There's No Time!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I used to watch (and was a big fan of) the TV show “24” with Kiefer Sutherland playing the role of Jack Bauer, Counterterrorist Agent.  For those familiar with the show, you know that Jack Bauer was always trying to beat the bad guys and always had very little time to do it.  One of Jack’s favorite lines was “There’s No Time!”  In this TV show, that was an accurate statement.  If Jack Bauer didn’t act quickly, lives could be lost.  It’s the same with doctors and emergency service professionals – they do not have a lot of time to accomplish their tasks because lives are at stake.  However, for business leaders, this statement is usually an exaggerated expression of frustration due to feeling overwhelmed or overworked.   Tasks continue to pile on, the “to do” lists get longer, and suddenly you’re feeling like there’s no time to complete all you have to do.

I work with many leaders who consistently tell me they just “do not have enough time” to get it all done or “there is no time” to take on any additional work.  This is when I suggest taking a step back and recognizing that the constant chatter in your head (and aloud) about not having enough time puts you in the state of feeling increased stress and as if the things you have to do are taking over your life.   Regardless of how much you have to do, unless you are a doctor or someone in the emergency services field (or Jack Bauer), chances are you are not dealing with a life and death situation.  If you were dealing with a life and death situation, there would never be a question about being able to get it all done; you’d be focused on the one thing in front of you: saving the life.

In your leadership role, there will probably always be too many things to do.   When you assume you don’t have enough time to get things done and that there is too much to do, you remain in that perpetual state of “there’s no time”.  This consistently increases your stress level.  Instead, why not start by taking a step back and prioritizing all those things on your to do list? Second, instead of assuming you cannot get them done, why not shift that self talk to something a bit more calming like, “I have more than enough time to complete all my high priority tasks”. Taking that small step to shift your internal dialogue takes you out of your urgent mindset towards one that actually lets you focus on accomplishing your tasks instead of feeling the fear that you have suddenly turned into Jack Bauer and are really running out of time…

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