  Time management is what you do with the leftovers.

And millions of people are living frustrated or joyless because day in and day out, all they ever do is chase leftovers.

Time Management vs. Time Leadership

What does it mean to go beyond managing time to actually leading it?  Look at it this way:

  • Time management is about accomplishing activities.  Time leadership is about fulfilling purpose.
  • Time management is about mastering routines.  Time leadership is about mastering relationships.
  • Time management provides order.  Time leadership provides vision.
  • Time management establishes consistency.  Time leadership establishes movement.
  • Time management is built on limitations (there is only so much time in the day).  Time leadership is built on re-thinking what is possible.
  • Time management is passionless, and involves little emotional involvement.  Time leadership is passionate, and harnesses the power of emotions.
  • Time management is reactionary, particularly to problems, interruptions and “time wasters.”  Time leadership is proactive, particularly with regard to possibilities, ideas, and people.
  • Time management limits choices in the name of focus and efficiency.  Time leadership expands choices in the name of excellence and fulfillment.

Don’t Throw That To-Do List Away Just Yet

Just as there is a place for management in organizational life, there is a place for management of your time.

But it’s not first place.

And just as there is a need for meetings, schedules, and processes wherever you work, efficiency adds value to your schedule as well.

But some things are more valuable.  And time leadership is all about that – building your schedule around the precious, then the precise.

All This Grew Out of Pain and Frustration

I wasn’t inspired, but tired.  Recently I made a list – not of things to do, but of open projects.  Each project has its own list… and off the top of my head, I counted 23 open projects!


Here’s a peek inside my journal from a few weeks ago (you’ll be able to tell it was early December):

This morning becomes an inefficient black hole into which my day slips.  This week I have been awful – AWFUL – at managing time and getting school [grading] work done.  I have been too easily interruptible and at times unmotivated.  Plus, I was also playing catch-up from the holiday trip.  Now I’m thinking about how hard it’s going to be to write in the series about Christmas, remembering what a labor it was last December.

I did decorate the front yard, spend two hours in the grocery store, attend meetings, babysit Cohen, catch up the checkbook and pay bills this past week. Still, I feel like I’ve been in mental slow motion.  Don’t know if it is fatigue, being on cold medicine and semi-sick, being on the diet, or all the above.  But it is what it is, and I need to fix it.  So today the theme, besides “get it done,” is to look for new ways to manage (or lead) my time.

Out of that frustration, on that particular day, I “stumbled” into a simple question that changed my focus and energy entirely, and produced the most extraordinary day.  Simply put, the Lord began showing me how to lead time.  Since then I have unpacked some new understanding as the Lord has continued the “stumble upon” process.  I’ll share some of that in the next post.  But for today, I want to share with you the question that changed it all.

Before You Decide What to Do…

…decide how to feel.



Here, in very slow motion, is how the conversation went with the Lord.

“Lord, I feel like I’m in mental slow motion.”

“How do you want to feel?”

“Excited.  Productive.  Grateful.  Energized.”

“Okay.  Fast forward to the end of your day.  How do you want to feel at 8:00 tonight?”


“I want to feel proud of myself because of what I got done.”

“Okay.  Now what would you have to do in order to feel proud of yourself?”

“Finishing up grading.  Back patio cleaned off and blown for leaves and dust.  Finish putting up the yard decorations or put the case back in the garage, which means buying new stakes to hold them down.  Changing the tire on my truck so we don’t look like the Clampetts outside… maybe even getting the tire fixed.”

“Okay then…” (Pause here to feel a wise, caring smile from God).

Hey, I never claimed this was deep.  In fact, it was profoundly simple.  But here’s the point:  I would have approached my day completely differently had I not asked a question about (of all things) feelings.

I Dare You to Try It.

There’s more, and I’ll get to that later.  But for today or tomorrow, I dare you to ask, “At the end of this day, how do I want to feel?”  Then build your schedule around what it would take to feel that way.

Maybe you want to feel intimate.  Maybe productive.  Maybe the good kind of tired because you’ve given your all to something.  Maybe financially peaceful.  Maybe in harmony with key people in your life.  The possibilities are endless.

Oh, and for the record… at the end of that day, I felt really proud of myself (in the good sense).  And on top of that, I felt energized.  Grateful.  Productive.

And yes, very excited.

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