“Let him who would enjoy a good future, waste none of his present.” Roger Babson
We’ve all had basic chemistry and physics right? Do you know the basic difference between a gas compared to a solid or a liquid? Liquids and solids have a set volume meaning they take up the same amount of space regardless of the container size. A liquid may change its shape, (it molds to the shape of the container) but the volume is the same. You can break up a solid to get it to fit into a container, but the volume stays the same. A gas will fill the volume of the container. It does this nifty trick by changing other properties like density, but it will expand or even contract to fit the size of the container moving in the direction of the least of resistance.
When it comes to time and tasks, people behave like gases. That is, we fill the space of the time container. Take a look at your meetings today. How many of them ran either right up to the end of the meeting time? Maybe some ran over? People behave like gases and fill the size of the container. And it’s not just in how long we do things. It’s how we manage ourselves during our time container. Have you ever been in a meeting where people leave mumbling how nobody discussed the “main issue” or the difficult point? When do decisions finally get made? When does the difficult conversation happen? Often it’s at the end of the meeting or it is delayed, postponed or avoided. When does a difficult personal relationship get reconciled? Often it happens at death’s door or never at all. We do this with good stuff too. When do we tell our best employee or colleague how much we appreciate them? Too often it’s when they are leaving us, the department or the organization. When do we tell those people that we love how important they are to us, or ask the questions that we need to ask? Too often it’s at the end of a life. And when do we finally make room for the most important things that we want to do with our days and our lives? Somebody when I retire, I will….. You get the idea.
There are two big points here that I want you to consider. 1. We are letting the container determine how and when we get things done. 2. We are filling the container space often with the stuff that offers us the least amount of resistance first.
But there’s good news here. We are not gases and we can behave as leaders in terms of what we do and when and how we do it. We can demonstrate leadership in how we manage our the container and our time in it.
So RULE # 1- Manage the size of the container
Stop scheduling one hour meetings. One hour is arbitrary, but since it coincides with the clock and everybody uses an hour, scheduling hour long meetings FITS. When you are scheduling an arbitrary time because it “fits” then you are being a gas. A simple tactic that you can do right away is schedule 45 minute meetings or even 20 minute meetings (instead of 30). Or at the start of each meeting, announce that you must stop at 45 minutes. Then use those 15 minutes to either follow through on commitments, delegate, research or recharge. TRY IT! If 45 seems to drastic for you, then try 50 minute meetings. If you’re not doing it this way, then what you will have at the end of each day, is a long to do list of accumulations from each meeting and you will be working at the end of the day when you are most exhausted to do some of your most important work. OR you will be cramming in your tasks at other meetings while appearing distracted and overwhelmed. OR you will be running late to each meeting. Any of these behaviors sound familiar? Be a leader, not a gas and manage the container size. You’ll be more efficient and have more energy throughout the day.
RULE #2: Shape the Container: Solid Leaders address Resistance.
A gas will fill the size and shape of the container and go first where the resistance is least. When people behave like a gas, we avoid the work that requires working through some big resistance. The most common resistance that I see includes: avoiding conflict, not wanting to feel awkward, not wanting to hurt somebody’s feelings, discomfort with learning a new way, fear of rejection, or belief of a self limiting story about our own potential. But it’s often the greatest impact is just on the other side of resistance.
I met a leader years ago that would often go after the hardest topics that others have been avoiding. When I asked him why he said “because that’s where the greatest opportunity lies.” Brilliant! Doing the easy things with the least resistance will just ensure that you fit in the container and you make the least impact. You will expend more energy over a longer period of time by avoiding resistance. Put smart time and energy into addressing resistance and you free up time, build energy and challenge your self limiting beliefs. Turn up the pressure and get molecules moving. That doesn’t mean go after resistance aimlessly. Do important work first. Address THE critical agenda item at the start. Have game changing conversations immediately. Ask what needs to be asked at the beginning. Tell people how much you appreciate them today and fire the self limiting story tellers that are occupying the space in your mind’s container. Hesitation turns into delay. Delay turns into opportunity gone away.
The other cost that comes with behaving like a gas, is that by waiting to do the hard things, those that you want to resist, you use up all your energy on the little things. By the time you get to the big things that you’ve been resistance, you are out of energy and they seem EVEN HARDER. Remember, hesitation turns into delay- delay turns into opportunity gone away!
Shape and lead your time instead of mindlessly filling the space of the provided container. Be a LEADER- not a gas!
Thank you for reading. I wish you courage, strength, support and all the success that you can handle as you continue to explore your leadership journey.
Please share your thoughts and comments in the comment section.
Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant