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Are you being a duck in water?

A client was recently telling me that he likes to maintain a calm exterior to portray a leadership presence in front of his clients and employees. However he struggles to feel this same calm inside because, most of his days are so busy, he almost never find time to get anything done. This is the unfortunate truth for most  business owners. Once you get into the role of an enterpreneur , you find, your time is no longer your own. There are always important customers, department heads, vendors, employees  or other stakeholders who are constantly vying for your time. There is also a recurring need to attend various events, meetings, conferences and social gatherings either to represent the business or to be seen in the right forums. I hear entrepreneurs complain that they have no time to focus on what they want to do for their business and even to connect with everything that is happening at work because there is just so much to do. The analogy that comes to my mind is that of a duck swimming in water. While above the water it appears to be floating calmly, under the surface it is paddling furiously just to stay afloat.

The knock off effects:

If this sounds like you then I am sure you wish that the day had a few hours extra. You may even have tried stretching your work day to 14 or 16 or maybe even 20 hours. You will find your self constantly rushing from one task to another and wishing for a few moments of peace and breathing time. You probably struggle with sleep deprivation, lack of leisure and family time and may be even suffering from related health problems like hypertension and stress. Long-term effects may impact on your business and career. You may not have time to prepare for possible market changes or plan for business growth. You may be leaving too much to chance. On the personal front there will be impact on health and relationships because not getting enough done at work probably does not leave you much time for a personal life.

Besides the effects there is also a constant feeling of fear – fear of what you are missing, fear of what you are not doing and the fear of losing if you continue this way. And with this fear comes the inability to relax or stop thinking about what is pending.

How not to be a duck in water:

  • What does your ideal schedule look like?  Think of an ideal situation where you are in control of your schedule rather than the other way round? Visualize what that looks like. How does your day start and end? How many hours would you schedule for thinking/planning/reading? What would be your priorities? While the critic in you probably believes that is not possible, for the moment focus on what you want and not how you will make it happen. 
  • Change how you look at your schedule: What is the purpose of your work day/week? Spend time either at the start or end of your day/week focusing on the outcomes you want and not the tasks you want to complete. Prioritise tasks that help you achieve your outcomes. Make a list of what you want to achieve in your business and career and what are the key activities that need to happen and by when. What are the actions that need your absolute undivided focus? Your schedule needs to match your priorities.
  • Separate the “need to have “from the “good to have”: Do you need to attend all meetings? What is the impact on goals if you were to drop some of them? Can you get the same details in an easier and less time-consuming way? “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” –Tony BlairThere is no such thing as managing time. You can only manage your priorities. Time will continue to move ahead irrespective of what you do with it. Yes we would all like to do it all, but given that time is a finite commodity, be sure that you use it to address only what is critical and needs to be done. If there are things you are doing because it may please someone, because you are used to doing it, because you like doing it or because you don’t trust others with it, then its time to let go of it.
  • Build a team to take care of the rest: Get a strong team together that you can rely on who can take on your delegated work. A smart move is to hire individuals who are experts in areas that you are not and to leverage off their expertise. Develop and grow people and build trust so that you can free up more time and still get a lot more done. No leader achieved great  milestones without an effective team. Even Michelangelo had a team of 16 artists supporting him when he painted the Sistine Chapel.
  • Constantly recalibrate: Till it becomes second nature keep reviewing your goals and removing redundant tasks off your schedule. This will help people around you also align to this new style of work and over time you will find less and less of low productivity tasks coming to you.
  • Energy Management: How much you enjoy doing what you do will be a critical factor in how much you get done. We all know of times when we worked on something that was enjoyable and challenging and we felt energised even after a long working day. If you dislike the work you do, you burn precious mental energy dealing with the negativity of doing a job you hate. Work that does not motivate you and give you a sense of achievement will always feel like a burden and will pull you down.
  • The nonnegotiable – Think Time :If you are a business owner you cannot compromise on your clarity of mind. Ensure you factor in time to think and plan about what you need to do before you get to actions. Whether it is before the start of day or at the end of the day find time to think and plan. When you are clear on what you want you will find your day getting simpler. “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.” -Saint Francis de Sales.

As published on Excellence Blog at

Follow on Twitter @rachelgojer


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  1. nice!!

    much needed reminder for all of us rachel 🙂


  2. thanks Asha 🙂

  3. Excellent

    Also needed:

    Post work keep your phone on silent. Just peep occasionally to check missed calls and messages. DO NOT TOUCH the MAIL ICON

  4. Rightly put Alok!  Electronic downtime is a must to maintain creativity and clarity of thought. I would recommend peeping to check missed calls only if you can control the urge to check emails.

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